Money, Trust and Regulation

Oonagh McDonald

£25.00  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788214209
£25.00  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788214216
240 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  07 October 2021


"Harnessing her knowledge and experience following a long and distinguished career as a regulator and in the public sphere, Dr McDonald has produced an erudite and readable book on a very complex and puzzling issue that of digital currencies and alternative money. What sets this book apart from other similar attempts is clear and impartial analysis combined with a very good understanding of the nuts and bolts of digital currencies. It will prove a valuable companion for the lay reader with an interest in the rise of alternative money and a good source of study for the expert."  – Emilios Avgouleas, Chair of International Banking Law and Finance, University of Edinburgh

"Oonagh McDonald has done it again. In this ambitious book, she helps the rest of the world catch up with her on the opportunities and risks associated with stable coins. Even if one may disagree with her about the future of stable coins (and I do a bit), this book is an invaluable resource, especially as a teaching tool, because of McDonald’s ability to synthesize and interpret a vast amount of information about complex and novel practices." – Charles Calomiris, Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions, Columbia Business School

"An excellent review of the key issues around cryptocurrencies and money. It takes a very broad perspective and covers the essential technical, regulatory, economic and policy issues in a very informed and critical way."  – Robert Hudson, Professor of Finance, University of Hull

"Dr McDonald's rigorously researched analysis of the development of cryptocurrencies is a must-read for anyone who has a stake in the future of money. It is an historical tour de force that painstakingly teases out of every corner of the cryptocurrency world the critical issues that governments, policy-makers, and consumers must consider before abandoning government fiat money." – Thomas P. Vartanian, Executive Director and Professor of Law, Program on Financial Regulation and Technology, George Mason University

"Everyone fascinated by how the cryptocurrency phenomenon has created a whole sector of ventures to furnish 'alternative currencies', while the dollar price of a Bitcoin boomed from 8 cents to a high of more than $60,000, must wonder whether all this will really bring about a revolution in the nature of money. Will Bitcoin’s libertarian dream to displace central bank fiat currency be achieved? Or ironically, will central banks take over digital currencies and make themselves even more dominant monetary monopolies than before? Oonagh McDonald, always a voice of financial reason, provides a thorough consideration of these questions and of cryptocurrency ideas and reality in general, with the intertwined issues of technology, regulation, trust, and government monetary power. This is a very insightful and instructive guide for the intrigued." – Alex J. Pollock, Distinguished Senior Fellow Emeritus, R Street Institute, and former Principal Deputy Director, Office of Financial Research, US Treasury

"A very readable, accessible and informed discussion of the evolution and expansion of cryptocurrencies. This engaging and progressive assessment of cryptocurrency developments details many of the required conditions and hurdles to be overcome to ensure the future stability of these payment systems. Required reading for both policy-makers and academics working in this field." – John Ashton, Professor of Banking, Bangor University

“What is money? Are Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies money in the way we the majority, who live in the real world, understand money? Central banks are about to move into digital currency, as if to catch up with the cryptos. Is that money? Oonagh McDonald, philosopher and former parliamentarian with extensive knowledge and experience of financial regulation, is the person to provide a clear answer. She shows why it is trust and not technology that determines what is money. As billionaires lose their heads chasing cryptos, trust McDonald to guide you through the tangled woods of digital finance.” – Lord Desai, Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics


The advent of new digital currencies has challenged our notions about money, its function and purpose, and our faith in the financial and banking structures that underpin its legitimacy. Oonagh McDonald examines the challenges, opportunities and threats that cryptocurrencies pose to existing fiat currencies and their potential to change how global finance operates.

From Bitcoin to Facebook’s Diem, the book charts the spectacular rise of cryptocurrencies over the past decade alongside the much slower regulatory response. It assesses the potential of the technology underpinning new digital currencies – blockchain, digital tokens and smart contracts – to evade existing regulatory frameworks and considers the need for more robust protection from fraudulent initial coin offerings, scams and hacks.

The book examines the motivations of central banks as they begin to explore opportunities for an alternative global digital currency, and what this might mean for the supremacy of the dollar and other fiat currencies. The future of cash is also considered. Throughout her analysis, McDonald shows that trust is fundamental to the operation of finance and that this will ultimately protect commercial bank money from the threat of new digital currencies.

The book offers readers an insightful appraisal of the future of money and the challenges facing regulatory bodies.


1. Introduction: Bitcoin beginnings
2. New cryptocurrencies and new developments
3. Stablecoins: the search for stability
4. Initial coin offerings: the “Wild West”
5. The regulatory response to ICOs
6. Global stablecoins: Libra
7. Reactions to stablecoins
8. Central banks and central bank digital currencies
9. The decline of cash
10. Credit and trust
Appendix: smart contracts

Author Information

Oonagh McDonald CBE is an international expert in financial regulation. She has been a board member of the Financial Services Authority, the Investors Compensation Scheme, the General Insurance Standards Council and the Board for Actuarial Standards. She has also been a director of Scottish Provident, Skandia Insurance Company and the British Portfolio Trust. She was formerly a British Member of Parliament and was awarded a CBE in 1998 for services to financial regulation and business.

Her books include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Turning the American Dream into a Nightmare (2013), Lehman Brothers: A Crisis of Value (2015) and Holding Bankers to Account (2019). She now lives in Washington DC, having been granted permanent residence on the grounds of “exceptional ability”.

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