The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) points out that more than 90% of central banks around the world are already considering whether to introduce central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Even though more than 70% of German citizens still pay in cash and the majority of Germans reject the digital euro, the European Central Bank’s (ECB) plans are already well underway.
Central bank digital currencies have existed for over 50 years
CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) is digital money issued by central or central banks. The spread of electronic money (digital bank money) began in the 1970s and has since forced the decoupling between material values and real money. Today, every euro in a bank account exists only in electronic or digital form.
Over the past few decades, the money supply has become increasingly decoupled from real gross domestic product (real GDP). Digital money is simply easier to create. Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust would be happy: “There is no money. Well, then do it!”.
In this regard, CBDC is not the extraordinary monetary revolution that monetary policymakers like to portray it as. You can already transfer electronic credit from one account or wallet to another within a bank or payment service provider within seconds.
An online transfer to an account at another credit institution can take a maximum of one business day, paper transfers a maximum of two days. This applies to all payments in euros throughout the SEPA area.
Digital payment options are becoming increasingly diverse
Anyone can do it from their smartphone or through online payment providers such as: B. PayPal, create an electronic wallet stored with credit or debit or cryptocurrency accounts or cards. This wallet can then be used for online and offline purchases or transactions with third parties. Even via the monthly phone bill, many operators offer purchases in seconds from third-party providers, such as app stores, delivery services, taxi services, purchasing goods, ordering tickets and even paying at snack vending machines.
If you want to carry out your transactions a little more discreetly, quickly and directly from wallet to wallet, there are currently over 7,000 digital currencies (tokens) officially available for this purpose. The pioneer Bitcoin (BTC) is still the most popular here. In addition to Bitcoin, there are also stable coins directly linked to currencies, e.g. B. are backed by US dollars, but function like a digital currency.
Digital payment systems are becoming easier and easier and cryptocurrencies are becoming more and more interesting. And in the midst of this monetary revolution, states and associations of states are introducing their own electronic currencies.
But why do central and central banks want to introduce central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) at any cost in addition to their existing digital bank money (euro, US dollar, yen, pound, franc, etc.)? Who has registered a need here and who needs this CBDC?
Here is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the various forms of electronic payment (not exhaustive, very simplified):
On the basis of this superficial comparison it is not possible to determine a real added value for citizens and the economy. It therefore appears that central banks are simply chasing a development over which they risk losing control: purely private digital currencies, in particular decentralized Bitcoin.
But it must be said clearly here that there are no advantages of a CBDC over Bitcoin. In contrast, Bitcoin’s main intention to limit money creation and thus ensure long-term value stability is not the case for central bank digital currencies.
Central and central banks, such as B. the ECB, can create as much central bank digital money as it has done in the recent past and, in the case of Japan (Bank of Japan), is still doing so.
The Bundesdruckerei sees the banking sector at risk and warns against surveillance
The head of value printing at Bundesdruckerei GmbH, Dr. Dieter Sauter sees several risks for consumers and the banking system as a whole:
“Under no circumstances can digital identities be used to control transactions and link them to specific people.”
Even if the ECB denies it at this point, experience with the ECB’s promises shows that they are not worth the cotton on which the common currency is printed. And what would happen if political change and dictatorial conditions occurred in Europe? Who then wants to enforce the ECB’s promises? The constitutional state that no longer exists or can only act to a limited extent? And what would happen if one day the ECB and its currency no longer existed (nothing created by man exists forever)?
Since for example B. There is no institution like the ECB behind Bitcoin, this specific question does not arise here.
The doctor sees another big risk. Sauter in cybersecurity. Bank accounts are relatively well protected against theft. At least better than private wallets. Nearly $800 billion worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen in 2022 alone (source: TRMLabs), mostly by professional North Korean hackers. How does the ECB intend to mitigate this risk? In terms of technology, monetary policymakers are currently still lagging behind.
Sauter generally warns against too much presence of central bank digital money in an economy. For example, he suggests limiting CBDC transactions to a maximum amount. Finally, the supposed stability of central banks may lead some to consider converting money from their bank accounts into CBDCs (digital bank runs). This in turn would be dangerous for commercial banks. The latent fear of their possible failure would therefore encourage real failure.
If the ECB itself were to enter the banking services sector, as some monetary politicians are already calling for to “stabilize the system” and offer accounts that include banking services themselves, the entire banking and savings bank system would quickly be at risk and the The ECB would end up becoming a monopolist which, according to its own interests, decides at will on the granting and availability of credit. It’s not a pleasant idea.
The advancement of the digitalisation of payment processing is forcing central banks to keep up with technology. Therefore, CBDCs will soon become part of our daily lives. At the same time, there is a risk that payment flows will become controllable and completely transparent. As a responsible citizen, you should be aware of the possibilities but also the consequences of introducing central bank digital currency.
In reality, it would be the job of schools to teach children how to manage their personal data and virtual money so that young adults do not start their careers hopelessly over-indebted and their spending behavior is completely transparent and therefore controllable.
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