Stable Coin: No Absolute Stability Until Disconnected from Real Assets
Have you ever been trapped in your dream to the point that you subsequently miss your alarm clock, and consequently run late for work?
The frustration of being chastised by your supervisor would be greatly offset if it was a sweet dream, or be significantly deteriorated if it was a terrifying one, like the one I had last night. I lived the world of a movie I watched many years ago, “In Time”.
The film pictured a future in which time is the only currency, with the rich being able to live forever, while the poor, working extremely hard to survive, have just a few more hours.
Unsurprisingly, the whole story is about a poor young man challenging the supreme power — the time banking system, then being hunted by the system watchdog — time keepers, to ultimately win over a beautiful girl — heir of a time bank.
But I do like the part that human-beings physically stop aging at 25, as well as the sudden death that seems to be painless due to running out of its futuristic cash — time.
The film does indeed hint at criticisms of the current capitalism ideology, built on a twisted and dire society hierarchy, where the gap between top and bottom is so big. But value judgement is not my topic today.
Challenging the centralization of authority, being closely monitored by the watchdog, and living in a cashless society. Are all these not looking familiar? Especially following Facebook’s ambitious manifesto of serving its 2.7 billion (expected to increase) users with a convenient, cheap and efficient payment service using its stable coin Libra.
Is it big news for the crypto world? Absolutely, yes.
But is this coin so distinguished that it can actually take over the existing financial system — or the power to print money as more commonly stated — which, together with military power, can secure a certain sovereignty? Let’s see.
Firstly, cryptocurrency is a great innovation, but mass adoption? It’s nowhere near ready.
It is a smart move for Facebook to rush into the stable coin vertical given its massive user base. Value preservation is the core merit of the stable coin family, which has become increasingly appreciated after the crypto market turbulence.
According to research entity Chainalysis, the total trading volume of global stable coins rocketed up to $82 billion from $12.5 billion between 2017 and 2018. Another research body The Block’s report read a fourfold increase over the past 12 months ending April.
On top of using stable coins as a reserve method when they don’t want to trade much in a slow market, it also helps to open the gateway when the market revives and traders seek to increase their capital and cash in to secure their yields.
Since the majority of the mainstream exchanges deal with crypto-to-crypto transactions only, investors have limited choice but to maintain a stable coin position.
It is not hard to tell that stable coins are a rather in-group instrument of the crypto world, the population of which is hardly as much as 50 million, while the total population under the hundreds of sovereignties stands at 7.5 billion.
Secondly, the stable coins are still backed by the real-world currencies issued by central banks, or securities issued by governments — sovereignty, in another word.
Facebook’s Libra makes no exception. It’s backed by a reserve of real assets. By the way, it somehow sounds like philosophically irony to me. One is supposed to true-heartedly believe what he/she is about to do, and yet, it’s not “real” enough?
The reserve consists of a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities, bank notes, government bonds, and treasury bills most likely. Indeed, these assets are much less risky compared to stocks, communities or alternatives, but are they truly risk-free? Even as conservative as the Chinese government is, it isn’t ruling out the possibility of public bond default.
When such changes take place, deliberately or not, the impact on stable coins would be fatal.
Thirdly, it’s THE Facebook, man. How restricting would the regulation be? I can barely imagine. The US government, together with others, might require the firm to provide detailed data of every single transaction, big or small, not even bothering to seek balance between the value of anonymity and autonomy of blockchain and the anti-money laundering regulations.
However, the world has heard the strong voice of Facebook, and has seen Mark Zuckerberg’s determination to contribute to this unstoppable trend of cryptocurrencies playing an increasingly important role in challenging and facilitating financial reform, and addressing the problem of financial disparity.
For now, stable coins are stable to an extent. I expect to see absolute stability empowered by pure technology someday.