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Edinburgh Private Law Blog Posts

New project on ‘Law, Wealth and Inequality’ at Edinburgh Law School

Wealth inequality is a global issue of increasing economic and social importance, with growing awareness that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is increasing. Furthermore, an abundance of statistical research demonstrates that the proportion of GDP of many countries in the developed and developing world consisting of unearned income derived from capital is growing year on year. At the same time the share of GDP paid out as earned income such as wages and salaries continues to fall. A key question is what role the law plays in all of this and what should law do about this situation? And, how do different areas of the law interact to affect inequality?

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Monetary value, legal tender and cryptocurrencies

By David Fox, Professor of Common Law, University of Edinburgh

In 2018 the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, pronounced that cryptocurrencies were “failing” as money. Their extreme volatility against state-issued fiat currencies, like sterling or the US dollar, proved they were inefficient stores of monetary value. Storing value through time is one of the main functions of money.

Mr Carney’s comments raise important questions for lawyers. Does the law have a distinctive conception of monetary value, and is there any difference in how it might apply to a privately-created cryptocurrency compared with a state-issued fiat currency?

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