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    Connecting the Pieces

    Is the World Moving to a Cashless Society a Positive Development?

    Connecting The Pieces
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    Jay Johnson
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    Denmark and Sweden have almost moved to a cashless society. The rest of the West is close behind. But the convergence of big business, banking and government has many worried. Cash represents freedom and anonymity, while governments are passing laws that strip citizens of these basic rights.

    The man was flying on international flight from Europe to America, on an American airline. With more than 10 hours to go to get to his place, he asked the air stewardess if she would bring him an alcoholic drink. She responded that it would be a certain sum, which was more expensive than it should have been but since the man was, as economists call it, a captive audience, he agreed. Upon receiving the drink, he attempted to pay with Federal Notes, also known as dollar bills or greenbacks. The flight attendant recoiled in horror. “Oh, we don’t accept cash” she said, “and haven’t for some time now. Do you have a credit or debit card?” The man proceeded to pull out his wallet and handed her his plastic while thinking to himself, “Although it is written on the dollar bill – this note is good for all debts public and private- at what point in time did cash literally become worthless?”

    The move to a cashless society is well underway. According to Denmark’s Central Bank, “Danish customers have already moved away from metal and paper money.” Furthermore, last year Denmark’s Central Bank decided that it would no longer print banknotes and coins. As a result, local media in Denmark has recently reported that stores could begin rejecting cash on January 1, 2016, if a government proposal is approved.

    Other countries are seeing similar trends. The Independent recently noted that — “In Sweden, four out of five purchases are made electronically, either by debit or credit.” CNBC noted that — “In Sweden, only 3 percent of transactions are made with currency. In fact, the decline in cash use has become so pronounced in Sweden that homeless beggars have been given card readers by Situation Stockholm to sell freely distributed newspapers and to receive alms, since potential donors no longer carry cash.” Huffington Post noted that a survey done for the Bank of Canada suggests — “Canadians are now using cash for fewer than half of their transactions”.

    In many ways, Americans also appear to be moving in a cashless direction as well. Since 2013, U.S. Social Security benefits have been mostly paid through direct deposit or prepaid debit cards. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found 40 percent of all payments made by Americans in a typical month are in cash. Yet, one out of 10 no longer carry paper money on a daily basis. Local media Ksl recently ran a story on this and quoted a woman as saying — "… most of the time I have a debit card. It's pretty standard for me. Usually, I have less than $20 on me at any time.”

    And that is the state of the Western world. The use of cash is on the decline, while the use of digital money is growing. Many pundits are researching this transition. For instance, a study by McKinsey explains that “electronic payments make banking systems more productive and lessen the need for an informal or shadow economy, which isn’t taxed nor monitored by the government.” So, it would seem as if the banking system and governments benefit from the rise of the cashless society due to the transparency of transactions. Banks can add on fees to every minor transaction while governments could collect taxes. But there are also cons. The oldest members of society may not be able to use cards. Negative interest rates or even high fees from banks could eat away at deposits. And the poorest members of society don’t have access to the banking systems and as a result, would become even more dependent on big government.

    However, the real problem with a cashless society lies in the control grid. For instance, CNBC noted that — “in 2010, Visa and MasterCard, bowed to government pressure — not even federal or state law — and banned all online-betting payments from their systems. This made it virtually impossible for these gambling sites to continue operating regardless of their jurisdiction or legality.”

    The article went on to ponder a possible future when it wrote — “It is not too far-fetched to wonder if the day might come when the health records of an overweight individual would lead to a situation in which they find that any sugary drink purchase they make through a credit or debit card is declined.“ That’s right. If your BMI is too high, you can’t buy a Coke, you can only buy water.

    And while that hypothetical scenario is still in the distant future, there is every indication that governments all across the West are becoming more restrictive by passing more and more laws that strip citizens of their basic rights. And that really is the catch. Cash represents freedom and cash represents anonymity. With cash, you are able to purchase what you want, when you want, without “Big Brother” following your every move. As society moves to a digital cashless society, things will become more stratified. Gone are the days when a person will be able to moonlight. Gone are the days when a person will be able to work as a babysitter or a yard worker or even as freelance instructor. And what about the extra money sent via cards on birthdays? A $20 gift voucher at a big box retailer just doesn’t evoke the same emotions.

    Of course, these concerns are small potatoes compared to the bigger issues at hand, such as the fact that a cashless society would give governments unprecedented access to information and power over citizens. It is easy to conceive that an agency such as the NSA would be able to monitor any company or consumer transaction in real time, 24/7.

    The fact that United States government is using “civil forfeiture” more and more, which is basically — “take the cash first and ask questions later” should scare citizens. Remember, the US government is allowed by law to do this, even if it is only government workers who have a suspicion, not proof, of wrongdoing. By seizing a citizen's or a firm's money, the victim/defendant has almost no choice but to settle for pennies on the dollar, since they are basically guilty until proven innocent.

    Taking this all into consideration, CNBC in an article asked readers to — “Imagine a future in which soon, a government staff member could suspect an individual of some misconduct, or perhaps deem that person's politics or speech unacceptable. It would take just a few keystrokes to order all financial institutions to decline any withdrawal or payment from that individual and to transfer any deposits or payments of that person to the government, or at least freeze any access to funds. Perhaps this would need to be reviewed by a secret court that would approve 99.7 percent of all requests, but would provide a veneer of due process. It is fair to think that the targeted individual might starve to death. This could be insured by cutting off access to the payment system of anyone suspected of helping the targeted individual.”

    Now, if that situation sounds strangely familiar, that may be because of a certain bible verse. Revelation 13:17 states — “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark…”

    So, what do you think dear listeners, “Is the world moving to a cashless society a positive development?”

    Tags:
    money, Western Governments, dollar, digital currency, cashless society, plastic cards, Cash, National Security Agency (NSA), West
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