https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/05/08/the-digital-currencies-that-matter

The digital currencies that matter
重量级数字货币

Get ready for Fedcoin and the e-euro

准备迎接美联储币和电子欧元吧

TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE is upending finance. Bitcoin has gone from being an obsession of anarchists to a $1 trn asset class that many fund managers insist belongs in any balanced portfolio. Swarms of digital day-traders have become a force on Wall Street. PayPal has 392 m users, a sign that America is catching up with China’s digital-payments giants. Yet the least noticed disruption on the frontier between technology and finance may end up as the most revolutionary: the creation of government digital currencies, which typically aim to let people deposit funds directly with a central bank, bypassing conventional lenders.

技术变革正在颠覆金融业。让无政府主义者意乱情迷的比特币已经成为一个价值万亿美元的资产类别,许多基金经理坚称任何均衡的投资组合都应包含比特币。大批用数字化方式交易的短线投资者已成为冲击华尔街的力量。PayPal 拥有 3.92 亿用户,显示美国正在赶上中国的数字支付巨头。然而,在科技和金融之间的前沿地带,最不起眼的颠覆却有可能带来最具革命性的变化:创建政府数字货币。一般来说,发行这种货币是为了让人们绕过传统的贷款机构,将资金直接存入央行。

These“govcoins”are a new incarnation of money. They promise to make finance work better but also to shift power from individuals to the state, alter geopolitics and change how capital is allocated. They are to be treated with optimism, and humility.

这些「政府币」是货币的新形态。它们有望改进金融业的运作,同时还可能将权力从个人转移到政府手中,改变地缘政治,并且改变资本的配置方式。理应以乐观和谦逊的态度面对它们。

A decade or so ago, amid the wreckage of Lehman Brothers, Paul Volcker, a former head of the Federal Reserve, grumbled that banking’s last useful innovation was the ATM. Since the crisis, the industry has raised its game. Banks have modernised their creaking IT systems. Entrepreneurs have built an experimental world of“decentralised finance”,of which bitcoin is the most famous part and which contains a riot of tokens, databases and conduits that interact to varying degrees with traditional finance. Meanwhile, financial“platform”firms now have over 3 bn customers who use e-wallets and payments apps. Alongside PayPal are other specialists such as Ant Group, Grab and Mercado Pago, established firms such as Visa, and Silicon Valley wannabes such as Facebook.

大约十年前,在雷曼兄弟破产后的一片狼藉之中,美联储前主席保罗・沃尔克(Paul Volcker)不满地指出,在 ATM 机之后,银行业就再没有诞生过什么有用的创新了。金融危机以来,银行业已经大大提升了自身的运作。银行对自己陈旧的 IT 系统进行了现代化改造。创业者们建立起了一个「去中心化金融」的试验田,其中最著名的就是比特币,同时也包含了各式各样的代币、数据库和通道,它们在不同程度上与传统金融对接互动。与此同时,金融「平台」公司已拥有超过 30 亿使用电子钱包和支付应用的客户。这些公司除了 PayPal,还有蚂蚁集团、Grab 和 Mercado Pago 这类专业公司、Visa 这样的老牌企业,以及 Facebook 等来自硅谷的模仿者。

Government or central-bank digital currencies are the next step but they come with a twist, because they would centralise power in the state rather than spread it through networks or give it to private monopolies. The idea behind them is simple. Instead of holding an account with a retail bank, you would do so direct with a central bank through an interface resembling apps such as Alipay or Venmo. Rather than writing cheques or paying online with a card, you could use the central bank’s cheap plumbing. And your money would be guaranteed by the full faith of the state, not a fallible bank. Want to buy a pizza or help a broke sibling? No need to deal with Citigroup’s call centre or pay Mastercard’s fees: the Bank of England and the Fed are at your service.

接下来就是由政府或央行发行的数字货币了。但这里发生了一种转折,因为这些货币会将权力集中在政府手里,而不是通过网络分散出去或是交给私营垄断机构。它们背后的逻辑很简单。你无需在零售银行开户,而是通过一个类似支付宝或 Venmo 等应用的界面直接在央行开户。你不再需要使用支票或在网上刷卡支付,而是可以利用央行的低成本通道。你的资金将完全由国家信用担保,而不用交给一家可能并不可靠的银行。想买个披萨或者借钱给周转不灵的兄弟姐妹?不需要和花旗银行的呼叫中心打交道,也不需要支付万事达卡的手续费:英国央行和美联储随时为您效劳。

This metamorphosis of central banks from the aristocrats of finance to its labourers sounds far-fetched, but it is under way. Over 50 monetary authorities, representing the bulk of global GDP, are exploring digital currencies. The Bahamas has issued digital money. China has rolled out its e-yuan pilot to over 500,000 people. The EU wants a virtual euro by 2025, Britain has launched a task-force, and America, the world’s financial hegemon, is building a hypothetical e-dollar.

身为金融界贵族的央行成了雇工,这种转变听起来有点离奇,但确实正在发生。50 多个国家和地区的货币管理机构正在探索数字货币,它们占了全球 GDP 的一大部分。巴哈马已经发行了数字货币。中国在 50 多万人当中试点了数字人民币。欧盟希望在 2025 年前推出虚拟欧元,英国已经启动了一个特别工作组,而全球金融霸主美国正在构建一种假想的电子美元。

One motivation for governments and central banks is a fear of losing control. Today central banks harness the banking system to amplify monetary policy. If payments, deposits and loans migrate from banks into privately run digital realms, central banks will struggle to manage the economic cycle and inject funds into the system during a crisis. Unsupervised private networks could become a Wild West of fraud and privacy abuses.

