Financial repression

What Bitcoin Has Become

We are now in the ninth year of Bitcoin, the first coins (or “Genesis Block”) having been mined (that is, awarded for solving a computational problem) on January 3, 2009. Yet, Bitcoin has clearly failed to meet the grandiose aims of its advocates. Unlike conventional money, it is not widely used as a means of exchange. And, despite claims that its independence of government would make it a stable store of value, it remains anything but.

Instead, the evidence we can find hints that its primary use is to evade capital controls (or, possibly, as an alternative store of value in a repressed financial system). The greatest achievement associated with Bitcoin is not the currency itself, but the blockchain—the distributed ledger technology underlying it—that is now being widely explored in the hopes of slashing costs and improving services in finance and a range of other activities (see our earlier post).

Read More

The Yin and the Yang of Shadow Banking in China

By almost any measure, China saves more than virtually any country in the world. Over the past decade, gross national savings has amounted to about one-half of GDP.  And that phenomenal rate continues: only Qatar and Macau save more  (see chart). There are many good reasons to save. At the top of the list in China has been the high marginal return on capital that naturally accompanies rapid economic growth.

Despite this, households in China until recently have had few attractive avenues for saving....

Read More