By now it’s common knowledge that China is leaps and bounds ahead of all other central banks in launching a CBDC, or Central Bank Digital Currency (which Beijing vows is not a challenge to the reserve status of the US Dollar, but is precisely that), however the US is doing everything it can to keep up.
And while one wouldn’t get the sense of urgency if one listened to either the Fed chair or the NY Fed president today…
- POWELL SAYS HAVE NOT DECIDED WHETHER TO ISSUE A DIGITAL CURRENCY
- WILLIAMS SAYS FED IS STUDYING CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCIES ACTIVELY AND IS NOT IN A RACE
… on Monday, the nonprofit organization Digital Dollar Project said it will launch five pilot programs over the next 12 months to test the potential uses of a U.S. central bank digital currency, the first effort of its kind in the United States.
According to Reuters, the private-sector pilots which hope to recreate similar tests held in China last year, will initially be funded by Accenture and involve financial firms, retailers and NGOs, among others. The aim is simple: to generate data that could help U.S. policymakers develop a digital dollar.
Why Accenture, formerly known as Arthur Andersen of Enron fame? Because a partnership between Accenture and the Digital Dollar Foundation, the Digital Dollar Project was created last year to promote research into a U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC).
“There are conferences and papers coming out every week around the world on CBDCs based on data from other countries,” said Christopher Giancarlo, former chair of the CFTC and co-founder of the Digital Dollar Foundation.
“What there is not, is any real data and testing from the United States to inform that debate. We’re seeking to generate that real-world data,” Giancarlo added.
This means that over the next 12 months, a select group of Americans will have the “honor” of transacting with the next evolutionary US currency – the digital dollar.
As discussed here extensively in recent years, CBDCs are the digital equivalent of banknotes and coins, giving holders a direct digital claim on the central bank and allowing them to make instant electronic payments. On the other hand, digital currencies allow central banks to track every single transaction in real-time, to identify the holder of the currency and – when the time comes – to “expire” it.
As a reminder, last month we reported that China’s digital yuan “is programmable. Beijing has tested expiration dates to encourage users to spend it quickly, for times when the economy needs a jump start.” The Fed’s digital dollar will have this functionality too, as well as many more, most notably allowing the central bank to deposit digital dollar in any bank account of its choosing to create targeted inflation by selectively funding those who are most likely to spend rather than save (hence the relentless campaign to convince the US population that minorities deserve reparations).
A few quick words on how CBDCs differ from other traditional payment methods: While debit cards or payment apps are a form of digital cash, those transactions are created by commercial banks based on money central banks credit to those banks’ accounts. They are not fully government-backed, can take days to settle, and often incur fees. Cryptocurrencies, meanwhile, are controlled by private actors, and have been soaring in recent years in response to the unprecedented debasement of fiat currencies.
Central banks around the world, including in China and Europe, are revving up CBDC projects to fend off threats from cryptocurrencies and improve payment systems.
Unlike Beijing, the U.S. Federal Reserve has said it wants to move more cautiously. It has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to build a technology platform for a hypothetical digital dollar, but chair Jerome Powell said last week that it is “far more important” to get a digital dollar right than it is to be fast. However, it now appears that speed is emerging as a key variable as well.
Giancarlo said Powell was correct to be cautious but that as China pushes ahead, the United States must drive a discussion on incorporating U.S. values such as privacy and freedom of commerce and speech into the development of CBDCs. “It’s vital that the U.S. asserts leadership as it has in previous technological innovations,” Giancarlo added.
Giancarlo also gave the trite BS reason why the US “needs” a digital currency, as it could also boost financial inclusion in the United States, where transaction fees impede the access of many Americans to mainstream financial services. Because so many Americans lament their inability to the dollar as it stands now due to high “transaction fees.”
The pilot programs, three of which will launch in the next two months, will complement the Fed’s MIT project by generating data on the functional, sociological, business uses, benefits and other facets, of a digital dollar. The data is due to be released publicly.
According to Reuters, Accenture has previously worked on a number of CBDC projects including in Canada, Singapore and France. David Treat, a senior managing director at Accenture, said CBDCs would exist alongside other forms of physical and electronic money, rather than replace them.
“It’s not a panacea for all money,” Treat said. “We will be using physical cash and coin for some time.”
Sure we will… until one day the government pulls an FDR executive order 6102 and confiscates all non-digital currencies.