This book is a collection of studies written from 1993 to 2017 by economists who worked or are still working at the National Bank of Romania. Specifically, the book contains nine such studies, of which eight make up the bulk of another book published in Romanian. I had the honour of being asked to write the forewords for both works. For this reason, the foreword to this book is vastly similar to the one worded for the book published in Romanian. The two forewords are different in that this one makes reference to the two papers that this book contains aside from the one in Romanian and, obviously, does not refer to the studies contained in the book published in Romanian but not included in this book, with three exceptions, about which I will warn the reader right before I refer to them. The reason why I will refer to those three studies, although they are not included in this book, is that they treat similar issues and are more recent. I will make the reader aware of the references to these three papers at the right moment.

Short time after the first financial crisis of globalization (2008-2009), a number of changes started to dominate the financial and banking world. Household and companies were confronted with a series of new rules and procedures aimed to protect both banks and the public. In most of cases they led to an increase of the lending cost and the requirements for money laundry avoidance and prevention of terrorist financing made access to money slower and hungry for paper. Technology and AI brought an alternative to the market, which proved to be faster, cheaper and with much less hurdles. They are all private initiatives, spined up by startups and the wisdom of putting IT knowledge to service the young entrepreneurs. The crypto assets, blockchain, fintech, digital payments and digital currencies are all part of the new developments. The emergence of technology as the new layout for banking led major financial powers and the international financial institutions to look more attentive to the challenges they face, and decide that official digital currency should not wait for too long. Currently, more than 70 central banks of the world are engaged in the process of preparing for the near future, among which ECB is a front runner.

I had qualms about using the expression dismal science to portray economics; this term goes back to the XIX century, in controversial writings by Thomas Carlyle and in Thomas Malthus’ thoughts on the scarcity of natural resources facing population dynamics –which is a theme resuscitated by the Club of Rome about half a century ago. My reservations originated in a fear that this “dark” qualification would be exceedingly pessimistic, that it is not appropriate to compare the current scientific-technological era with the age when a multifaceted industrial revolution was underway in Great Britain; that the society described by Charles Dickens’ gloomy novels is not to be compared with the modern world, that brought many hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty outside Europe and North America.
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