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U.S. Needs to Modernize with Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies, Said Former Trading Commission Chairman

Christopher Giancarlo said U.S. falling behind China on new wave of innovation, driven by blockchain and cryptocurrencies.



Christopher Giancarlo speaking during the panel hosted by the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2022 – A former chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said the federal government needs to catch up and modernize the currency system to include cryptocurrencies, lest the U.S. fall behind competitors in the global arena.

Christopher Giancarlo, staunch supporter of cryptocurrencies and adjacent technologies, said during a panel hosted by the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday that, while some entities in the private sector are blazing ahead on cryptocurrencies and the decentralized ledger system called the blockchain — exploring the possibilities and limits to these technologies — western governments and societies at large are lagging.

“Money is changing right before our eyes,” the former chairman said. “Like text messages and photographs, money is becoming digital, decentralized, tokenized and borderless.”

Antiquated methods of transferring and ordering money are still mainstream, and not suitable for the fast-paced transactions that take place in the 21st century, said Giancarlo. He argued that these methods put the U.S. “at a competitive disadvantage to the likes of China, that are building new financial infrastructure from scratch with 21st century digital technology.

“It typically takes days in the United States to settle and clear retail bank transfers, while in many other countries it takes mere minutes if not seconds. And it takes days to settle securities transactions, and it’s ridiculously expensive to remit money overseas,” said Giancarlo. “It is often faster to move money around the globe by stuffing cash in a suitcase and hopping on a plane than it is to send a wire transfer.

“I just rode the Acela from Newark to Washington and the state of our dilapidated American infrastructure is on full display right outside the train window,” he said. “But sadly, the same is true about much of our financial infrastructure, both in the United States and in developed western economies.”

Innovation on the internet comes in waves, said Giancarlo. The first wave was the “Internet of Information,” which gave rise to digitally accessible and nearly instantaneously shareable libraries, such as Wikipedia. The second wave is what is commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things,” where nearly every device one can engage with can be accessed via the internet.

The ‘Internet of Value’

In Giancarlo’s view, a third wave is now in the midst of crashing down: the “Internet of Value” has begun to wash across the internet, where property titles, contracts, stock certificates, and other fungible and non-fungible assets can be shared and exchanged.

“Thanks to stablecoins, value is now transferable around the world in nanoseconds – 24/7/365 – the way that is increasingly decoupled from the traditional bank account-based system and corresponding correspondent banking service,” he said. “And it is the private sector, not the official sector that is leading the way to the future of money.”

Giancarlo condemned the U.S. government’s inability to “declare any national imperative to harness digital asset innovation to upgrade our creaky exclusive financial system to expand inclusiveness and lower costs for new generations of Americans.”

“I believe we can harness this wave of innovation this internet of value for greater financial inclusion, capital and operational efficiency and economic growth for generations to come. But if we do not act, this coming wave of the internet will lay bare in the shortcomings of our aged, analog financial systems with potentially disruptive impact on our western economies.”

Giancarlo stated that 80 percent of the world’s central banks are currently considering a central bank for digital currency. Bearing that in mind, he provided seven core reasons why they are doing so:

  • access to citizens economic data
  • financial infrastructure modernization
  • financial inclusion solution monetary policy execution
  • rising success of stable coins
  • geopolitical influence

He said that over the coming decades, there will be myriad stakeholders attempting to advance digital currencies – ranging from national governments, to legacy fintech institutions, to Big Tech – but that “citizens for a free society” need to be one of the key players.

“Looking back on the carnage of World War One, French premier George Clemenceau is said to have remarked, ‘war is too important to be left to the generals,’” Giancarlo said. “I adapt Clemenceau’s famous quote: money, especially the digital money of the future, is too important to be left to central bankers.”

Giancarlo stated that it is important for both non-sovereign and sovereign currencies to coexist in the same financial ecosystem. “The best protection against impermissible government surveillance of economic activity or restrictions on otherwise lawful transactions may be robust competition from well-constructed stable coins, and other non-sovereign digital money.

“On the other hand, privately held operators of stable coins are not bound by the Fourth Amendment to respect individual privacy. They can easily be brought under political pressure to surveil or restrict politically incorrect transactions.

“Perhaps the best approach is what I call a ‘jigsaw’ approach to privacy, where no entity or provider of the digital currency has all the information about a transaction.”

He argued that such a system would be “the most effective guarantor of economic liberty and individual privacy.”

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.


Cryptocurrency Has Promise But ‘Screams for Regulation,’ Says Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

The mayor has been an enthusiastic proponent of MiamiCoin, a privately-owned cryptocurrency.



Screenshot of Francis Suarez, mayor of the City of Miami, at the Wilson Center event

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2023 — Embracing emerging technologies such as cryptocurrency will have long-term benefits for the general public, but the industry needs much stronger regulation, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said at an event hosted Tuesday by the Wilson Center.

Suarez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke in advance of the mayors’ 91st annual meeting from Tuesday until this Friday.

Suarez has long been an advocate for cryptocurrency adoption; after winning reelection in 2021, he announced that his own salary would be paid in bitcoin. He has also been an enthusiastic proponent of MiamiCoin, a privately-owned cryptocurrency meant to benefit the city — even after the currency’s value dropped by more than 95 percent.

However, when discussing the recent collapse of crypto exchange FTX, Suarez acknowledged that the technology “screams for regulation.” U.S. legislation tends to be reactive instead of proactive, but the latter approach might have been able to stop the FTX crash, he added.

“I think there should have been regulation on what some of these custodial entities could do with custody assets,” he said. “They’re like banks — the kind of assets that they had were enormous — and what they were doing when you when you peel back the layers of the onion is frightening… there’s a reason why some level of regulation exists already in the banking industry.”

