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How have people lost control of money over the centuries?
Uruba Niazi

VP of Marketing - Content

05 Apr 2024
7 min read
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In this article, we explore the historical context of money, ownership, the rise of cryptocurrencies, and the transformative potential of innovative platforms like CrossFi in shaping the future of finance.

The evolution of money is a testament to humanity’s ingenuity and adaptability throughout history. From ancient civilizations exchanging commodities like grains and precious metals to the modern era of digital currencies, value exchange has undergone remarkable transformations. This journey traces back to the earliest forms of trade, where goods were bartered based on their intrinsic worth. Over time, the introduction of standardized coins, paper money, and, eventually, fiat currencies reshaped the global financial landscape. Today, the emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin represents a new chapter in the ongoing narrative of monetary evolution.

History of Currency

The concept of money and the ownership and trading of valuable goods goes back centuries. In ancient civilizations, various forms of money, including commodities like grains and livestock and precious metals such as gold and silver, were used for trade. Their intrinsic value came from scarcity and demand. Around 600 BC, the Lydians in present-day Turkey minted the first coins made from electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. These coins had a standardized weight and were stamped with a design to denote their value. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE), China introduced some of the earliest forms of paper money, known as “flying cash,” to alleviate the burden of carrying heavy coins. Deposits of precious metals initially backed these paper notes. In medieval Europe, merchants and traders used promissory notes and bills of exchange as credit. These instruments facilitated long-distance trade and reduced the need to carry large amounts of physical currency.

In the 17th century, goldsmiths in England began issuing receipts for gold deposits held in their vaults. These receipts evolved into banknotes, more convenient than carrying heavy gold coins. Gold reserves initially backed the notes. Over time, governments started to issue their own paper money, often supported by reserves of gold or silver. However, during times of war or economic instability, governments would sometimes suspend the convertibility of their currencies into precious metals. This marked a transition toward fiat currency, where the value of money is derived from government decree rather than a physical commodity. Following World War II, the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 established a system of fixed exchange rates tied to the U.S. dollar, backed by gold. However, this system eventually collapsed in 1971 when President Richard Nixon ended the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold, effectively severing the last ties between major currencies and gold. Today, most countries operate on a system of fiat currency, where the value of money is based on trust in the issuing government and its ability to maintain stability and control over the currency. Central banks play a crucial role in managing fiat currencies, regulating the money supply, and influencing interest rates to control inflation and ensure economic stability. 

Foundational Principles of Currency and Digital Currency

Money and its stability are based on three foundational principles: scarcity, demand, and transportability. Throughout history, ownership and value of money have evolved from commodities to coins, bonds, receipts, and paper currency. With this transition, we have also witnessed fiat currency lose real value based on gold or commodities with intrinsic value. Today, governments and central banks regulate the value of a currency. They are prone to collapse if the economic stability of a nation or region is affected, e.g., by the Covid pandemic, war, regime change, etc. 

Building blocks of money

The latest advancement or transformation of money has been the introduction of digital currency like Bitcoin in the last decade. Like traditional money, Bitcoin derives its value from scarcity, supply and demand, and transferability. However, some added factors make cryptocurrency more secure than conventional currencies. Bitcoin’s protocol is designed to limit the total supply of coins to 21 million. The code enforces this fixed supply and cannot be altered, making Bitcoin inherently scarce. Like precious metals like gold, scarcity tends to increase demand and value. Approximately every four years, the Bitcoin network undergoes a halving event, where the block reward for miners is reduced by half. This periodic reduction in the rate of new Bitcoin issuance further reduces the rate at which new coins enter circulation, contributing to Bitcoin’s scarcity and potentially impacting its value.

Bitcoin serves as a decentralized digital currency and a store of value. It enables peer-to-peer transactions without intermediaries like banks, making it attractive for individuals seeking financial sovereignty and censorship-resistant transactions. Bitcoin’s blockchain technology also allows for secure and transparent record-keeping, enhancing its utility. The interaction between the limited supply of Bitcoin and the growing demand for it affects its price. Demand increases as more people adopt Bitcoin for various purposes, such as investment, remittances, or a hedge against inflation, potentially driving up its value. Conversely, if demand decreases or holders start selling their Bitcoin, it can lead to downward pressure on its price. 

Ownership in the Digital Age

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency retain value based on a complex interplay between their properties, market dynamics, and broader economic and social factors. Given the proper market pressures and conditions, cryptocurrency can still suffer from price volatility. Owning cryptocurrency comes with many security measures that make it safe to own but also easy to lose if you lose your wallet keys. Other factors like using custodial or non-custodial wallets, exchanges, and other staking platforms blur the lines of ownership of cryptocurrency today. We have seen this play out in the worst way when exchanges have gone out of business or been doing illegal dealings, resulting in their ultimate ban and closure and causing millions of users to be locked out of their cryptocurrency with no solution. In some cases, governments have banned cryptocurrency in their country and forced users to surrender their crypto.

Crypto Debit Cards

Owning and storing crypto, similar to owning and storing fiat money with banks, has its risks. There are ways to mitigate this risk, like a cold storage wallet for crypto. However, to utilize crypto in our everyday lives, there must be intermediaries or bridges to use crypto for everyday transactions. Today, most payment cards on the market are debit cards that require users to lock their crypto into a third-party wallet to use the money. That takes the ownership away from the user and into the hands of another entity, making the process less secure. Payment solutions are where CrossFi is transforming the industry with its first non-custodial wallet-based payment card. CrossFi’s unique technology offers unparalleled scalability and processing speed of up to 1 million transactions per second through the core of the CrossFi Chain– a modular architecture based on Cosmos Tendermint. The Cross Finance chain, rooted in Ethermint and Evmos, ensures interoperability between blockchains, transaction anonymity, and the integration of EVM-compatible DApps. The tandem operation of two native coins, MPX and XFI, fortifies CrossFi’s tokenomics foundation, providing users with a seamless and robust financial experience. It is the next evolution of ownership and use of money in today’s world. 

Summary

The history of money spans centuries, evolving from commodities like grains and precious metals to modern fiat currencies backed by government decree. Over time, the concept of ownership and value transitioned from tangible assets to paper currency, bonds, and digital transactions. In recent years, digital currencies like Bitcoin have introduced a new paradigm. Bitcoin, built on blockchain technology, offers decentralization, security, and transparency. Like traditional currencies, its value is derived from scarcity, demand, and utility. However, Bitcoin’s fixed supply and decentralized nature make it particularly attractive to individuals seeking financial sovereignty. While cryptocurrency ownership provides security measures, such as cold storage wallets, it also entails risks, including exchange failures and regulatory uncertainties. CrossFi aims to revolutionize this landscape with its non-custodial wallet-based payment card, offering scalability, interoperability, and robust tokenomics.

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