US Congress Quietly Sneaks In Crypto-Bill Amendment Authorizing Central Bank Digital Currency
The future of money is here; will the Federal Reserve Board be authorized to use distributed ledger technology for the creation, distribution and “recordation” of all the transactions of a Digital Dollar?
On July 28, 2021, a new bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives. This bill, sponsored by Congressman Don Beyer,1) aims to regulate crypto-currencies. But it does more…
The bill is called the “Digital Asset Market Structure and Investor Protection Act”2) (“Digital Asset Bill”). And for the majority, it sets out future rules for crypto. However, hidden in this bill, changes to the foundation of the Dollar are proposed.
And because nobody outside crypto (and frankly, few inside crypto) actually read the bill, these amendments have so far largely gone unnoticed.
Crypto-currencies have been making waves. Fans of crypto think they have the new medium of exchange. However, in the current proposed regulations, Congress clearly takes a strict approach towards crypto and its various use cases. The following article provides an overview of these new US crypto regulations.
Included in the Digital Asset Bill, amendments to the Federal Reserve Act and the definition of legal tender are proposed. These amendments drastically expand the powers of the Federal Reserve, and change how money is created and distributed in the US.
Contrary to what is widely understood, the Fed does not “print money.” It can only manage the money supply indirectly.
It is the private sector that “creates” most of what we use as money in the modern banking system. They do this by issuing credit to the market.
It is with the supply of credit by private banks that the monetary supply is inflated. Conversely, with the reduced demand for credit, the money supply deflates. The FED does not have as much direct influence on this process as it wants the market to believe.
To summarize: the Federal Reserve does not directly create digital money. And, it also doesn’t create physical money (notes and coins).
After looking at what the FED is and isn’t allowed to do, we can look at how their authority is to be expanded. According to the Digital Asset Bill, section 11 of the Federal Reserve Act is to be amended to provide the Federal Reserve Board with new powers:
“(d) To supervise and regulate through the Secretary of the Treasury the issue and retirement of Federal Reserve notes (both physical and digital), except for the cancellation and destruction, and accounting with respect to such cancellation and destruction, of notes unfit for circulation, and to prescribe rules and regulations (including appropriate technology) under which such notes may be delivered by the Secretary of the Treasury to the Federal Reserve agents applying therefor.”
So far so good. But the next section, contains the real story. According to the Digital Asset bill, Federal Reserve notes will in the future also be issued digitally:
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is authorized to issue digital versions of Federal reserve notes in addition to current physical Federal reserve notes. Further, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, after consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, is authorized to use distributed ledger technology for the creation, distribution and recordation of all transactions involving digital Federal reserve notes.
As we saw, the Federal Reserve does not have the power to create Dollars directly. It seem like this power is now to be granted to them. Given that these new Reserve Notes are digital, this strangely merges two distinct forms of money as well.
Next, we saw that the distribution of Dollars was done through member banks. It isn’t clear if this remains the case. It clearly says that these digital Dollars can be issued “in addition” to the current Federal Reserve notes. There is nothing, at least not in this law, preventing the Federal Reserve from taking a more centralized and direct role in distributing the digital Dollar. Perhaps during the next “emergency.”
And finally, the Federal Reserve Board is to be authorized to create and distribute a “ledger-based” digital Dollar that could be used for everyday transactions. There are a few technologies one could imagine, but let us for now assume this will be a blockchain. Blockchains are great for recording transactions; it is what they do.
Perhaps that is why the Federal Reserve will be authorized to do so? However, it is a bit hard to imagine that such a centralized structure would not lead to monitoring of all transactions. And what about privacy? What about security?
This amendment has the potential to change the way the Federal Reserve operates. It is not law yet, and can still be changed. This deserves a wider discussion by economists and financial experts outside the crypto-space as well.
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