Marian Miner Cook

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Digital Currencies—More than a Passing Fad?

Thu, February 10, 2022
Dinner Program
Barry Eichengreen


The financial sector is currently in one of those periods of exceptionally rapid change that punctuate history. From the adoption of cloud computing to store and process financial data, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze it, and blockchain to secure it, the future will surely see additional movement in these directions. But it is uncertain whether digital currencies will be part of that future. Plain vanilla cryptocurrency like bitcoin lack the essential attributes of money and are likely to remain no more than niche investment products. Stablecoins have more of the attributes of money but are expensive to operate. Central bank digital currencies are more obviously viable, but they are a solution in search of a problem. It’s thus not clear, argues Barry Eichengreen, professor of economics at U.C. Berkeley, what economic and social problems they can solve that can’t also be solved by suitably regulated private sector entities.

Professor Eichengreen's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at CMC.

Photo credit: U.C. Berkeley

Barry Eichengreen is the George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1987. He is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (London, England). In 1997-98, he was senior policy advisor at the International Monetary Fund. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (class of 1997).

Eichengreen has held Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships and been a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Palo Alto) and the Institute for Advanced Study (Berlin). From 2004 to 2020 he served as convener of the Bellagio Group of academics and officials. He is a regular monthly columnist for Project Syndicate.

His most recent books are In Defense of Public Debt with Asmaa El-Ganainy, Rui Esteves and Kris Mitchener (Oxford University Press 2021), The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2018), How Global Currencies Work: Past, Present, and Future with Livia Chitu and Arnaud Mehl (November 2017), The Korean Economy: From a Miraculous Past to a Sustainable Future with Wonhyuk Lim, Yung Chul Park and Dwight H. Perkins (March 2015), Renminbi Internationalization: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges, with Masahiro Kawai (February 2015), Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses--and Misuses--of History (January 2015), From Miracle to Maturity: The Growth of the Korean Economy with Dwight H. Perkins and Kwanho Shin (2012) and Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System (2011) (shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011).

Eichengreen was awarded the Economic History Association's Jonathan R.T. Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2002 and the University of California at Berkeley Social Science Division's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004. He is the recipient of a doctor honoris causa from the American University in Paris, and the 2010 recipient of the Schumpeter Prize from the International Schumpeter Society. He was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine 's 100 Leading Global Thinkers in 2011. He is a past president of the Economic History Association (2010-11 academic year).

Professor Eichengreen's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at CMC.

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