Economists usually talk about money serving three functions – a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account. But the ability to make payments using commercial bank deposits, which account for the vast majority of money, has already divorced the physicality of notes from the concept of the medium of exchange. Inflation and non-remuneration renders physical money a poor store of value. And the unit of account does not rely on physical cash. So is there a specific role for physical paper money anymore?
Central banks (CBs) have long issued paper currency. The development of Bitcoin and other private digital currencies has provided them with the technological means to issue their own digital currency. But should they?
Addressing this question is part of the Bank’s Research Agenda. In this post I sketch out how a CB digital currency – call it CBcoin – might affect the monetary and banking systems – setting aside other important and complex systemic implications that range from prudential regulation and financial stability to technology, operational and financial conduct.
I argue that taken to its most extreme conclusion, CBcoin issuance could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and central banking – divorcing payments from private bank deposits and even putting an end to banks’ ability to create money. By redefining the architecture of payment systems, CBcoin could thus challenge fractional reserve banking and reshape the conduct of monetary policy.
The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once quipped that the answers economists give to the question “what is money?” are usually incoherent. So in this blog we turn to law for some answers. Debate about the nature of money has been renewed by recent financial crises and the rise of digital currencies (Ali et al 2014; Desan 2014; Ryan-Collins et al 2014; Martin 2013). This was the focus of a panel session at the Bank’s recent annual conference on Monetary and Financial Law, which brought together lawyers and economists to develop interdisciplinary perspectives on topics such as money. It prompted us to think more deeply about how law does and does not constitute ‘it.’
When Friedman famously conjured up images of banknotes fluttering from helicopters in 1969, perhaps he knew he was about to inspire decades of sky-bound puns and policies in the name of deflation avoidance. Helicopter money goes beyond standard fiscal and monetary policy by boosting economic activity using money created by the central bank – money that does not have to be paid back. To its modern advocates, the tale is one of blue-sky thinking that could avert the next recession. But is this just pie in the sky? This post discusses why such a policy is different to quantitative easing, why it is unlikely to have much impact relative to conventional fiscal measures and the pitfalls associated with pursuing it. Continue reading “Helicopter money: setting the tale straight”→