March 10, 2020
‘Stablecoins’ have claims to legitimacy because they avert the supposed principal flaw of cryptotokens: their price volatility. But whose stability is stable? What is the appropriate benchmark for ‘stability’?
We would like to challenge the conventional understanding of monetary ‘stability’ and reconsider its significance for the role of stablecoins. Being stable with respect to a fiat currency (or a basket of fiat currencies) is one take on stability, but it embeds the primacy of fiat over crypto, and leaves the stability of fiat currencies unquestioned. In this context, stablecoins are being styled as the acceptable face of crypto because they are a crypto version of fiat: the US dollars you hold when you don’t hold US dollars. But where do you go when you want to dissent from fiat, when you want to take a stand against fiat by betting against it (shorting it) and finding new stability from a different set of economic and social relations. For make no mistake, money is a social relation.
We think the latter is the real social potential of cryptoeconomy. It provides an opportunity to re-think the social role of money, and the social incentives that are embedded in fiat currency — money as a series (protocols) of social relations. And if and when fiat currencies face their next future crisis, we want to be talking already about what new stabilities — new social relations, processes and goals that we believe should be constant; new metrics of stability — we are advocating.
This is the issue we should pose of every aspiring token: what is its own notion of inter-temporal stability that it claims to secure?