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The People’s Front of Consumer Financial Protection

In a good edition of Money Stuff, Matt Levine has a bit about how changing the name of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection will cost industry $300 million:

I have some trouble believing that that number is true, but I want it to be. It is sort of majestic, that a pure formatting change — just moving two words around — could cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars, one spreadsheet entry at a time.

The cost is down to companies having to change all their databases and forms, etc.

You can see why people like blockchains, you know? Like: What if everyone’s database was just seamlessly linked up with everyone else’s database, so that if one entity validly changes its name, that name change would be instantly updated in everyone else’s database without millions of dollars’ worth of manual inputting? Surely that is just a … thing … that computers … should do? And “blockchain,” in the financial industry, has become sort of a shorthand word for describing how they might do it. The alternative does, when you think too hard about it, seem dumb.

It does seem a bit crazy, from the point of view of a developer. I mean, if I was making a website, then “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” would, ideally only exist in one place, in a configuration file or a database (depending on the site) and would be really quick to change. But, I guess, terrible coding, legacy systems, hugely complex integrated webs of terribly coded legacy systems from enterprise vendors charging fortunes for change requests…

Anyway, I assume that what Levine refers to as “‘blockchain’” is similar to something like GOV.UK’s Registers of data?

A GOV.UK register is a structured dataset of government information.

Each register:

  • only contains data on a specific subject
  • is kept up-to-date by a subject matter expert from the relevant government organisation
  • shares a common API that supports JSON and CSV

I’m guessing here, but anyway.

Oh, I almost forgot! Also in the same edition of Money Stuff, Levine refers to the first ever book about stock markets, Joseph de la Vega’s Confusion of Confusions from 1688, which apparently contains this great phrase:

Profits on the exchange are ‘the treasures of goblins,’ meaning a profit today could be a loss tomorrow.

“Yeah, we just IPO’d but I can’t sell any shares for two years; it’s just the treasures of goblins.”