Another question got me interested in this. How would finances work when there would frequently be long delays for confirmations of transactions? Let's say there are Jump Gates/Artificial Wormholes at a fair remove from the habitable planets to the point where communication between interstellar systems takes several hours at minimum, but maybe as much as a 48 hours depending on where the gates can be placed in other systems. Otherwise stick to actual physics as we know it. I'm imagining Sol has a gate in each of Jupiter's Trojan Zones (after they've been cleaned up of asteroids.)

Newly settled systems would likely have need of fungible currency sooner than a local bank branch could be established (certainly for all banks).

  • $\begingroup$ How on Earth did finances work before the advent of the Internet? You do realize that they actually did have some sort of financial system before this modern fad of instant gratification became ubiquitous? And no, they did not walk around carrying large amounts of precious metals. And "fungible currency" is pleonastic -- currency is fungible by definition. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 7 '19 at 17:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You tagged your question as hard science. What kind of references do you expect for galactic currencies? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 7 '19 at 18:23

This is one of the reasons money exists

Earth recently had this problem. From the dawn of monetary transfer until the invention of radio and the telegraph, information about a financial transaction required days to years to travel everywhere it needed to go.

  • So people would take their gold with them. Except gold is really heavy and costly to transfer.

  • So people converted gold to something more valuable: like jewels. Still too heavy for really big transactions, though. And jewels are somewhat limited. You can't have just any jewel, they need to be cut! That means they're not always quick to come by.

  • So some idiot thought to himself, "you know, if I simply write 'one bazzillion dollars' on this sheet of paper and have it verified by people with authority and a good reputation, that would be really easy to both carry and hide!" Voilà, money.

But even that's inconvenient. Money can be stolen. It can be destroyed by fire! It can be eaten by the dang camels! And so Man created...


Poor communication means localization of financial activities

When you're talking about settling a new system, what financial needs do you have?

  1. Your people need something with which to do business one with another. But that doesn't require the rest of the galaxy. That simply requires a local mint and the signatures of authoritative and respectable people.1

  2. But your colony needs to do business with the greater universe. It needs to import and export goods!

And that means businesses and banks manipulating credit to get the job done, because sometimes the physical cash simply doesn't exist to make it happen and it would take too long to get it in place.

But if you think about it, just like 2,000 years ago when every individual couldn't do business world-wide but had to use all kinds of middle-men, your settlement won't be doing business with someone so far away it takes too long to get the requested materials. They'll be dealing with local brokers.

So your financial institution doesn't actually need the ability to communicate across vast distances regularly. It needs to be locally stable with galactic coordination and accounting.2

OK, but how do I coordinate on a galactic basis?

The same way we did not too long ago. The U.S. once minted \$100,000 bills that were only used for value transfers between large, official institutions. You'll be doing the same thing, just digitally. When your system-banks3 need more liquidity (or are rolling in wealth and need to transfer some of that snuff to another system-bank that needs liquidity), they roll out the proverbial \$100,000 bill — an electronic transfer of astronomical proportions (hah). It's deducted from one bank and not credited until its arrival at another, no matter how long that takes.4

Which means the "central bank" isn't a bank so much as it is a clearing house — and a policy maker

Which sounds a lot like the U.S. Federal Reserve, doesn't it? It would likely stand outside government oversight, too. And if we're really lucky, it's run by a combination of the Rothschild family and the descendants of the Knights Templar.

1When's the last time you even LOOKED at the signatures on any form of currency carrying one? The trust hasn't been in the individuals for centuries. Maybe even millennia. We trust the institutions (like governments) that issue the currency. But those dang signatures are still there. Old habits die hard.

2And thus audits were born. Because those respectable people aren't always as respectable as one might think....

3Which sounds a lot like "system lords" and should be treated with just as much fear and loathing.

4Which means the transmission can be intercepted! Woo-hoo! Intergalactic train robbery! The new Manga to be available on Japanese bookstore shelves next week!


JBH has given a great answer, but there's an additional aspect I'd like to cover, which is the role currency actually serves in an economy - it's a measuring stick.

Economies exist because people put effort into producing things that contribute to the society. One of the holdovers of this whole pesky organic evolution thing we're a product of is that we all need to consume stuff. Air? No problem. It's everywhere. Water? becoming more of an issue, especially clean water, so those who clean it or source it from clean places trade their effort to contribute for the things they don't have, like a sandwich or a seat on a plane between Los Angeles and Sydney.

But, how do we judge the relative merits of the contribution made by a bottle of clean water, a sandwich and a ride in an aeroplane? Money. This is why printing money leads to inflation - essentially if you say every meter is now two metres, everything you're measuring is twice as long.

So; arguably, the difference your wormholes make to international exchanges is no different really to that which ships made in the 1700s; different locations are going to have different supluses and shortages, and therefore the relative value of these items is going to be different, hence the need for local currency.

I'd therefore argue that your localised planets or zones will end up creating their own currency in short order, which would actually serve to stabilise their contribution to the galactic economy in any event by making their own local currency a commodity that is subject to a supply and demand curve.


The most logical solution would be to adopt a decentralized ledger system with a periodic synchronization plan.

Have your transactions handled primarily locally without the need to directly interact with a centralized ledger system before a transaction can be considered complete, or at least 'complete enough' for day to day work.

If I'm working on a newly settled planet, then there is little need for me to care about the day to day trades for coffee and lunch on another newly settled planet on the far side of the known habitable universe... I don't need to know that Joe bought a coffee with his money thirty seconds ago, and he doesn't need to know I did the same as well.

Your banking nodes become part of your communication nodes - The gate gets a communication node to collect data from the nearby planets and periodically pass that through the gate, but the planet needs communication equipment as well if it wants to talk to the gate in the first place...

So the planet side communication nodes get to have their own copy of the banking node that would collect and sync data, and those could handle the actual local transactions: They don't need to contact the gate or the network beyond to complete a local transaction to pay for your lunch, the system would process the trades happening locally, then forward those on into the larger network in bigger chunks.

No one needs to setup a new bank branch, as the functionality just gets built into the standard communication equipment that they're going to want to bring along anyway.

And you then handle fraud and schemes like paying for stuff from the "same account/wallet" in different systems at the same time the 'old fashioned way' - Audit transactions, and track down the fraudsters.


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