INDEX Saturday November 27, 2021
Cash & coins to be abolished?
One of the many revolutions to have occurred over the past couple of years is the effective replacement of cash by cards. On the whole this is a great idea since carrying cash was always a dodgy thing to do and it is easier to track what you are spending your money on if all transactions have to appear on a bank statement.

But there are drawbacks. As Edward Snowden, currently exiled in Russia, pointed out: all card transaction can be (and routinely are) monitored by the secret state.

A cash free society would make fraud, robbery and a host of other crimes the tabloids try to terrify you with, totally impossible. Since every single unit of currency would be traceable, the only people who could be financial criminals would be the politicians.

It would also make any hitherto secret passtime involving the transaction of cash, totally transparent. If you are too embarrassed about something you pay for, to want your family or your employer to know about it, you have only one choice. Don't do it. And those cash in hand transactions designed to fool the tax collector, would have to move to some form of barter!

You may think the cash free world is a generation or so away, but as Dorothy remarked in The Wizard of Oz (strangely also, allegedly, a treatise about monetary policy) 'people come and go so quickly here'. China is already working towards a notes and coins free society. It may be only months away.

When Bitcoin slouched towards Bethlehem to be born, it was envisaged that this would make it easier for drug dealers, crooks and pornographers, since they would be able to go about their business without any intervention of the state. Well maybe, but Bitcoin and other forms of Monopoly money, seem to have become the home for speculators and the numerically illiterate.

Perhaps Bitcoin will survive; after all tax dodging billionaires are going to need to do something with their ill gotten gains. But I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday November 27, 2021 Jonathan Brind