The latest consultation paper from the Bank of England (on Central Bank Digital Currency) paves the way for the greatest change in the way our society works since the invention of Bank money in 1694. I wonder how many people have noticed?
Most people with intelligence and curiosity will often be tempted to “look into the crystal ball' and try and foresee what the future may bring. But the one clear thing which history shows us is that many of humanity's most brilliant and innovative inventions have had massively significant but unexpected consequences. I believe we now stand on the threshold of yet another potentially dramatic change in the way our civilisation functions with the introduction of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Yes....there are many obvious conveniences and utilities which the introduction of CBDCs will achieve BUT there are also likely to be some traumatic unintended consequences.
In March 2020, at the height of panic about corona, the Bank of England published its first consultation paper on this topic (attentive readers of my newsletter will recall my concerns at the time). In June 2021 they published a second consultation paper with a deadline for comments of 7 September. The ball is now well and truly rolling and (surprise, surprise) the mainstream media have not even noticed! As the General might have said - “this is not a drill” - all our lives are going to be radically changed.
Here are some examples of the kind of “unintended” consequences I am talking about....
1. The Plough The invention and introduction of the iron-shod plough seemed like a useful convenience to early farmers. In the event it turned out to be the primary agent which brought about the end of nomadic tribal lifestyles and created the world of mega-cities which dominate human settlement today.
2. The Nation State The banding together of small, more or less self-sufficient, tribal communities into large centrally organised “nation states” was an important way to achieve military power – either for attack or defence. The concept has expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined into the huge global powers which now face each other across the world.
3. Money Metal “tokens of power” were invented to pay soldiers and public servants – their value being enforced by the power of the state (King or Emperor). Money made taxation and commerce much easier, consolidating the power of the state and enabling huge colonial empires to flourish. Control of the supply and cost of money is now the primary tool used by modern nations to “manage” their economies. Aggressive manipulation of exchange rates has been one major factor leading to war.
4. Religion On the one hand, religions (systems of belief involving “Gods”) have provided a comfortable spiritual basis for humans who find the burdens of inexplicable existence very hard to bear. The rules of religions have been a major (possibly THE major) factor allowing complex societies to function prior to the existence of organised police forces. But, on the other hand, the differences between religions have given rise to some of the most brutal and long-lasting conflicts in human history.
5. The Printing Press When the long and skilled drudgery of hand-written books was overtaken by the magic of printing presses nobody foresaw that this would enable massive social change. Millions learned to read. Luther was able to promote his new religion. Ideas and comment could be circulated through a wide population providing an essential foundation for the elections and democracy which eventually replaced hereditary monarchy.
6. Bank Money When the British government had the inspiration to abolish the Christian laws against usury and “invent” paper “Bank Money” in 1694, they were able to finance a new navy (instead of having to raise massive taxes). Once this idea was accepted, the supply of money was no longer limited by supplies of gold or silver – the new Banks could create money “out of thin air” (as they do today). It was this new availability of credit which made the industrial revolution possible and transferred “power” from traditional aristocratic rulers to a new breed of corporate man. Today our world is dominated by their successors, the promoters of “consumerism” who I call the “merchants of greed”.
7. Universal suffrage and populist democracy In the 19th century enlightened reformers like Lord Grey were able to formalise the extension of voting rights to those without extensive property. Throughout the next 100 years this trend was continued, finally being extended to all adults including women!!This seemed like a “good idea” at the time but in practice we now see that the resulting behaviour of populist parliaments leads to “pork barrel” politics and disastrous short-term decision making. Worse still, we now have “government by opinion polls” where all semblance of principle has disappeared in the slippery race for re-election.
8. Invention of the “corporation” This clever device allowed investors to put their money into risky ventures without risking being sued if things went wrong. Some highly profitable adventures were enabled but today the baby has grown too big for the nest; instead of being a benign agent for encouraging new business we have a handful of mega-corporations effectively running the world, making the mass of ordinary people into their wage slaves.
9. The Flush toilet Great for improving sanitation in Victorian times, the flush toilet has now become an energy gobbling agent of massive pollution. Not only does the flush toilet pour billions of tons of plant nutrients into our rivers, lakes and oceans but, even worse, it transfers massive quantities of powerful drugs into fragile ecosystems. Human waste is now full of the plethora of drugs which humans expect to be provided by “big pharma” - we have no idea what complications these may cause.
10. Centrally generated electricity Apparently great as a convenience, this feature of all modern societies is the single most wasteful application of fossil fuel power (even the most efficient thermal power stations can only convert 34 percent of the fuel energy into power and a further 10 percent is lost in transmission). Worse still, central generation creates a frightening dependency where entire cities and communities can be brought to an uncomfortable standstill by a single failure. The greatest accidents in the history of the world (Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island) have arisen from nuclear power plants.
11. The motor car This most utilitarian and exciting human “toy” has transformed our ways of life (even more than the bicycle) but the dispersed city settlement patterns it has created are probably not easily sustainable and the outpouring of atmospheric pollutants may have dramatic and disastrous consequences for Earth's climate and ecosystems.
12. Electronic computers The pioneering work done by the British to break German codes led the way to the development of enormous “main frame” computers, able to process vast quantities of data. In the 1970s these massive machines began to be displaced by the laptops of today – themselves to be displaced by powerful “smart” phones. Who could have imagined that these clever machines would lead to the development of cyber currencies and the global internet!
13. Social media and the internet The smart phone and the internet gave us huge connectivity and reduced the size of the world. All very convenient but they have also given us Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon and a huge industry which harvests our personal data on a scale never before imagined. It is also becoming clear that the intense and immediate “froth” which modern social media create around any new idea or event can, and does, magnify happenings that might otherwise go almost un-noticed. The power of big tech to control any narrative they choose has serious implications for a “free” society.
14. Central bank Digital currencies (CBDCs) Faced with serious competition from cyber currencies, digital payment agencies (Paypal, Alibaba, etc.) and the dwindling use of cash in the covid pandemic, the Central Banks have naturally responded by putting forward their own proposals to provide a simple-to-use “digital” currency. China has already done this, and most other nations will certainly follow.
This is one useful link that may help you understand what's happening - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6pXRxGYm_4
So, very soon we will all be allocated a state-controlled number which belongs to a mobile phone which recognises us by either facial recognition or fingerprint. This “number” will govern our physical access to various services (covid passport) and operate our CBDC account for all our transactions. Use of “cash” will soon be illegal and both the major global corporations and especially our national governments will own virtually all our personal data. We can only speculate as to what the unintended consequences of this may be. The experience of covid lockdown argues for more “blind” compliance – at the other extreme we may have revolution. One thing is certain – traditional beliefs in the importance of what we have called “freedom” will no longer apply. The likes of Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab's World Economic Forum will be delighted.