We may be moving a few steps closer to a cashless society, at least if we follow Sweden’s example. (Note; in most things I’m not really in favor of following Sweden’s example. Add this to the list.) Excerpt:
To get a glimpse of the future of commerce in America, look no further than Sweden.
The Scandinavian country is largely a cashless society, with consumers relying on mobile phone payments or plastic. While the U.S. is still far from achieving the same level of cash-free existence, increasing numbers of restaurants and retailers are now snubbing the lowly dollar bill.
Some merchants such as SweetGreen, a salad chain, refuse to open their registers for cash, telling customers they can pay only with mobile payments or cards. With some newer vending machines, only a card or mobile wallet will get that cold Coca-Cola to roll down the chute.
The stance may appear un-American — after all, currency is considered legal tender for all debts or dues — but the Treasury permits private businesses to set their own policies, which means going cashless is fine with Uncle Sam.
It may be fine with Uncle Sam, and will actually have some benefits for taxpayers, as the linked article notes:
Cash isn’t in any danger of disappearing, but maybe it should: The U.S. has much to gain by phasing out cash, according to researchers from Tufts University. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, they noted that the U.S. spends $200 billion each year to keep cash in circulation. (China also has high costs related to reliance on cash, they noted.)
But here’s the problem, if we are going to remain a society that at least pays lip service to the idea of individual liberty: Cash equals privacy.
Let’s say I go up to Denver’s huge Tanner Gun Show, looking for some .45 caliber hard cast bullets for reloading. I can use my bank-issued debit card to pay for those bullets, or I can use cash (cash being the medium of choice at gun shows, at least for smaller purchases like ammo and components). Which one of those purchases leaves a trail?
I’m not paranoid about my ammo or component purchases. In fact I buy most of my components from MidwayUSA, which requires payment with a card and also leaves a record of shipment with UPS. I’m not worried that BATFE is going to come kick down my door because I bought 500 148-grain .358 Speer wad-cutters to run up some target loads for Mrs. Animal’ .357.
But as our government becomes increasingly intrusive and restrictive, cash will increasingly become vital in maintaining any privacy in our personal economic transactions. Absent cash, barter will become more prevalent. As is always the case, government intervention will just drive these kinds of transactions underground.
So no, a cashless society isn’t really all that desirable.