These problems have three remedies. First, governments need to ensure that central banks’ monopoly over coins and notes is not replaced by private monopolies over digital money. Rather than letting a few credit-card firms have a stranglehold on the electronic pipes for digital payments, as America may yet allow, governments must ensure the payments plumbing is open to a range of digital firms which can build services on top of it. They should urge banks to offer cheap, instant, bank-to-bank digital transfers between deposit accounts, as in Sweden and the Netherlands. Competition should keep prices low so that the poor can afford most services, and it should also mean that if one firm stumbles others can step in, making the system resilient.
Second, governments should maintain banks’ obligation to keep customer information private, so that the plumbing remains anonymous. Digital firms that use this plumbing to offer services should be free to monetise transaction data, through, for example, advertising, so long as their business model is made explicit to users. Some customers will favour free services that track their purchases; others will want to pay to be left alone.