In the beginning was war. From the very earliest days of recorded history until the very recent past, war has been the motor of financial change. “War is the father of all things,” as Herodotus said; and among those things during the Pelopponesian War was an increase in Athenian expenditure, and consequently a need for higher taxes and other sources of revenue. It was war which, with a powerful symbolism, caused the golden statue of Athena to be melted down and coined.
The Great Powers have been involved in interstate wars for nearly 75 per cent of the 481 years [from 1495 to 1975] . . . On average a new war begins every four years and a Great Power war [i.e. a war involving more than one great power] every seven or eight years…. In the typical [median] year . .. slightly over one war involving the Great Powers … is under way . . .
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that there were 103 “armed conflicts” between 1989 and 1997, of which six were inter-state conflicts. In 1999 there were some 27 major armed conflicts in progress, though only two were between sovereign states (between India and Pakistan and between Eritrea and Ethiopia). Adopting Levy’s criteria for wars involving at least one great power, there have been six since Vietnam (the last war considered in his survey): the Sino-Russian War (1969), the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979), the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-89), the Falklands War (1982), the Gulf War (1990-91) and the Kosovo War (1999).
Sudden increases in the proportion of men under arms are not the principal source of pressure on military budgets, however. Changes in military technology matter more. From the fourteenth-century gunpowder revolution onwards, artillery has periodically increased its range, accuracy and destructive power. The development of the cast-iron cannon, with its iron ball, “corns” of powder and wheel base, necessitated a parallel improvement in fortifications like the trace italienne. Indeed, it was partly the rising cost of fortifications that put the finances of continental powers under strain in the sixteenth century. Likewise, the standardization and improvement of handguns in the early eighteenth century enhanced the firepower and raised the cost of equipping the individual infantry man. The eighteenth century saw further improvements in the manufacture of artillery, notably the bored barrel introduced to France by the Swiss engineer Jean Maritz, which set the standard until the advent of the breech-loading gun in the 18 50s. The parallel development in Britain was in maritime technology: copper-sheathed bottoms for ships, short-barrelled, large-calibre carronades and steering wheels for ships.
Despite all talk of war-weariness, the process did not halt in the 1920s and 1930s: one need only compare the aircraft and tanks of 1938 with those of 1918 to see that. But the pace of change accelerated dramatically during the Second World War as the major combatants sought to out-innovate as well as out-produce one another, increasing the speed, range, accuracy and armour-plating of nearly all the machines of mid-century warfare. The British Spitfire—to give one example—was modified 1,000 times between 1938 and 1945, adding 100 mph to its top speed. At the same time, advances in radio technology ushered in a revolution in battlefield communications (wireless communication, radar detection), while a host of new inventions arrived in time for use in the final phase of the conflict: jet engines, amphibious vehicles, guided missiles, rockets and, of course, atomic bombs. This technological race continued in the Cold War, as A-bombs gave way to hydrogen and neutron bombs and the arms race became simultaneously a space race between rockets and satellites (with astronauts and cosmonauts thrown in to sustain public interest).
Edwardian statesmen, appalled that a pre-1914 battleship cost £2.5 million, would be staggered that it now costs the British Admiralty £120 million and more for a replacement frigate … The new [American] B-i bomber … will cost over $200 billion for a mere one hundred planes … Cynics [forecast] that the entire Pentagon budget may be swallowed up by one aircraft by the year 2020.
It is now possible to set the changing financial burden of war into some kind of meaningful long-term perspective. It is, of course, far from easy to distinguish between military and civilian expenditures in most state budgets. Should we include in the total for military spending expenditures on strategically useful infrastructure such as roads or railways? What about veterans’ pensions or payments to the widows and orphans of men killed in action? Such questions arise whether one is considering Augustan Rome or Nazi Germany, and there is no consensus as to the correct definition.
For decades, the United States had exploited the global acceptability of the greenback to promote America’s foreign policy objectives. In effect, Washington was free to spend money around the world virtually without limit in support of its military, diplomatic, and economic programs— an advantage that Charles de Gaulle roundly criticized as an “exorbitant privilege.”
The world dollar standard is an accident of history that greatly facilitates international trade and exchange—even trade not directly involving the United States. Since 1945, the dollar has been the key currency for clearing international payments among banks, including interventions by governments to set exchange rates; the dominant currency for invoicing trade in primary commodities; and the principal currency in official exchange reserves.
The day of the dollar is over, the era of the euro has begun—such was the view of many well-informed observers when Europe’s new joint currency was born back in 1999. America’s faltering greenback, long the dominant currency in the world economy, now faced a potent new rival. It was only a matter of time until the euro would achieve parity with the greenback as a global currency or possibly even surpass it. Typical was Nobel Prize laureate Robert Mundell, often hailed as the father of the euro, who boldly asserted that Europe’s money “will challenge the status of the dollar and alter the power conﬁguration of the system.”
