Digital currencies

20 years of technology improving the world of money

For thousands of years one of the most powerful monopolies enjoyed by states was over money itself. Kings, Emperors and their administrations controlled the currency, its issuance and its use.

During these years many forms of money were tried, ranging from pepper corns, disks of whale tusk, stones and bails of tobacco, with gold and silver proving most fit purpose.

Governments were able to maintain this monopoly through these years, even though the coinage was often being clipped or debased, by their strength and force. Armies, an arsenal, police forces and tax collectors are difficult to avoid and have huge coercive effects.

You might say that during this long stretch of monetary history, excepting the odd high point such as the Classical Gold Standard, our freedoms were restricted and we had to make do with what we were given by the state.

However, things are changing.

How the digital world is making things better

Since the arrival of the internet and digital world all this is beginning to change. Technology is enabling us to disintermediate the fiat currency structures imposed on us.

First we saw digital gold and silver payments arrive in the early 1990s, to be followed in the new millennium by investment platforms where clients can buy gold in secure vaults all over the world achieving effortless international diversification.

Digital gold was just the start however, as new ways of decentralising money arrived via technology communities.

In the mid-2000s the technology behind virtual currencies first reared its head. Independent of governments and central banks, like gold, but with 1s and 0s, these new crypto-currencies represent a crucial further evolution in the market for money.

Today we see a number of crypto-currencies emerging through a fascinating process of digital creative destruction. Bitcoin was the pioneer, but is being chased by the likes of Namecoin, Litecoin, Feathercoin and their brethren.

When is the tipping point?

As of yet none of these new monies and payment systems has truly disrupted the government monopoly on money. All the while the authorities have proved swift and heavy handed in their crack downs on these new monies, even if most users are not terrorists or money launderers.

However, the internet is proving the great enabler, helping individuals and communities around the world bring their new monies to market and try other forms of currency themselves. The digital world allows Thiers’ Law to exert itself on a scale never seen before.

To learn how far the internet has already moved us forward, read our infographic charting the last 20+ years of the digital world’s challenge to government money, see the biggest developments and meet the key characters involved in it all.

Click lead image to view full infographic.

Digital money lead image

About the Author

Will BancroftWill Bancroft is Co-Founder of The Real Asset Company, a market place for individuals to invest in gold, silver and precious metals. Will also contributes commentary and analysis to the Research Desk. His interest in financial markets and investment led to a keen interest in monetary economics, gold and silver. Will is passionate about gold’s role in a portfolio and his views appear on sites and media such as Kitco, Market Oracle, Seeking Alpha, Stockopedia, The Telegraph and Yahoo Finance. Follow Will on Google+, and get his commentary via our RSS feed.View all posts by Will Bancroft

  • John

    Bitcoin Rules!! Nice article!

    • Billy Bankers

      Thanks for stopping by and reading John!

  • Jason McClusky

    Great article. I buy gold, silver, BTC and a few other digital currencies each month. Government money is going down the drain with every month of QE!

  • Olivier Francoeur

    Uninformed article.
    Government monopolies over money was the exception rather than the rule through history. It is mostly a recent phenomenon.