Governments and Central Banks really picked up the pace in the war on cash in the last couple of years. Various former Central Bank and government officials openly declared the need to ban cash to stop “criminals” and “terrorists”. The ECB (European Central Bank) earlier in 2016 formerly declared that it is literally starting to banish larger denomination bank notes. All of these actions will only help raise more awareness and acceptance of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. While attempts to ban cash can only help Bitcoin adoption and awareness, a look at the real reason for the push to ban cash uncovers some alarming truths about the existing financial system.
Central Banks are in full blown panic mode. The real reason why they are trying to ban cash is because there hardly is any non-counterfeit physical cash in existence. This is true when we look at actual currency in circulation (bank notes and coins) relative to aggregate measures of digits in accounts such as money market funds, equities, and bonds. Analyzing this data also magnifies how transparent Bitcoin is versus the fractional reserve and excessively levered current monetary system.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System reports on its own website that as of June 1, 2016 there is $1.46 Trillion of currency in circulation (https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/currency_12773.htm). The Fed also states that of this $1.46 Trillion, $1.4 Trillion is denominated in Federal Reserve notes (FRN). A Federal Reserve statistical release published on June 9, 2016 states that as of the end of April of 2016 seasonally adjusted M2 equaled $12.56 Trillion.
M2 is equivalent to M1 plus savings deposits, money market deposits, a portion of small denomination time deposits, and a portion of retail money market mutual fund balances. M2 is clearly in part an assessment of what any rational participant would consider extremely liquid funds that one in theory could immediately convert to physical cash. Physical currency only covers less than 12% of what the Fed purports to be the most liquid assets in the current financial system.
The size of the equity market in the United States is roughly $20 Trillion and the bond market (corporate, municipal, state, and federal bonds) is pushing $40 Trillion. M2 plus equities and bonds amounts to almost $75 Trillion, all considered very liquid assets. Converting them to physical cash is another issue though, and this analysis is still ignoring outstanding derivatives, real estate, precious metals, and many other financial instruments and products. Unlike when a Bitcoin user opts to send Bitcoin from a wallet to another address, it is entirely possible customers with FRN could face resistance when trying to liquidate accounts particularly when higher quantities are involved. This is even more critical for the Fed if customers liquidate and demand physical cash.
If participants in increasing numbers started to demand liquidation of various types of accounts along with the possession of physical cash, the Federal Reserve would have an extremely serious problem. The Federal Reserve would face a nightmare scenario where the general population started to question why they are being restricted from withdrawing bank notes from their own bank accounts. It is almost as if an attempt to ban cash is a not so subtle nudge to at least explore the option of exchanging some fiat for Bitcoin.
Hence, the Federal Reserve needs to try and ban cash so nobody has the ability to demand it. If all accounts denominated in FRN existed only digitally then a run on the system at least would not involve the demand for physical currency. We have already seen restrictions on the size of ATM withdrawals and other withdrawal requests both across Europe and in the United States along with public trial balloons floated about an outright ban of cash. The prospect of a very real and literal bank run in Italy surged to the forefront in late June and early July of 2016. The existence of physical cash and coins is a very real threat to the existence of the Federal Reserve System.
This is all very bullish news for Bitcoin of course. Bitcoin is a way to exit the Federal Reserve System which governs essentially all retail banks in operation in the United States. Also of note is that given the sustained trade imbalances of the United States and reserve currency status of USD, plenty of this physical currency is located outside the United States. This makes the potential challenge in demanding physical FRN even more severe in America while also spreading the risk into other nations.
The Federal Reserve is very aware of Bitcoin and even shifting its stance towards it over the last year, but there is no evading the fact that currency in circulation is merely a tiny fraction of all assets denominated in FRN. Bitcoin allows owners to have complete control over their own money. Perhaps none of us know for sure if governments will ultimately succeed in banning cash, but there is no doubt that it is under serious consideration. The fact that the Federal Reserve needs to even consider this option tells us quite a bit about the health and viability of the existing financial system and the potential of Bitcoin to completely disrupt it. So little physical cash exists the Central Banks have no option but to banish it and blame it on “terrorists” and “criminals”.