Although the strong network effects of the dollar standard greatly increase the financial efficiency of multilateral trade, nobody loves it. Erratic U.S. monetary and exchange rate policies since the late 1960s have made, and still make, foreigners unhappy. A weak and falling dollar led to the worldwide price inflations of the 1970s and contributed to the disastrous asset bubbles and global credit crisis after 2000—including the global credit crunch of 2008–9. Dollar weakness aggravated the postwar world’s three great oil shocks in 1973, 1979, and 2007–8.
With the advent of the euro on January 1, 1999, and with the GNP of the euro area being (slightly) greater than that of the United States, it was once thought that the more stable-valued euro would gradually supplant the central role of the dollar in international finance. And the euro has served as international money in Europe’s own backyard in smaller countries to its east and in a few former colonies in Africa and elsewhere. However, the Greek debt crisis of 2010 heralded a new era of grave doubts regarding the euro’s survival in its present form. In late 2011, virtually all the sovereign bonds of countries in the euro zone became suspect. Beyond this, the international competitiveness of the weaker “Club Med” countries continued to deteriorate, making debt repayment problematic. Th us the prospect of the euro becoming a truly international reserve currency beyond Europe is greatly diminished.
Since 1980, China’s astonishing GDP growth based on its transition to a market-based system has propelled it to become the world’s biggest trading economy, as measured (in dollars of course!) by the sum of its exports and imports. With its huge population, China’s domestic GNP is already comparable to that of the larger European countries—and has overtaken slow- growing Japan. Within a decade or so, China’s GNP could well become larger than that of the United States itself.
Chinese officials, such as Governor Zhou Xiaochuan of the People’s Bank of China (PBC), bemoan the use of one national currency as “international money,” a practice they regard as increasingly anomalous.
The People’s Bank of China released a statement by Zhou Xiaochuan, on March 23, 2009. It calls for replacing the dollar as the dominant world currency and creating “an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run.” The domestic monetary needs of the center country, Zhou contends plausibly, are increasingly likely to diverge from those of the rest of the world as globalization proceeds. China nervously sits on more than $3 trillion in official dollar exchange reserves and is effectively trapped into acquiring more because of its exchange rate objectives in the face of America’s zero-interest rate policy.
So all these facts, lead us to think about the future of cash and cash of the future. If we look in different direction, we also find that not only cash and currency is vanishing but a lot of central, commercial, and investment bankers are also facing the dangers of extinction. Yes, I am talking about Robots and machines, taking them over, bit and electrons are taking over the position of cash and currency.
It is there in the Bible, in both the Old and the New Testaments: compare “Money answereth all things” (Ecclesiastes 10:19) with “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy, 6: 10).
I have no doubt that the whole Financial system has lived it’s life and awakening of a new financial system is already underway. Perhaps, the new financial system damages the globe more than ever or it may brings prosperity and peace around the world, but in either case this new financial system is taking over.
I cannot say with certainty how many exactly but definitely I have bought more than a thousand books criticizing, opposing and discrediting the current financial system since 2008 and I am though certain that despite my serious efforts, I could not find a single book written explaining the healthiness and well being of current financial systems and their prosperous future.
The new Financiers are definitely not wearing suits and expensive shiny shoes, but they are t-shirts and jeans wearing technicians or geeks, the new centers of finance are definitely not centered in the Wall Streets but Silicon Valleys of Asia, Europe and Americas. The new Houses of Finance are definitely not being called Banks but they are Google, Apple, Facebook, AliPay, and many more. They definitely not Financial Industry, but for the purpose of distinction, they adopted the name of FinTech, and that the new definitely do not like “wolves of Wall Streets”.
These new guys, geeks or nerds, have altered the course of war, economies, industries, and commercial geographies. They are offering opportunities and distribution of wealth globally, compared to old gentlemen who always exploited the poor and benefit the rich and powerful. Bankers are still not getting it that the dynamics of “risk and profits” has changed, the world of finance have already been revolutionized, the era to move the financial markets up and down is diminishing, and that the control of power through money is going away from the control of a few.
Google, Facebook, Whats App and countless other institutions, are not charging the customers for using their services but they are earning money through the use of their services. Their power of free, is still is mystery for wolves at Wall Street, and wolves are trying to survive by cheating millions of customers and selling the fear of regulations and terrorism. It is not working, nor they can downplay the innovation, evolution and technological progress. Wolves can not preach the dignity, honesty and transparency to the new FinTechers, especially, the big banks like Deutsche Bank.
In the last World Economic Forum, I have listened the CEO of Deutsche Bank Mr. John Cryan, teaching the FinTech about the importance of Regulation and evils of FinTech. He was being supported by Financial Wizards or old guys, trying to tell the world that FinTech is a tool for terrorism and crime, forgetting the fact that most of their financial system is built and run upon the proceeds of crime, corruption and frauds. Their downplay of FinTech is definitely not working, and off course, the future of cash is certainly not in cash, nor currency. But good soon it is time to say good by to the cash of corruption.