The Bancor protocol has made a lot of noise in the environment of cryptocurrencies. If I understand it correctly, it allows these currencies to find a stable value to trade with one another.
In their own words:
“Bancor protocol is an initiative of the Bprotocol Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Zug, Switzerland. The Bancor protocol enables anyone to create a new type of cryptocurrency called a smart token, which can hold (and trade) other cryptocurrencies. This allows the smart token’s contract to serve as its own market maker, automatically discovering its own price(s) and providing liquidity to other currencies, thereby removing the need for a second party in cryptocurrency trades. Every smart token is always liquid at some price point.”
But does such crypto-capitalism solve any of our fundamental social and environmental problems?
James Quilligan doesn’t think so, and explained why in a Facebook thread:
“This project looks to me to be on firm ground when it comes to tracking the relative value of commodity currencies. It appears to be determining value mostly outside of the world’s sovereign, political monetary systems and HURRAH for that. Time will tell if this new Bancor is a genuine monetary tool; but in the meantime it is well-situated to being a very *useful guidepost for arbitraging in mainstream commodities markets* — but wait! isn’t that what this new Bancor is (theoretically) determined to prevent? What’s happened to the purported independent valuation which is set apart, uncontaminated from the conventional economy? Or is this just another scheme based on generating surplus value?
What’s happening now in the field of crypto-currencies is that blockchain technologies are becoming increasingly disruptive by staking a bigger claim to citizen/consumer access and representative use-value than the Central Banks of sovereign nation-states. Wow! No contest! Argument conceded! This is why blockchain is indeed the future. HOWEVER, precisely because blockchain is so potentially disruptive to the political status quo and has no international support from the Central Banks, it is bound to remain more of a financial product than a monetary product, at least until the present monetary system breaks down in a geopolitical crisis and a new one is created, which is the emerging reality. (And by the way, Central Banks are actively discussing getting their hands on blockchain technology and using it to devise this new international monetary system under a new sovereign banner.) When this happens, will the new Bancor be a player at the table? Or will the new Bancor survive this chaos purely as a financial investment scheme? Or even survive at all? I’m not optimistic on any of these counts – and here’s why.)
Let’s not forget, Keynes’ Bancor stemmed from his proposal for an International Clearing Union, which adjusted the trade imbalances between sovereign states on an annual basis. Keynes’ Bancor (had it been realized) would have expressed a monetary value between sovereign states that reflected the financial adjustments between those nations with fiscal surpluses and those with fiscal deficits. This was necessary, Keynes believed, so that all people would be guaranteed adequate purchasing capacity to meet their everyday needs, much in the spirit of the commons (except that Keynes conflated human need with effective demand.) Is that what this new Bancor has in mind? Not at all. So it’s quite misleading when these new Bancor folks take Keynes’ terminology, then style it as a monetary device which evolves out of his thinking.
Don’t get me wrong, I am the world’s biggest critic of all things sovereign. The Era of Sovereignty has wrecked the world in every way possible. If world society doesn’t soon evolve beyond sovereign states, the ecosystems of the planet will be in major collapse. This is why I’m fully supportive of initiatives that are aimed at creating independent value on a decentralized basis. Indeed so. Yet supporters of blockchain have yet to see the Duality that they are creating in attempting to supplant the centralized, international monetary system with their own centralized, technologically sovereign system. Is this what we really want, another world founded on Technological Sovereignty? Have the Blockchainers actually discovered a new kind of metaphysical value? Uh, no: it’s just the latest version of ‘supply creates its own demand’, detaching society further away from an ecologically-based and more equitable society.
The key to making this transition is devolving real monetary power to decentralized political entities, whether that means citizens, or their participatory decision-making units, in order to increase the purchasing capacity and meet the needs of all citizens. Is that what this new Bancor has in mind? No sign of that at all.
When the new Bancor joins or creates an International Confederation of Commons, with metrics for currency value that are based on both the availability and sustainability of the world’s resources in meeting the needs of everyone, now and in the future.
Let me be clear: commodities markets are not a proxy for either the commons or for meeting human need. The sustainable economic measure of human need is the resources that are directly available to a population within a given ecosystem, not in a given market. When I see those metrics on sustainable value emerge from this Bancor group, I will be persuaded that it understands the political and ecological circumstances necessary for creating decentralized monetary power beyond commodity value differentials. And on that day, I will acknowledge that Bancor’s tool has lasting monetary value, rather than simple financial value. Until then, every time I hear the word BANCOR, it will trigger in my brain the classic meme from the Who, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.: