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This article contextualizes the rise of cryptocurrency within the historical relationship between money and the state. It begins by asking two simple yet critical questions: What is money and where did it come from? Armed with the answers, the article proceeds by taking a fresh look at cryptocurrency through the lens of the credit theory of money. It finds that cryptocurrency, by using new technologies and incentive-based design, attempts to overcome the previous geographic limitations that hindered broad adoption of private currencies. Even with these innovations, cryptocurrency appeared unlikely to challenge the supremacy of sovereign money until Facebook announced the Libra project. Policymakers around the world instantly recognized the threat and opportunity Libra posed given Facebook’s scale. Facebook may not be a sovereign entity, but its power rivals that of most countries. Libra compelled a flurry of new proposals in the U.S. to address the fragmented nature of cryptocurrency regulation. In choosing next steps, Congress and regulators must be careful to ensure that regulatory clarity does not come at the expense of sovereign authority.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Money, Cryptocurrencies--Law and legislation, Digital currency