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The debate over the viability of Traditional Finance (TradFi) is heating up. With burgeoning debt levels and shifting economic paradigms, this article delves into the historical precedents for the failure of debt-based currencies and considers the resurgence of hard assets like precious metals and cryptocurrencies as potential saviors of financial stability.


TradFi in Numbers

The challenges facing TradFi are highlighted by a series of recent bank insolvencies and the staggering amount of money printed by governments worldwide. Here’s a closer look at these issues through key statistics:

1. Bank Insolvencies in 2023

The banking sector faced significant turmoil in 2023, with notable failures including Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.  Silicon Valley Bank collapsed with around $209 billion in assets, making it one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history​. Signature Bank also failed, with over $110 billion in assets at the time of its downfall​.

2. Fractional Reserve Banking

The practice of fractional reserve banking, where banks hold reserves that are only a fraction of their deposit obligations, remains prevalent. This system has been under scrutiny, especially following the financial distress and failures of banks that were exposed to significant asset-liability mismatches and risks from sudden withdrawals.

3. Government Money Printing

In recent years, governments around the world have engaged in extensive money printing, part of their monetary policy and response to economic crises. For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet expanded dramatically, reflecting a significant increase in money supply to support the economy.

The Inherent Weakness of Debt-Based Currencies

Debt-based currencies, predominantly fiat money, have historically succumbed to economic pressures that eroded their value over time.

The move from tangible asset-backed money to fiat currency, initiated by events like the Nixon Shock of 1971, marked the shift towards government-issued money that isn’t backed by physical commodities but rather by government decree. This shift has led to repeated cycles of inflation, often exacerbated by the government’s ability to print more money during financial crises, leading to a decrease in purchasing power and loss of public trust.

Moreover, empirical evidence from various economies shows that prolonged reliance on fiat money can lead to economic distortions. For example, hyperinflation episodes in the Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela highlight how quickly confidence in fiat currencies can evaporate, leading to economic collapse.

Zimbabwe hyperinflation

photo credit: Top J. Quark / Flickr. CC BY 2.0 DEED

Debt and Historical Failures

The accumulation of unsustainable debt is a common theme in the downfall of many economic systems. Traditional finance, reliant on debt expansion and leveraging, tends to create bubbles in various asset classes, from real estate to stock markets.

These bubbles, as seen in the 2008 financial crisis, can burst, leading to severe economic severe economic repercussions​. Central banks play a crucial role in this process by setting artificially low interest rates, which encourages borrowing and leads to an overextension of credit and asset price inflation.

This cycle of debt-fueled growth and inevitable correction has been criticized for creating a fragile financial ecosystem where the next crisis is always just around the corner. Economists like Hyman Minsky have articulated this phenomenon in the “Financial Instability Hypothesis,” which describes how periods of economic stability lead to increased speculation and leverage, ultimately resulting in financial turmoil​.

The Case for Hard Assets

Gold and silver have been the traditional bastions against currency devaluation and economic instability. Their intrinsic value, derived from scarcity and utility, provides a stark contrast to the fiat currencies’ dependency on government policy.

Historical data shows that during periods of significant inflation, gold prices have often increased, suggesting a flight to safety by investors wary of fiat currency devaluation.

In addition to precious metals, other physical assets like real estate and collectibles have also served as hedges against inflation. However, the liquidity and universal recognition of gold and silver make them particularly appealing during times of financial distress.


Cryptocurrencies: The Digital Gold

Cryptocurrencies, led by Bitcoin, represent a modern adaptation of the hard asset concept. Unlike fiat currencies, Bitcoin has a predetermined supply, mimicking the scarcity of precious metals. This digital scarcity, combined with the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, offers a compelling alternative to traditional currencies that are susceptible to devaluation through inflation.

The appeal of cryptocurrencies extends beyond mere speculation. In countries with unstable currencies, they offer a means of preserving value and conducting transactions without relying on local currencies susceptible to mismanagement.

The global and easily transferable nature of cryptocurrencies makes them an increasingly viable option for international trade and investment.

DeFi decentralization

TradFi vs. DeFi

The evolving landscape of finance is prominently marked by the dichotomy between Traditional Finance (TradFi) and Decentralized Finance (DeFi). Here’s how these two systems compare:

1. Centralization vs. Decentralization

The core difference between TradFi and DeFi lies in their operational structures. TradFi is centralized, meaning that financial institutions like banks, brokers, and exchanges control transactions, money flow, and the enforcement of regulations.

In contrast, DeFi operates on a decentralized network, typically using blockchain technology, which distributes control across all users of the network. This means no single entity has control over the entire system.

2. Accessibility and Inclusivity

TradFi often requires users to have a bank account or some form of credit history, which can exclude a significant portion of the global population from financial services.

DeFi, on the other hand, is accessible to anyone with an internet connection and a digital wallet, promoting financial inclusivity by removing barriers to entry.

3. Transparency and Privacy

DeFi provides greater transparency than TradFi because all transactions are recorded on a blockchain, which is publicly accessible and immutable. However, this transparency also means that transactions are traceable, which can impact privacy. TradFi, while less transparent, often offers more privacy as financial activities are not publicly recorded.

4. Speed and Cost of Transactions

Transactions in DeFi can be faster and cheaper than those in TradFi because they bypass intermediaries like banks, which can slow down and add cost to transactions. For example, transferring cryptocurrencies across borders via DeFi platforms can occur in minutes at a fraction of the cost of traditional wire transfers.

5. Regulatory Oversight and Security

TradFi is heavily regulated, providing a level of consumer protection that DeFi currently lacks. Regulations ensure that financial institutions comply with legal standards and protect users from fraud and bankruptcies. DeFi’s lack of regulation is a double-edged sword; it allows for innovation and freedom but also exposes users to higher risks of scams and hacking without standardized recourse for recovery of losses.

6. Risk and Stability

TradFi institutions are typically backed by tangible assets and have government support, like FDIC insurance in the U.S., which provides a safety net for consumers. DeFi relies on the security of its technology and the value of its protocols, which can be highly volatile and subject to market sentiments, leading to potential instability.


As the limitations of debt-based financial systems become increasingly apparent, the search for more sustainable alternatives gains urgency. The historical resilience of hard assets and the innovative promise of cryptocurrencies provide compelling arguments for their inclusion in a diversified financial portfolio.

Whether the death of TradFi is imminent or not, the growing interest in these alternatives highlights a shift in how value and stability are perceived in a rapidly changing economic landscape.

This exploration underscores the need for a broader understanding of financial health, emphasizing sustainability over short-term gains. As we witness the evolution of global finance, the lessons from history and the innovative potential of new technologies will likely play pivotal roles in shaping the future.

About The Author


Owner of Since 2013, he's been immersed in the world of cryptocurrencies and has become an avid NFT collector since 2019. Also an NFT artist, he is a lifelong learner of mixed-media artwork creation.