A currency is the money that is in use within a nation. US dollars, Chinese renminbi, Korean won and Brazilian real are all currency. A national currency promotes national self-determination. It allows a nation to pursue its own economic policies, although the options are limited by market forces.
Local or regional currencies can supplement national currencies, most notably when communities or regions are closely integrated and want to achieve some economic independence. A supranational currency like the euro reduces national economic independence. The issue of self-determination makes currency a political subject.
Reserve currencies facilitate international trade. In the past decades the US dollar was the reserve currency. This arrangement allowed the United States to enjoy a higher living standard and military paid for by foreign nations.
On the other hand foreign nations had a competitive advantage. This harmed US businesses. By buying US Dollars foreign competitors of the United States were able to suppress the exchange rate of their currency and sell their products cheaper.
Furthermore, the reserve status of the US Dollar made the FED responsible for the international banking system. The FED had to rescue foreign banks during the financial crisis of 2008 so that the US taxpayer backed up foreign banks.
International Currency Unit
It may be better that the international reserve currency is not a national currency. The future International Currency Unit can be a weighed average of national currencies. It may require an international central bank to guarantee stability in the international financial system. As long as central banks make political decisions, an international central bank would be a troublesome construct.
Only when central banks do not set interest rates and do not print currency, it might be feasible to introduce an international central bank. This might be possible when the International Currency Unit is a Natural Money currency. The underlying currencies may need to be Natural Money currencies too. With Natural Money interest rates are not set by central banks so the role of central banks is reduced.
The euro is a unique experiment. The nations of the euro zone are sovereign but have given up their national currencies. This produced political and economic tensions. Countries in Northern Europe feel that they have to pay for the debts of Southern Europe while countries in Southern Europe feel they are faced with austerity dictated by Northern Europe. The available options appear making the eurozone a federation like the United States or reverting to national currencies.
Returning to national currencies doesn’t have to end the euro. National currencies can be introduced alongside the euro. Alternatively, the euro can become a weighted average of the national currencies making up the euro zone. Existing balances in euro will remain in euro. In the latter case the future euro would look like the proposed International Currency Unit. It could be a step towards introducing an international currency and an international central bank.
Cryptocurrencies are debt-free and do not need a central bank. They promise an alternative payment system independent from governments and banks as well as an alternative way to issue stock. Proponents of private currencies believe that private currencies like cryptocurrencies can supplement or even replace existing currencies issued by governments and central banks.
Currency is important for political self-determination so governments have usurped the prerogative to issue currencies. Private currencies can undermine the power of governments. Cryptocurrencies also facilitate crime, scams and tax evasion, so they their use is likely to become regulated or even banned in the future. Governments may also start to issue cryptocurrencies themselves.
Until now cryptocurrencies have not been stable. Payments are cumbersome and prone to fraud. Regular currencies don’t have these disadvantages. Cryptocurrencies without a holding tax don’t allow for negative interest rates. As negative interest rates may be needed to ensure a stable economy without crises, these currencies may not be suitable as a means of payment.