Money is always political. This is obvious enough when we argue about Federal Reserve policy in the United States, or who should next chair the interest rate-setting body. But for over 1,000 years, we have argued about the nature of our monetary systems and shifted between different ways of making payments. Seen in this historical context, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are just the latest in a long line of challenges to prevailing technology—and to current political arrangements.
The dominant design of today’s monetary systems is based on a western European tradition that can be traced back to the silver denarius of Emperor Charlemagne and before to the organization of the Roman Empire.