In a remarkably frank talk at a Bank of England conference, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund has speculated that Bitcoin and cryptocurrency have as much of a future as the Internet itself. It could displace central banks, conventional banking, and challenge the monopoly of national monies.
Christine Lagarde–a Paris native who has held her position at the IMF since 2011–says the only substantial problems with existing cryptocurrency are fixable over time.
In the long run, the technology itself can replace national monies, conventional financial intermediation, and even “puts a question mark on the fractional banking model we know today.”
In a lecture that chastised her colleagues for failing to embrace the future, she warned that “Not so long ago, some experts argued that personal computers would never be adopted, and that tablets would only be used as expensive coffee trays. So I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies.”
Here are the relevant parts of her paper:
Let us start with virtual currencies. To be clear, this is not about digital payments in existing currencies—through Paypal and other “e-money” providers such as Alipay in China, or M-Pesa in Kenya.
Virtual currencies are in a different category, because they provide their own unit of account and payment systems. These systems allow for peer-to-peer transactions without central clearinghouses, without central banks.
For now, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin pose little or no challenge to the existing order of fiat currencies and central banks. Why? Because they are too volatile, too risky, too energy intensive, and because the underlying technologies are not yet scalable. Many are too opaque for regulators; and some have been hacked.
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