Tolls on Moving (Digital) Money

Source: ZeroHedge, Oct 2019

Moving money is a lot like moving goods. If either money or a physical item needs to get from point A to point B, and you happen to control the only route, then you get to charge a toll. If an unrelated secular trend leads to a lot more goods or payments needing to traverse that route, then you make a lot of money.

Today, the good is electronic payments, and the routes are cards rails and e-money schemes. As commerce grows increasingly digital, global and platform based, the few available pipes to send payments grow increasingly profitable. In the 1800s the good was industrial and agricultural supply, and the routes were rivers and lakes.

As the world grew increasingly industrial and trade-oriented, the few available routes out of North America grew increasingly important. Contemporary companies like Stripe and PayPal are changing the payment landscape by building important bridges between legacy payment pathways. Back then, the same thing was accomplished by building canals.

in the absence of a proper network that connects two points directly, even the most cumbersome, indirect and expensive transportation options could do extremely well. That’s the FinTech payment boom of 2019 for you.

What makes companies like Stripe so successful is that they can abstract away all of the inefficiencies and messy underbelly of the siloed payment industry and give merchants and users a payment experience that looks seamless. This is a valuable contribution today, but not nearly as good as a grid that allows instant point to point transfers of money. That’s the stablecoin vision of tomorrow.

A network, be it a physical one for moving goods or a digital one for moving value, wants to be built. The efficiencies and growth economics are too tempting to ignore. The more money the Visas, PayPals and Stripes of the world make operating their canals, the more everyone else will be willing to invest in a network that replaces them — despite challenges like this.

Libra is just the beginning. Whether it succeeds, or even launches, is a moot point. The idea of a decentralized payment network that only charges minimal fees to provide security (as opposed to seeking rent to reward shareholders) has now been validated, and there’s no turning back. If the statement “your profit margins are my opportunity” is to be believed, then there is no greater opportunity in all financial services than a secure global blockchain-based payment network.

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