…I am sometimes asked.
Cash Means Freedom, Which Is Why So Many Officials Hate It
Especially when it comes to foreign governments and their “monitoring economic activity”, “manipulating the economy”, “tax compliance”, and such-like fetishes, which is also why it’s so fond of its fierce banking privacy laws and, for that matter, free access to cryp.
The Chamber of the People thinks spiking ideas like that is hilarious.
The Empire’s banks, comfortably shielded behind the Worlds’ largest economy, cheerfully willing to do business with anyone courtesy of the extranet, and with large infosec and counterinfosec departments on staff, think it’s delightfully profitable.
Which leads me to the next question: Given that cash is an inherently low-velocity exchange medium that (unlike bank deposits and investment securities) doesn’t accrue any interest from just sitting there when it’s not being used, how do you keep large amounts of cash around and still manage to stay competitive?
Life is trade-offs. If you want the privacy-enhancing qualities of cash, you have to give up the competitiveness-enhancing qualities of electronic transactions, and vice-versa.
(The Empire just lets you pick which you value more; it doesn’t promise you magic.)
Never mind that any fiat currency is traceable by serial numbers if any government has it in enough for someone.
Also I’d note that cryptocurrencies record the ID numbers of everyone who’s owned them in the blockchain.
Ah, but just because the Empire’s banks can trace it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone else can!
On the former: that’s hardly limited to fiat currencies. Unless you go all the way back to hacksilver and other raw commodities rather than commodity currencies , they’re just as vulnerable. You can stamp a discreet serial number on gold coinage just as easily as you can anything else.
(Although unless everyone along the transaction chain has obligingly recorded the serial numbers in question, a serial number on a seized currency unit isn’t nearly as informative with regard to the intermediate steps as an electronic transaction log.)
And, sure, as Jade Nekotenshi points out, the Exchequer can trace you. (Even more easily if you forget and use the tagging feature that has your money remember that it’s yours, or don’t keep it in an embag so that it’s off the mesh.)
But what you buy from trading in untagged esteyn isn’t so much perfect inherent untraceability as it is the currency-manager’s record of dedicated non-cooperativeness when it comes to thieving revenuers, professional expropriators, nosy buggers going on fishing expeditions, and the like.
On the latter: that’s true for blockchain-based cryp (and, I note, it doesn’t solve the problem of linking said identifiers to their owners, especially since we already have tech that lets the paranoid ensure that they have a different identifier for every transaction or part-transaction they make).
Not all future-cryp, though, is blockchain-based cryp. And even the kind which is can pose interesting technical problems like “how do you get hold of a copy of the blockchain when it’s split up across a few million AI software agents migrating randomly across public extranet hosts, with instructions to be paranoid about people trying exactly that”.
Basically, the war between the sneaks and the snoops continues. Both sides have their victories and losses.)
Which I’m sure, by the same “life is trade-offs” logic mentioned in the response to my comment, must create a massive amount of work for the people responsible for maintaining the verification and validation systems that ensure that only one copy of a particular esteyn is actually in circulation at any given time.
Different paradigm – the esteyn isn’t distributed cryp, it’s a centrally managed currency. (It’s managing AI, Fiscal Prime, is a massively distributed system, but that’s a question of enhanced responsiveness and minimizing light-lag; the Imperial Banking & Credit Weave can always validate any individual esteyn… it’s just that unexpected interstellar travel may slow it down a bit.)
Its security arrangements are a little different. The main one is that attempting to hack the esteyn, in most cases, means going up against Fiscal Prime a postsophont Power that might as well be the Hidden Cog for most intents and purposes, on its own turf. Good luck with that.
(The other one is that the Exchequer, via the IN, is one of the few organizations whose infosec policy has been known to include KEWs.)
I’m afraid that particular reference escapes me.
Local metaphorical equivalent of the Invisible Hand – also, or perhaps identically, the eikone of wealth and trade.