AN OH-SO-BRIEF BRIEF ON DIGITAL MONEY
If you read or watch the news, you may already know this, but there has been an explosion of interest in digital money. That’s the reason you may be hearing and reading about dozens of companies that are rushing to coin virtual currency that has real value. It just seems so 21st Century, doesn’t it?
Odds are you’ve already used digital money. For example, you used it the last time you purchased something online. Digital money is what we use when we pay or are paid electronically. Think smart phones and credit cards. Digital money is not tangible; however, it is possible to convert digital money that is part of a large centralized banking system into paper money by making a withdrawal from an ATM.
In the United States, the Federal Reserve is responsible for maintaining the integrity of U.S. bills and coins by setting monetary policy. Digital currency companies offer a parallel currency universe; a means of transferring electronic money from one person to another without using traditional banking or money-transfer systems.
Digital money companies appear to be delivering American economist Milton Friedman’s dream, according to The Economist. Years ago, Friedman suggested the Federal Reserve be abolished and replaced by an automated system that would increase money supply at a steady, pre-set rate. He believed such a system would better control inflation, making spending and investment decisions more certain. The Economist article said: “In theory, then, the system ought to keep a lid on inflation – making it attractive to critics of interventionist monetary policy of the sort practiced since 2008 by America’s Federal Reserve under the label quantitative easing… It offers other apparent benefits, too. The currency can be used by anyone (unlike credit cards, for instance), anywhere. Transaction costs are also likely to be lower than those for traditional payment systems, though these are not in fact zero…”
The Economist goes on to point out a that a key difference between central-bank-controlled currencies (which often offer both bills and coins and digital currencies) and digital currency companies is that the former are backed by a country’s regulations and laws; the latter are answerable to online communities using the currencies. In sum, the latter are answerable to a free market.
“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
–Henry Ford, American Industrialist
Chris Nichols, Partner & Wealth Advisor