This paper examines the implications of digital currencies – both private cryptocurrencies and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) – for central banking. We discuss some déjà vu episodes from monetary history in order to obtain a clearer understanding the present and potential implications of these currencies. We find that not only the current limitations of private cryptocurrencies, but also their conceptual underpinnings, argue against their replacement of conventional money. The two main potential problems with broadly accessible (general purpose) CBDC are a digital run and an excessive involvement of a central bank in the funding of the real economy. Meanwhile, alternative reserve-backed accounts or tokens (an implicit CBDC known as Tobin’s alternative) would also be exposed to these problems, albeit in a less pronounced way. CBDC-related hopes for monetary policy to eliminate the effective lower bound constraint are found to be exaggerated, even in a cashless world. We argue that central banks’ response to the digitalisation trend should be an integrative solution which satisfies the public demand for a safe means of payment, safeguards private innovations, and ensures financial stability. We conclude that there is no observable form of CBDC that would serve as a best-choice central bank response in advanced economies. Such a response might be considered as a temporary solution (if any), however, in emerging economies with weak financial inclusion.
JEL Codes: E51, E58, N20.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Bank of Lithuania.