the Wild West of crypto finance

Speech by Fabio Panetta, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB, at Columbia University

New York, 25 April 2022

170 years ago Americans pushed westward across the frontier to seek their fortune in the gold rush. Greed and lawlessness turned this promised land into the Wild West, where the few exploited the dream of the many.

Fast-forward a century and a half and, amid the global financial crisis, growing distrust of banks, coupled with technological innovation, gave rise to a new dream – a digital gold rush beyond state control.

Satoshi Nakamoto – or rather the software developers using that pseudonym – created the source code of what they thought could be decentralised digital cash. Their 2008 white paper[1] shows a great fascination with technology, notably cryptography, but not necessarily an in-depth understanding of payment and money issues. They aspired to realise an anarchistic utopia of a stable currency free from public scrutiny.

Almost 15 years on, crypto-assets are what everyone’s talking about. Crypto enthusiasts marvel at the rise of the crypto market, with many feeling they should take their chances on the crypto gamble. An ecosystem has emerged, from miners to intermediaries, all seeking to expand into digital finance. Crypto evangelists promise heaven on earth, using an illusory narrative of ever-rising crypto-asset prices to maintain inflows and thus the momentum fuelling the crypto bubble.

But appearances are deceptive. Satoshi Nakamoto’s dream of…

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