A Florida man has chosen the next cultural wars flashpoint he will rally behind in an effort to mobilize the 2024 US presidential electorate: central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
“Such a currency would give a federal government, our federal government, the absolute control over your money,” the former Wrestlemania star declared of CBDCs from a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Wednesday. “They could take your money – you wouldn’t even know it was gone. This would be a dangerous threat to freedom.”
The busy former reality television host and American president took a moment away from his E. Jean Carroll defamation damages trial to attend the rally where he promised his CBDC blocking actions would “protect Americans from government tyranny.”
He’s not entirely wrong: While it wouldn’t make much sense to issue centralized tokens only to revoke or undermine them, thus ruining their utility and acceptance, CBDCs generally aren’t a great idea in terms of privacy and surveillance. The US government can already seize people’s assets and snoop on banking records, of course; a CBDC would make that a whole lot easier, especially if smart contracts or some degree of programmability was involved.
Crucially, his comments have undoubtedly pleased the likes of many conspiracy theorists, libertarians, and at least some crypto enthusiasts.
The US Libertarian Party tweeted earlier this month that CBDCs mean “giving the Feds the ability to confiscate your wealth and violate your privacy on demand” and “must be stopped before they take root.”
Crypto fans often champion the decentralized nature of digital assets like Bitcoin over those regulated by governments in digital national currencies. These folks see CBDCs as problematic and a way for governments to muscle in on cryptocurrency.
But before you assume Donald Trump is a champion of digital money, he has previously been a crypto-skeptic, who prolifically tweeted criticism of the electronic cash.
According to the International Monetary Fund, over 100 countries were at the exploration of stage of adopting a CBDC at the end of 2023.
At a speech in Singapore, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva advocated the accelerate adoption of the digital currencies and advocated financial inclusion as a benefit.
At least 11 countries, including China, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Nigeria have already launched their own digital legal tender, according to US think tank The Atlantic Council.
The US does not currently have a plan for issuing CBDCs, although it has been working on a framework to regulate and promote the assets.
Bowman expressed that it was important for the US to remain “a part of the ongoing conversations around CBDCs.”
She said there was “some promise for wholesale CBDCs in the future for settlement of certain financial market transactions and processing international payments.”
However, she offered that it would be “difficult to imagine a world where the tradeoffs between benefits and unintended consequences could justify a direct access CBDC for uses beyond interbank and wholesale transactions.”
Nonetheless, Trump is not the first Republican to lean into CBDCs as a hot-button election issue. Former Republican presidential nomination candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis each took anti-CBDC stances while campaigning.
DeSantis has already signed a bill in Florida banning the use of CBDCs in the sunshine state.
“What are they going to want to do here? If you go and buy too much gasoline, they won’t allow you to use this to make a transaction? Who knows? Maybe they won’t let you purchase a firearm,” posited DeSantis last March, seemingly fearing the consequences of a programmable, or purpose bound, CBDC.
Both DeSantis and Ramaswamy dropped out of the US presidential race in the past week and endorsed Trump, leaving behind supporters who may be looking for a reason to vote for the septuagenarian. ®