Increasingly, persons travelling beyond their own nation or bloc should consider converting some of their home currency into universal credits. The official title for the currency unit—the Économique Crédit Universel—gives rise to its many short-hand nicknames: the ‘ecu’ (used primarily in the European Union), the ‘uni’ (the preferred form in global slang references), and the ‘credit’ (the most common form of reference).
The credit originated as an informal currency translation script in 2085. At that time, most of off-Earth bases and colonies were not single-nation or even single-bloc facilities. Since space exploration was extremely expensive, the establishment of permanent habitations usually involved an international effort. Later, even when the costs of space travel and colonization dropped, it was safer if all the blocs built their bases fairly close to—or as extensions of—each other.
Consequently, as these communities grew and matured, there were many off-earth communities of a few thousand people, but each populated by contingents from up to twenty or thirty different nations, each with their own currencies, all trying to engage in commercial transactions with each other.
The currency exchange problems quickly proved to be insurmountable, and so, starting on the moon, a collective of financial managers created an index that allowed a fast conversion between currencies by using a common unit of valuation, or a “translation” currency. This common unit—the Universal Economic Unit (this is its anglophone rendering; its French title is the official one)—was pegged roughly between the US dollar and the Euro.
In recent years, there has been clear movement among some blocs to adopt the credit not merely as a translational tool, but as their standard currency. Although interest in this model remains guarded in most blocs (and decidedly unwelcome in the DWC), the TOCIO bloc has begun the process of making an eventual conversion to the credit as recognized currency not just in its off-world settlements, but among it many diverse Earthside member states.
This is a particularly attractive solution for TOCIO, since the polyglot currency chaos among its many member-states could be swiftly resolved by supplanting the plethora of national currencies with one monetary standard. It would also, in the long run, work to disincline states from considering changing bloc affiliations once they have converted to the credit: once a national currency is surrendered by a wholesale conversion into credit-based valuation, nationally-isolated fiscal accounting becomes compromised, since the value of the credit (and thus, the economic fate of a nation) is linked to the total economy of the bloc.
If this is the subtle “stick” associated with adoption of the credit in the TOCIO bloc, the counterbalancing carrot is quite obvious. The credit, which would be floated as an openly traded currency, would represent a step up for most of the TOCIO bloc. Traditionally “weaker” nations would suddenly find their transactions and worth to be based on a “solid” or “market standard” currency, rather than their own untraded monetary units. Also, as the first bloc to adopt the credit, TOCIO would arguably be “buying into this currency” at a discount, since the implicit value of the credit will rise as more nations or blocs adopt it as an official currency.
Naturally, there are complex monetary policy matters surrounding how best to track the fluctuation of national currencies, or intra-bloc exchange notes, in relation to the ecu. Ultimately, many economists claim the credit could emerge as a global currency, since, with the more confidence it accrues, the more likely it is to encourage hoarding. By holding reserves of a truly universal currency, a nation can protect itself against a localized recession. This is because the value of the credit would be based on global indicators and trade balances, not local conditions. The logical result of this would be increased attractiveness of a more conservative monetary policy, in which the value of national holdings as hedges against market recessions or other downturns would remain a constant incentive, rather than fluctuating with the fate of the country itself.
Logically, the tendency to retain large cash reserves would also reduce deficit spending, since nations would now find it far more attractive to save money over long periods of time, rather than spend it when the values of its own currency happen to rise above others to advantageous highs. According to a growing number of fiscal analysts, the widespread adoption of the credit could ultimately ensure the stability of the world economy.
If that is the case, then when, as a traveller, you register a transaction in credits, you may well be spending what many people are calling “the dollar (or euro, ruble, yen) of the future.” Either way, space-bound travellers are wise to carry credits: the most recognized, and preferred, currency of all off-Earth communities.