ECON 210 History Essay: The Democratization of Value
I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s been 25 years since the Drug War was ended in the United States. A war that equated to the immoral incarceration of millions; many of whom were simply trying to make ends meet and who weren’t afforded a head start in life, rather the opposite. I can’t imagine the feeling of hopelessness for those who were stuck in such a situation. Such horrid policies and their effects were the products of corruption that accompanies a centralized system of power. The Democratization of Value is not just about the Drug War however, but the whole series of economic events that led to its end along with the many other amazing benefits realized when we treat each other as human beings.
The financial crisis of 2008 was a warning too soon forgotten. 11 years later and an additional 50% growth of global debt forced a re-evaluation of past practices in the face of total financial collapse. The banking system was again saturated with an avalanche of failed loans and derivatives instruments. Financial institutions (FIs) were too afraid to conduct business with each other as mass defaults stemming from systemic counterparty risk took hold. The trillions of dollars (US-based currency in circulation at the time, currency code USD) equivalent worth of bonds that central banks had purchased in prior years were sold off, starting in late 2018. This caused a rush for the exits in the largest financial market at the time. The stock markets soon followed suit. Bets went bad, and FIs found it impossible to settle accounts. It was then that a little-known startup called Ripple was asked to assist in preventing a meltdown. An emergency meeting was held by the International Monetary Fund. It was agreed that their Standard Drawing Rights and XRP were needed to provide liquidity provisioning in the face of a global credit freeze. Billions of XRP and SDRs were deployed to FIs to cover positions. A simple bail-out would not suffice this time. The G21 (currently G76) convened in Singapore and launched a global regulatory and financial democracy initiative in early 2020. The political will for such a move was made possible in part due to the realization that the past tools of monetary policy manipulation were spent. Bond repurchasing was off the table; there was no patience for it, investors had seen that game before and their confidence was gone. Driving interest rates into negative territory would have simply driven capital into Bitcoin as a store of value, as it indeed did when central banks initially dropped rates to zero once again, exacerbating the situation for FIs. A healthy dose of global public outrage also helped nudge policy in a transparent direction, and the obvious tool was an immutable public ledger. The financial establishment wanted to at least maintain order, even if they knew their monopoly on money was beginning to end. Ripple’s Codius smart contracts platform was tapped to administer the framework, and xIntegra was born. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) were revived, enforced and corporate data was stored on a public ledger. Again, massive fraud was uncovered rather quickly, but this time white-collar crime was prosecuted. The FIs that were found to have committed fraud were obligated to repay damages.
In the years following the 2019 Financial Contagion the world witnessed the possibilities of a democratized financial order. xIntegra expanded to provide inner-city employment and scholarship “Human1st” contracts in the US that included mentorships and required supplies for those in poverty. As the United States witnessed a massive drop in rates of crime in these heretofore exploited neighborhoods, other failed policy quickly became a political middle-ground. It culminated in the ending of the “Drug War” in 2025. The war responsible for 95% of non-violent inner-city arrests was over. The number one economy on Earth was finally reconciling it’s deeply divided past with real progress and inclusion. Jevons paradox is the notion that when technological progress increases efficiency with which a resource is used, it actually sees higher total demand due to the enhanced ease of use. Ripple’s initial Internet of Value concept spawned a multitude of such gains. There was a global sense of optimism after the 2019 crisis had been materially addressed with political integrity made possible by an emergent and democratizing payments technology. The early 2020s saw the decentralization of a financial system that had been wrought with systemic risk. Money was allowed to flow freely without bottlenecks or parasitic monopolies. Thousands of new Money Service Businesses arose, providing a wealth of choice and competition. This single event opened people’s eyes to the possibilities of truly open systems. When proof of work systems were listed as a top-five global warming threat, Coil heeded the call and established the first ever micro-payment powered solar farms in 2027 where streaming payments increased access to affordable clean energy. When XRP replaced the dollar as the global reserve currency in 2030 and it was shared without restriction or counterparty risk, global trade flourished uninhibited by political manipulations like currency wars. The effects of such an enormous boost to global GDP greatly reduced the perceived benefit of nation-state competition for financial resources. Broad public support swept the globe for what is now one of several mandatory fulfillments for countries listed as Codius-verified free nations: public ledger voting. The concentration of power of the old-guard had ushered in a brighter future due to its near catastrophic failure. As Mark Twain said, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
As I continue to complete the milestones for my Human1st tuition assistance I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment as a first generation college student. This paper may be slightly biased as a historical account, but I wouldn’t be writing it without the opportunity provided by Ripple.