The launch of the first bitcoin-focused exchange-traded fund last week proves crypto bulls need to meet John Law. The Scottish gambler, economist and financier is likely why so few top French banks have Banque in their name. Instead, there is Crédit Agricole, Société Générale and Crédit Mutuel. Law’s Banque Générale, later renamed Banque Royale, issued bank notes out of thin air, then royally blew up in 1720 and destroyed the French economy. The reputation of French banks has never fully recovered.
Law’s connections gave him exclusive rights to trade between France and its Louisiana Territory. The Mississippi Co. was funded by selling new shares of Banque Générale that could be paid for with bank notes issued by—wait for it—Banque Générale. Shares took off, rising from 500 livres to 10,000 livres from January to December 1719. Soldiers had to be sent in to keep order in the frenzied financial district.