Suarez said that the first step for lawmakers taking on cryptocurrency regulation should be to recognize the significance of the technology. Issues such as the national debt ceiling and rate of inflation demonstrate the value of having currency “outside of the mainstream fiat system,” he said.

In addition to cryptocurrency, Suarez expressed his opinion on a variety of other timely technology issues.

“I think AI is going to be our generation’s arms race,” he said, noting the growing potential for cyberwarfare as weapons systems come to rely on encrypted technology.

Suarez also discussed the impacts that an increasingly digital world may have on childhood development. “My daughter one shocked me when she was two years old — she’s four now — by taking a pretend selfie with her pacifier of me,” he said. “And I was like, wow, this is really crazy.”

Despite having initial concerns about technology’s impact on children, Suarez said that watching his own children’s online interactions had assuaged his fears.

“I’m actually going to take it a step further — I’m starting to see socialization opportunities… they’re actually virtually online with a friend, and they’re playing and talking and socializing,” he said.

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CES 2023: Crypto Protects Privacy and Civil Liberties

The ability to coordinate outside of government control could be a massive boon for oppressed or dissident groups.



Photo of Kurt Opsahl, Mike Wawszczak, Anna Stone, and Sandy Carter (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Despite the crypto industry’s recent stumbles, a panel of experts at the Consumer Electronics Show remained bullish on its potential – as well as that of its underlying technology, the blockchain – to protect individuals’ data privacy and civil liberties.

Many blockchains, although residing in the digital world, largely fall into the category of “public goods,” which traditionally includes shared infrastructure such as roads, argued Anna Stone, director of impact at eToro. Stone cited the Ethereum network, which is open source and allows many individuals to build on it. “What makes Ethereum exist is not any one company that’s doing anything, it’s actually that there are thousands of different contributors,” she said. 

Mike Wawszczak, general counsel at Alliance, argued that the traditional funders of public goods – governments – make serious mistakes that stem from being insulated from market forces. “[Crypto] offers an alternative method of managing and governing these protocols – that we’re only now starting to see massive amounts of experimentation in – might not be subject to the same failure[s]…that we see in states,” Wawszczak said.

Later in the panel, Wawszczak argued that decentralized autonomous organizations empower individuals and communities to further and protect their own interests, even in opposition to state authority. “If you can imagine a lot of the more disparate groups that exist around particular social-justice causes or identity groups that are far flung or spread out, but now they have a new means of coordinating their behiavior and of generating economic wealth,” Wawszczak explained. He argued that the ability to coordinate outside of government control could be a massive boon for oppressed or dissident groups.

Panelists further said blockchain technologies can ensure that consumers maintain control over their own data. “Giving [users] that choice…to pick a place that is built and verifiable to be secure, to be private, to be a place that fits with their values, that can really enhance things for the users,” said Kurt Opsahl, general counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Brookings Panelists Debate the Future of Crypto

Some crypto skeptics say that regulating the digital coin is a mistake since it would provide legitimacy to the industry.



Screenshot of Peter Conti-Brown, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

December 20, 2022 – Academics discussed the potential usefulness of crypto-related technologies and how they should be regulated at a web event hosted Tuesday by The Brookings Institution.

The prices of digital assets have fluctuated wildly in the last year, driving calls for the institution of a crypto-specific regulatory framework. The price of Bitcoin, for instance, plummeted from $64,400 in November 2021 to less than $17,000 early Tuesday afternoon. The downfall of prominent Crypto exchange FTX, allegedly due to massive fraud, has provided further rhetorical fodder to would-be regulators.

Some crypto skeptics say that regulating crypto is a mistake, however, since it would provide legitimacy to the industry. “Legitimizing [crypto] is simply going to drain creative resources from productive activities,” argued Stephen Cecchetti, Rosen Family Chair in International Finance at the Brandeis International Business School. “In economic terms, this would be like subsidizing a dead-weight loss.”

Cecchetti argued that a new regulatory regime would push crypto into the traditional financial world. “Imagine where we would be if leveraged financial intermediaries had been holding crypto in November of 2021, before the plunge in value,” Cecchetti. “So if we need any new rules, they’re rules to prohibit exposure of traditional leveraged intermediaries – prohibit banks, dealers, insurers, pension funds ­– from holding this stuff and from accepting it as collateral.”

Peter Conti-Brown, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and nonresident fellow at The Brookings Institution, argued that crypto, even without a dedicated regulatory framework, has already been established a significant foothold. Policymakers should clarify how crypto assets fit into existing regulatory structures, Conti-Brown argued. Due to similarities of various types of crypto to elements of traditional finance, he said, the absence of crypto regulation is a “declaration of a prosecutorial non-enforcement of existing laws.”

Regulators should make clear that “if you’re going to act and smell and quack like a bank, you need to charter, and if you’re going to hawk securities, you need to register,” Conti-Brown argued later in the conversation.

Crypto: Useful or useless?

While crypto’s biggest proponents argue that it, along with its underlying technology, blockchain, are revolutionary innovations, many don’t agree. At a recent Senate hearing held Wednesday on the FTX collapse, a law professor from the American University Washington College of Law advocated banning crypto outright. One senator advocated instituting a “pause” on crypto at a hearing held two weeks prior.

Cecchetti voice skepticism as well. “I don’t think crypto is the future of anything” he said, adding that it is, in his opinion, “utterly without redeeming social value.”

Conti-Brown said some crypto-related innovations may prove useful. He further argued that the very possibility of blockchain-driven innovations threatens incumbent industry – e.g., traditional financial technology firms – and will likely drive innovation.

“Every major payments player is…following blockchain developments, and thinking about where this might represent both opportunity and challenge,” Conti-Brown said. Crypto solutions may be “inchoate, (but) are not non sequiturs,” he added.

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