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Tag Archives: fungibility

Revisiting stablecoins

Source: Gravity Glue (2014) Cryptocurrencies were supposed to destroy the traditional monetary system. Ten years on, where are we?Bitcoin has been wildly successful, but as a financial game--not as a medium of exchange. It's a fun (and potentially profitable) way to gamble on what Keynes once described as what "average opinion expects the average opinion to be." But no one really uses it to pay for stuff. It's nature as a gambling token makes it too awkward to serve as a true substitute for...

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The difference between two colourful bits of rectangular paper

David Andolfatto had a provocative and open-ended tweet a few days back: The difference between money and debt. pic.twitter.com/CSQuLzUJPU — David Andolfatto (@dandolfa) April 26, 2019 We see two coloured pieces of paper, both with an old dead President on it. They each have a face value of $500. Both are issued by a branch of the government, the $500 McKinley banknote (at right) by the Federal Reserve while the $500 Treasury bond (at left) by the Treasury. Both are bearer instrument:...

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Two notions of fungibility

A few centuries ago, lack of fungibility used to be a big weakness of monetary systems. But technological and legal developments eventually solved the problem. Nascent systems like bitcoin are finding that they must wrestle all over again with fungibility issues.Fungibility exists when one member of a population of items is perfectly interchangeable with another. So for instance, because your grain of wheat can be swapped out with my grain without causing any sort of change to our relative...

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Paying interest on cash

Freigeld, or stamp scrip, is designed to pay negative interest, but it can be re-purposed to pay positive interest. Remember when global interest rates were plunging to zero and all everyone wanted to talk about was how to set a negative interest rate on cash? Now that interest rates around the world are rising again, here's that same idea in reverse: what about finally paying positive interest rates on cash? I'm going to explore three ways of doing this. As for why we'd want to pay interest...

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An example of tax-driven money during the greenback era

Cartoon from 1864 poking fun at politicians and greenbacks (source and explanation) During the greenback era, the Union government issued irredeemable paper money to help pay for its war against the Confederates. What many people don't realize is that there were actually two different strains of greenbacks—those printed before March 1862 and those printed after. Although these two strains had only slightly different properties, they were not fungible with each other and would go on to have...

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When a rising stock market is a bad thing

If the world had a single cauldron for mixing various monetary phenomena, it would be Zimbabwe. Over the last two decades, it has experienced pretty much everything that can happen to money, from hyperinflation to deflation, demonetization to remonetization, dollarization and de-dollarization, bank runs, bank walks, and more. Adding to this mix, the Zimbabwe Industrial Index—an indicator of local stock prices—has recently gone parabolic, having more than tripled over the last twelve...

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Leaving a monetary union is difficult, but Hawaii pulled it off

In campaigning for a departure from the Euro, both France's Marine Le Pen and Italy's Beppe Grillo,  make the process sound easy. But one does not simply walk out of a monetary union. There are all sorts of messy problems to deal with, including harmful bank runs, massive banknote shortages, and long legal battles with investors over wealth confiscation and the redenomination of debts. I recently stumbled on a successful and rarely-discussed exit from a monetary union: Hawaii in 1942....

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