“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”
Mexico said no, now what? One Congressman thinks that cryptocurrency is the answer President Donald Trump has been looking for.
Rep. Warren Davidson, an ardent cryptocurrency proponent, recently drafted a bill called “Buy a Brick, Build a Wall.” Davidson has said that the bill will allow the federal government to fund the border wall by issuing a cryptocurrency. While the bill doesn’t contain explicit mention of a cryptocurrency, Davidson has been vocal about the wall potentially being crowdfunded and that blockchain could be used to facilitate the process.
We will have to wait to see if this idea materializes outside of Davidson’s comments, but regardless of one’s opinions on this specific policy, his words suggest a much more interesting question: Could the Federal Government use tokenization to fund public projects?
Tokenization is the process of issuing assets in the form of cryptographic tokens. Cryptocurrencies are all tokenized versions of something (network fuel, money, securities, etc.), and real-world assets like real estate and art have also been tokenized. In the case of real world assets, tokenization facilitates trade an investment in assets by immensely simplifying the process. It also allows an individual to own a partial stake in a painting or a piece of property.
What if any citizen could invest in public projects as well? Could the federal or state governments tokenize infrastructure and allow it to be publically funded?
Motorways, public parking, water systems, have been sold to private buyers when municipalities have needed cash, so this is not unheard of. In fact, the privatization of infrastructure is something that Donald Trump has described as part of his strategy to improve America’s aging infrastructure.
Is it possible we will see the Trump administration use blockchain and tokenized assets to advance their policy? It is too early to tell, but there are already those in Congress who are thinking along these lines.
Beyond the current administration, would tokenizing infrastructure be a boon to the American public or would private, for-profit infrastructure endanger access to basic resources?
On one hand, allowing public projects to be funded by crowd investment would allow certain projects to get funding that might not receive it through traditional means. It could allow local communities to directly fund the infrastructure that matters to their community — and profit from it.
Tokenization also creates the ability for anyone to own part of the revenue that is generated from infrastructure and could create a way for individuals to invest in their own local communities while growing their 401k rather than investing in multinational corporations. Using tokenized assets would allow equity in infrastructure to be exchanged on a liquid market at any time, elevating investing in one’s community to an asset class.
On the other hand, privatization of infrastructure has already caused problems for certain communities like Bayonne N.J. The water system in Bayonne was sold to a Wall Street investment firm in 2012 and while the ailing system was upgraded and replaced it led to significant increases in water bills. Water rates in Bayonne have risen 28 percent since they were privatized. However, before being privatized the infrastructure was on the verge of failing and some of the increase in the cost of water may simply reflect the costs of maintaining a modern water system.
There are a number of arguments for and against the tokenization of infrastructure, but it clearly could be a new tool for our social and financial systems. It is no wonder that it has begun to catch the eye of those in our government who are familiar with blockchain technology. While we will need to wait to see if WallCoins will be issued, we can start discussing the tokenization of infrastructure now.