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  • GARY GENSLER: All right, so we're going to try to--

  • I was giving a little bit more time for more people

  • to show up--

  • chat about what did we cover this semester.

  • So I'm going to try to talk about--

  • we started out-- money and ledgers,

  • and why does that matter, and if you go away from all this.

  • Satoshi Nakamoto's innovation-- what is that again?

  • The economics of blockchain technology,

  • why the financial sector is so entwined in all of this,

  • though it's not the only place we're going.

  • A little bit about crypto finance and public policy

  • frameworks, and then wrap it up with a quote from Ben

  • Franklin-- will be the last thing we talk about at the end,

  • about paying it forward.

  • I don't know how many people read

  • the article I wrote for Coin Desk, which

  • will run in a day or two or something,

  • but that, too, just like helped me wrap up the whole semester.

  • As I told you, I'm neither a maximalist or a minimalist,

  • but in a few minutes, I'm probably

  • going to ask you all to kind of let me know where you ended up.

  • So the role of money.

  • Anybody remember the role of money

  • in an economy, the three things?

  • AUDIENCE: Medium of exchange, unit of account,

  • store of value.

  • GARY GENSLER: Medium of exchange, unit of account,

  • store of value.

  • I don't think we really know, when

  • we go through all the history and the archeology of it,

  • which came first, but all three really matter.

  • So how many people think that Bitcoin--

  • just Bitcoin.

  • I'm not talking about the other 1,600 tokens--

  • Bitcoin fulfills these three roles of money?

  • James, was that a hand up?

  • AUDIENCE: Yeah.

  • Yep.

  • GARY GENSLER: You're saying yes.

  • AUDIENCE: Yes.

  • GARY GENSLER: Alexis?

  • Oh, we got two.

  • Hugo?

  • Somebody take the other side.

  • Tom?

  • AUDIENCE: Nope.

  • GARY GENSLER: That's it?

  • That's it?

  • A whole semester, and all you can say is nope?

  • AUDIENCE: Yeah.

  • GARY GENSLER: Nope?

  • All right.

  • Anybody want to give more?

  • Brotish?

  • AUDIENCE: So not a store of value because of [INAUDIBLE]..

  • GARY GENSLER: So Brotish says not a store of value,

  • but isn't it $60 billion of value right now?

  • AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE].

  • So there is a value, but it's too volatile.

  • GARY GENSLER: James?

  • AUDIENCE: I respectfully disagree.

  • It's volatile when you think of it in exchange of a dollar,

  • but if you move your mindset, a bitcoin

  • is a bitcoin is a bitcoin.

  • Right?

  • It's only volatile if you think [INAUDIBLE] a dollar.

  • GARY GENSLER: Oh, my god.

  • Here we go.

  • Ross?

  • AUDIENCE: But that same thing is true of corn, right?

  • A bushel of corn is--

  • I'm with Brotish on this.

  • GARY GENSLER: I'm sorry, were you

  • in the no camp or the yes camp?

  • That it's a store of value.

  • AUDIENCE: I'm in the no camp.

  • GARY GENSLER: No?

  • Is it a medium of exchange?

  • AUDIENCE: Yes.

  • GARY GENSLER: Oh, medium of exchange.

  • Sean?

  • AUDIENCE: In response to [INAUDIBLE] none

  • of the currency can actually be treated

  • as a stand alone currency.

  • Everything has to be treated as a pair.

  • So everything's a relative comparison.

  • So you can't really treat Bitcoin on a standalone basis.

  • AUDIENCE: I don't know if I agree with that.

  • But I would say that pretty much anything can fit into all three

  • of these buckets.

  • It just depends on how dependable it is.

  • In those three buckets, with US dollar's

  • very good at being medium of exchange,

  • very good at being a dependable store of value,

  • and a steady unit of account.

  • But you could also have a bushel of wheat or something.

  • It would be all three of these things,

  • but it wouldn't be equality.

  • GARY GENSLER: Right, but--

  • please, Jihee.

  • AUDIENCE: So the fiat currency-- the reason why

  • I think US dollar is stable is because there

  • is a US central bank that actually backs up that.

  • Because it's just that fiat currency.

  • It is a liability of the central bank,

  • whereas Bitcoin doesn't have a center

  • to worry that banks have.

  • GARY GENSLER: Nice music that we're getting.

  • [INAUDIBLE] a serenade.

  • AUDIENCE: So therefore, I don't think

  • the store of value argument will work.

  • GARY GENSLER: So you think--

  • [INAUDIBLE] saying, well, there's

  • no central bank behind it, so maybe it doesn't hold up.

  • But if you take anything away from the class--

  • and I'm going to have some other takeaways, too.

  • Remember, the three things that about the role of money--

  • but it's a social construct.

  • Even with a central bank--

  • a central bank is, ultimately-- we enshrined in law.

  • We enshrine it in a big institution, and bricks,

  • and mortar, and columns usually.

