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Digital Currencies and Public Law

Ep #49 with Andrew Mazen Dahdal (College of Law, Qatar University)

Dr. Andrew Mazen Dahdal is an associate professor at the College of Law at Qatar University in Doha. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales, where he received an outstanding achievement award in 2014 for his dissertation on the necessity of historical analysis in constitutional interpretation.

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Andrew has also taught constitutional and commercial law within Australia and Europe in both fulltime and adjunct roles. Writing on law, technology and global legal frameworks, Andrew is now focused on exploring the intersections between private and public law specifically by exploring the technocratic connections between constitutional and commercial legal frameworks.
 
This episode of Regulatory Ramblings features a discussion on his upcoming book entitled Digital Currencies and Public Law: History, Constitutionalism and the Revolutionary Nature of Money. In it he advocates for deeper engagement by public lawyers in digital currency developments which threaten dramatic changes in the relationship between individuals and government authorities.
 
As Andrew shares with our host, Ajay Shamdasani, no modern issue is more widely acknowledged and less understood than that of digital currencies. The voice of constitutional scholars, however, is crucially missing from prevailing digital money conversation. For example, private law scholars are grappling with the legal questions raised by digital currency models in property and contract. Alternatively, public law scholars have yet to appreciate the significance of the moment.


Andrew argues that the challenge of understanding the technical dimensions of digital money innovations has obscured the potential constitutional revolution that digital currencies represent. His book starts with the premise that ‘money’ is best thought of as a constitutional phenomenon. When seen in that light, it becomes clear that changes in the nature of money represent changes in political and constitutional arrangements.

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The discussion elaborates on how and why that is so by examining episodes in history where the nature of money was linked to renewed constitutional settlements. The book distills a core set of principles linking aspects of monetary innovation such as technical control of the money supply to constitutional positions such as executive fiscal accountability. From such principles, a conceptual framework is proposed that translates the specific attributes of digital currency proposals into the language of constitutional dynamics.

Andrew also recounts what it was about digital currencies that initially piqued his curiosity as a constitutional scholar and ultimately, what compelled him to write the book. He also shares his thoughts on what he feels the book adds to an already crowded market place on the subject matter.

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He concludes by saying that cryptocurrencies and virtual assets herald an opportunity for wholesale constitutional reform the world has yet to see. Andrew notes that certainly when it arrived on the scene and its most ardent advocates were anti-statist, anarcho-libertarians – and even to some extent today – the rise of Bitcoin and digital assets writ large can be scene as a political movement in search of an ideology.
 
Looking back on the development of money, Andrew said, every fiat currency has been a form of money, albeit stripped of its intrinsic value. Moving forward, he said, there was no way to have a robust conversation about money and digital change without interrogating competing monetary forms.

Regulatory Ramblings podcasts is brought to you by The University of Hong Kong - Reg/Tech Lab, HKU-SCF Fintech Academy, Asia Global Institute, and HKU-edX Professional Certificate in Fintech, with support from the HKU Faculty of Law.

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Welcome to Regulatory Ramblings, a new podcast from a team at The University of Hong Kong on the intersection of all things pertaining to finance, technology, law and regulation. Hosted by the HKU Reg/Tech Lab, HKU-Standard Chartered FinTech Academy and the HKU-edX Professional Certificate in FinTech, join us as we hear from luminaries across multiple fields and professions as they share their candid thoughts in a stress-free environment - rather than the soundbites one typically hears from the mainstream press.

Regulatory Ramblings is a forum for those that appreciate long-form conversation. While it is something that may be regarded as lost art of an older time, it is nonetheless sorely needed in an age when glibness and flippancy pass for analysis in conventional journalism.

Having said that, we are grateful to be able to avail ourselves of modern technological resources to bring you chats with people you are probably not going to hear from elsewhere.

 

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Ajay Shamdasani is a veteran writer, editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. He holds an AB in history and government from Ripon College, JD and MIPCT degrees from the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce Law School, and an LLM in financial regulation from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law.

His 15-year long career as a financial and legal journalist began as deputy editor of A Plus magazine – the journal of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. From there, he assumed the helm of Macau Business magazine as its editor-in-chief, and later, joined Asialaw magazine as its deputy editor.   More recently, he spent close to seven years as a senior correspondent with Thomson Reuters’ subscription-based trade-wire service Regulatory Intelligence/Compliance Complete (previously called Complinet) in Hong Kong. While there, he covered regulatory developments in that city, as well as Singapore, India and South Korea.

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