Last week saw an unlikely first move in the opening narrative battle around a prospective U.S. central bank digital currency: Congressperson Tom Emmer came forward with an initiative to legally restrict the Federal Reserve’s capacity to issue a retail CBDC and take on the role of a retail bank. This could be massively consequential as we are yet to see a similarly sharp-cut expression of an opposing stance. As a matter of fact, it is not even clear whether other U.S. lawmakers have strong opinions on the matter other than, perhaps, condemning privately issued stablecoins as a digital alternative to the dollar. By framing a potential Fed CBDC as a privacy threat first, Emmer could tilt the conversation in the direction that is friendly to less centralized designs of digital money.

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U.S. representative vs. U.S. CBDC

The tension between decentralized digital money and state-issued CBDCs is at the heart of the ongoing global shift toward digital payment rails. Last week marked the first-ever instance of a sitting U.S. member of Congress taking a formal stance against the Federal Reserve’s potential retail CBDC move.

Sovereign digital fiat will undoubtedly be more convenient than its analog predecessor, yet the privacy costs of such convenience might be enormous. If all money is CBDC, the government’s financial surveillance capacity will become virtually unlimited, denying people the anonymity that…


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