Money Reimagined: Who Are the Real Monsters?

For this special Halloween edition, CoinDesk Executive Editor Marc Hochstein weighs in with a guest column about the spookier aspects of the banking system.  It’s a perfect follow-up to last week’s newsletter on the harmful legacy of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act.

Before you dig into it, let me remind you to check out this week’s Money Reimagined podcast. In this episode, Sheila Warren and I interview the newly reelected premier of Bermuda, David Burt, who is spearheading projects to use the island as a testing ground for stablecoins and to launch a communally-owned national digital bank.

With Halloween and the 12th anniversary of the Bitcoin white paper approaching, it’s an apt moment to consider a classic horror trope through a monetary lens.

Who are the real monsters?”

From Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” to Jordan Peele’s “Us,” some of the scariest tales suggest that “normal” people are more nefarious than the nominal bogeymen. This is a useful way to think about the allegedly abominable qualities of cryptocurrency when compared to the incumbent institutions it challenges – and the supposedly safer visions they are now putting forth.

Since CoinDesk is a family publication, I won’t go into the details of those gory fictional works. Besides, because there’s an element of farce here as well, I’ve got an even better seasonally appropriate metaphor: “The Munsters.”

For the 99% of readers too young to remember, this was a 1960s sitcom about an eccentric family who live in a cobwebbed mansion and resemble iconic movie monsters. The patriarch, Herman Munster, is a dead ringer (ahem) for Frankenstein’s monster, his wife and father-in-law are vampires, his son a werewolf. They’re a friendly bunch but never quite understand why the neighbors act so strangely around them.

The most important character for this discussion is Marilyn, Herman’s teenage niece. She isn’t a monster…

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