  • You always have to have those columns.

  • But it's still a social construct.

  • And Bitcoin does, in some ways, have all three of these.

  • It's just not broadly acceptable.

  • It's rarely used as a unit of account,

  • but it is sometimes used as a unit account

  • in some initial coin offerings.

  • It's not used, generally, as a medium of exchange.

  • But some people are paid in Bitcoin some.

  • Software developers are actually paid in Bitcoin.

  • And it's $60 billion.

  • It might be volatile.

  • It has a store value.

  • So I'm not trying to take maximalist or minimalist,

  • but I'm probably between Tom and James,

  • because it does have all of those qualities

  • in to some extent in there.

  • Early money-- remember some of our walk down memory lane.

  • Some of these early monies fell apart, became extinct,

  • when they got debased.

  • And we talked about, early in the semester,

  • even the story about it.

  • It was, I think, a British--

  • when the British got to the island of Yap,

  • they went off a couple miles and quarried the stones

  • and kept bringing more yap stones there.

  • And all of a sudden, it got debased.

  • And then, of course, money turned to paper money.

  • And in the bottom left-hand corner,

  • it started as warehouse receipts.

  • So the paper was just a representation

  • of the store of value--

  • the metal, or the corn, or the wheat that we had earlier.

  • Another important thing was ledgers.

  • Who wants to remind the class what a ledger is?

  • Why do ledgers matter?

  • Anybody want to-- ledgers?

  • All right, clearly I didn't make it on ledgers.

  • Hugo?

  • AUDIENCE: It's transaction history, basically.

  • GARY GENSLER: A store transaction history.

  • What else is there?

  • AUDIENCE: Balances.

  • GARY GENSLER: Balances of?

  • AUDIENCE: Accounts.

  • GARY GENSLER: Accounts.

  • So it stores a balance and a transaction.

  • So you can think of it as a flow and a balance.

  • The flow is the transaction--

  • I give Hugo money.

  • Regardless of who gives Hugo money, here's his balance.

  • So an income statement and a balance sheet

  • is a flow and a balance.

  • But ledgers and keeping ledgers go back thousands of years.

  • So blockchain technology is really about money,

  • but it's also about a database that has ledgers.

  • And ledgers usually store things of value.

  • So then we got to fiat currency.

  • And fiat currency, as Jihee said,

  • they were represented by central bank notes, central bank

  • reserves, and bank deposits.

  • So there's three things.

  • Does anybody want to see if anybody

  • listened in those classes?

  • [LAUGHS] I'm kidding around.

  • Elan, you're going to say, why is it those three things?

  • They're all forms of fiat money.

  • AUDIENCE: I thought you were asking

  • about the illicit activity in that list.

  • Is that the question?

  • GARY GENSLER: All right, answer the question

  • you want to answer.

  • AUDIENCE: Yeah.

  • [LAUGHTER]

  • [INAUDIBLE] there are things that

  • are important in fiat currency, or is helpful.

  • Fiat currency is important for paying taxes.

  • And it is allegedly backed by the social understanding

  • that the central bank will respect those notes at the end.

  • GARY GENSLER: Right.

  • So it's actually-- you're on to this.

  • It's accepted for taxes.

  • It's legal tender.

  • So actually, society gets together,

  • through its parliament, through its executive,

  • and passes a law that says it's legal tender.

  • That gives it a huge leg up.

  • But this is what it's really about.

  • It has huge network effects.

  • And I wrote this in the CoinDesk article.

  • The question I have for any new currency

  • is, how does it compete with those incredible network

  • effects?

  • And we talk about Facebook has incredible network effects

  • because--

  • two billion members.

  • But even money, as a technology, has a network effect

  • because people readily accept it as a unit of account,

  • a medium of exchange, a store of value.

  • And it only loses that network effect, usually,

  • when it gets debased, when people

  • can't be confident that it's a good store of value

  • because somebody else can mint a lot of it,

  • or print a lot of it, or a king starts to print too much of it.

  • But it has an extraordinary network effect.

  • On the other hand, sometimes currencies

  • are a little bit challenged, like the euro right now.

  • Will the euro ultimately work?

  • That's for a different class and a different lecture,

  • but will the euro ultimately work long term?

  • I have my doubts whether it will work for decades to come,

  • because there's so many jurisdictions.

  • And there's not a unified fiscal account,

  • not a unified economy, and not truly free movement of labor

  • across that continent.

  • So that's fiat currency.

  • It's sort of the game in town that then Satoshi Nakamoto

  • is was addressing.

  • And you all read the eight-page paper,

  • but that was the first line.

  • "Been working on a new electronic cash

  • system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted

  • third party."

  • Basically, as Jihee said, no central bank.

  • Forget about that central bank.

  • That was the core inspiration that was there.

  • But interestingly, it wasn't the first try.

  • And we talked early in the semester

  • about at least a handful of early attempts

  • that all failed because they were still

  • centralized-- like DigiCash