Will Facebook’s Libra Change the Way the World Banks?

A New Cryptocurrency Vies to Disrupt

Looming large: Facebook logo reflected off the Washington Monument, October 2018 TOM BRENNER / The New York Times​ / Redux

The crusaders who left western Europe to “liberate” the Holy Land might seem to have little in common with contemporary Facebook users. But Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency platform, tackles a problem that was familiar in the twelfth century. The spread of promissory notes (letters of credit) in the High Middle Ages caused an upheaval in Eurasian markets. Libra promises to do the same. And just as medieval financial innovations might require demystification, so, too, does Libra.

The crusaders had no easy way of bringing money with them. They couldn’t exactly wire funds or carry debit cards, and their coins were of little use in foreign lands. Gold was heavy and hard to move safely. The solution came from an unexpected source: the Knights Templar. The Templars were originally a Catholic military order that took up residence in Jerusalem, where they pledged to protect Christian pilgrims. They created the

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