MILTON FRIEDMAN famously called for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, which he thought ought to be replaced by an automated system which would increase the money supply at a steady, predetermined rate. This, he argued, would put a lid on inflation, setting spending and investment decisions on a surer footing. Now, Friedman’s dream has finally been realised—albeit not by a real-world central bank.
BitCoin, the world’s “first decentralised digital currency”, was devised in 2009 by programmer Satoshi Nakomoto (thought not to be his—or her—real name). Unlike other virtual monies—like Second Life’s Linden dollars, for instance—it does not have a central clearing house run by a single company or organisation. Nor is it pegged to any real-world currency, which it resembles in that it can be used to purchase real-world goods and services, not just virtual ones. However, rather than rely on a central monetary authority to monitor, verify and approve transactions, and manage the money supply, BitCoin is underwritten by a peer-to-peer network akin to file-sharing services like BitTorrent.