In 1921, Henry Ford proposed the creation of an “energy currency” strangely reminiscent of cryptocurrency.
On October 31, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper detailing how a new digital currency works, based on peer-to-peer. Officially, bitcoin is therefore 23 years old. But the idea of a currency independent of central banks and hard cash is much older. It had even germinated in the mind of the famous industrialist Henry Ford, as an article on the Cointelegraph site recalls .
On December 4, 1921, the New York Tribune published an article claiming that Ford wanted to present to the US Congress a project for an “energy currency” , based on an entirely new system. “In the energy exchange system, the norm would be a certain amount of energy exerted during an hour which would be equal to a dollar,” suggests Ford. The currency would be created thanks to the "largest power station in the world" , obviously built by him.
“With the energy currency system, a certain amount of energy, coming from, say, an hour's use, would be equal to a dollar,” Ford describes. We can already note a first resemblance to bitcoin, which is based on a very energy-intensive mining process. But it is above all the vision of the system itself that strangely brings to mind cryptocurrency.
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"It is about thinking and calculating in totally different terms from those fixed for us by the international banking system to which we have become so accustomed and of which we believe that there is no other possible" , advances the industrialist. At the time, international trade was dominated by gold, controlled according to him by international bankers and the economic elite, who accumulated wealth and used it to finance wars.
“Gold is evil because it can be controlled and causes war. Break this control and you can avoid war, ” says this staunch pacifist. Energy currency would be decentralized and independent of any authority.
Ford's dream never materialized, but it was this vision of a currency independent of central banks that prevailed when bitcoin was created after the 2007 financial crisis. The New York Tribune article therefore wondered if Satoshi Nakamoto had not been inspired by Ford (some even going so far as to claim that this mysterious Nakamoto would be none other than his reincarnation).
Fifty years after the publication of Ford's column, the system of convertibility between gold and the dollar was abolished with the end of the Bretton Woods agreements. The dollar today fluctuates according to economic conjecture, which notably led to the oil shock of 1973 or the Asian crisis of 1997.
However, we can note a difference between the energy currency imagined by Ford and bitcoin: the first did not impose a limit on the currency created, where only 21 million bitcoins are expected to exist. However, bitcoin is already accused of having a disastrous environmental impact. The enormous and infinite amount of energy that Ford's system required would not have been very compatible with our energy goals.