促使政府和央行这么做的原因之一是担心失去控制权。目前央行利用银行体系来放大货币政策的效果。如果支付、存款和贷款从银行转移到私人运营的数字领域,央行将难以管理经济周期,也难以在危机时期向银行体系注入资金。无人监管的私营网络可能会成为欺诈泛滥和侵犯隐私的「狂野西部」。

The other motivation is the promise of a better financial system. Ideally money provides a reliable store of value, a stable unit of account and an efficient means of payment. Today’s money gets mixed marks. Uninsured depositors can suffer if banks fail, bitcoin is not widely accepted and credit cards are expensive. Government e-currencies would score highly, since they are state-guaranteed and use a cheap, central payments hub.

它们的另一个动力是有望拥有更好的金融体系。在理想情况下,货币是可靠的储值工具、稳定的记账单位,也是高效的支付手段。当今的货币在这些方面的表现好坏参半。银行倒闭时,没有保险的储户可能蒙受损失,比特币尚未得到广泛接受,而信用卡又过于昂贵。政府发行的电子货币可能会有上佳表现,因为它们由政府担保,同时使用成本低廉的中央支付中心。

As a result, govcoins could cut the operating expenses of the global financial industry, which amount to over $350 a year for every person on Earth. That could make finance accessible for the 1.7 bn people who lack bank accounts. Government digital currencies could also expand governments’toolkits by letting them make instant payments to citizens and cut interest rates below zero. For ordinary users, the appeal of a free, safe, instant, universal means of payment is obvious.

政府币可以由此削减全球金融业的运营费用,这项费用相当于地球上每人每年支出超过 350 美元。17 亿没有银行账户的人也可以因此获得金融服务。政府数字货币还可以扩大政府的工具包,可以向公民即时发钱,还可以将利率降至零以下。对于一般用户来说,一种免费、安全、即时、通用的支付方式的吸引力是显而易见的。

It is this appeal, though, that creates dangers. Unconstrained, govcoins could fast become a dominant force in finance, particularly if network effects made it hard for people to opt out. They could destabilise banks, because if most people and firms stashed their cash at the central banks, lenders would have to find other sources of funding with which to back their loans.

不过,也正是这种吸引力会酝酿风险。如果不受约束,政府币可能很快就会成为金融领域的主导力量;尤其是如果网络效应让人们不用它都不行,就更是如此。银行的根基将被动摇,因为如果大多数人和公司都把现金存放在央行,银行就得为其贷款寻找新的资金来源。

If retail banks were sucked dry of funding, someone else would have to do the lending that fuels business creation. This raises the queasy prospect of bureaucrats influencing credit allocation. In a crisis, a digital stampede of savers to the central bank could cause bank runs.

如果零售银行的资金干涸,就得由其他人发放贷款来推动商业创造。这最终可能导致由官僚左右信贷分配的局面,这样的前景令人不安。发生危机时,储户在线上争相涌向央行也可能导致挤兑的局面。

Once ascendant, govcoins could become panopticons for the state to control citizens: think of instant e-fines for bad behaviour. They could alter geopolitics, too, by providing a conduit for cross-border payments and alternatives to the dollar, the world’s reserve currency and a linchpin of American influence. The greenback’s reign is based partly on America’s open capital markets and property rights, which China cannot rival. But it also relies on old payments systems, invoicing conventions and inertia—making it ripe for disruption. Small countries fear that, instead of using local money, people might switch to foreign e-currencies, causing chaos at home.

一旦地位确立,政府币可能成为政府控制公民的「全景监狱」:想象一下不良行为瞬间就会招致电子罚款的情景。它们还可能改变地缘政治,比如通过提供跨境支付渠道,或美元的替代品——作为世界储备货币,美元是美国影响力的关键。美元的统治地位在一定程度上源于美国开放的资本市场和产权,这是中国无法匹敌的。但它同时也依赖老旧的支付系统、结算惯例和惰性——这让它已经构成绝佳的颠覆目标。小国也担心,国民可能放弃本币而转而使用数字外币,在国内造成混乱。

New money, new problems 新货币,新问题

Such a vast spectrum of opportunities and dangers is daunting. It is revealing that China’s autocrats, who value control above all else, are limiting the size of the e-yuan and clamping down on private platforms such as Ant. Open societies should also proceed cautiously by, say, capping digital-currency accounts.

机会和危险都如此多样,令人生畏。将控制权看得重于一切的中国专制政府限制数字人民币的规模,并打压蚂蚁等私营平台,就很能说明问题。开放社会也应谨慎推进,例如对数字货币账户设置上限。

Governments and financial firms need to prepare for a long-term shift in how money works, as momentous as the leap to metallic coins or payment cards. That means beefing up privacy laws, reforming how central banks are run and preparing retail banks for a more peripheral role. State digital currencies are the next great experiment in finance, and they promise to be a lot more consequential than the humble ATM.

政府和金融公司需要做好准备迎接货币机制的长期转变,这种转变就如同向金属硬币或银行卡的飞跃一样意义重大。这意味着要加强隐私法律,改革央行的管理模式,让零售银行准备好退居外围。政府数字货币是金融领域的下一场伟大实验,其影响可能将远远超过不起眼的 ATM 机

Published since September 1843 to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

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我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。

我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
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