Would a cashless society be good or bad?

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cashless, hands holding cell phone and a credit card

Advanced technology adds convenience and comfort to many aspects of life. It also enables nothing-short-of-miraculous things to take place, such as remote surgery! In the 1980s, pop icon Madonna let us all know we were living in a “material” world. I feel like someone should do a sequel song that swaps “material” for “digital”. In the ever-evolving landscape of modernity, there are whisperings that we might soon be living in a cashless society.

Is that good or bad? I know what I think, but what do you think? Two-thirds of American cash holdings exist in countries outside the United States. The amount of actual-factual cash circulating globally typically increases approximately 7% per year, says President of the Security Technologies Group at Crane Currency, Eric Ziegler. Regardless what the rumor mill is churning, it isn’t likely that the United States will become cashless anytime soon. However, there is a group of people in this country and on international soils who very much want this to happen.

Going cashless might have benefits

cashless, back of one dollar bill

It’s difficult for us to imagine what life on earth was like before cash notes and coins existed. It’s also tough to picture a totally cashless society now that we have had our existing system of currency since 1690. That’s when the first government-authorized paper money was circulated from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Consider the following list of possible benefits that could come from eliminating cash as a means of currency:

  • No more losing cash or sending it through the washing machine!
  • Possible reduction in crime since there would be no cash to steal
  • Reduction in costs of depositing, handling and storing paper money
  • Perhaps more convenient to be cashless when traveling internationally

A group of researchers studying the possible effects of a cashless society noted an interesting finding. The state of Missouri switched from cash welfare benefits to Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, and guess what happened? Missouri had a nearly 10% drop in its crime rate!

A cashless lifestyle could have significant downsides

man's legs wearing blue jeans and brown shoes, hand holding folded cash bills

Using cash for financial transactions enables a great amount of anonymity. Think about it. Unless someone photographs you holding paper money that shows the serial number, it’s nearly impossible to trace a specific note back to you. Even with a photograph as evidence, it merely shows you indeed held that note at some point. It doesn’t necessarily prove you made a specific transaction. In a cashless society, there would be more of a “paper” (albeit, a digital one) trail following everyone’s financial transactions. Is that a benefit or not? This next list shows additional potential downsides of going cashless:

  • Lots more stuff for hackers to steal
  • Tedious and stressful to restore your financial status if you suffer a breach
  • Loss of jobs for those who work depositing, handling and storing notes and coins
  • Trouble accessing funds if power goes out or technology glitches
  • Major challenges for people who don’t own credit cards or have bank accounts
  • Fees for processing electronic transactions
  • No cash on hand for emergencies if electronic access is denied

Let’s not forget people who live on the fringes of poverty. Millions of people make their way in the world on the little bit of cash they have in their pockets. They have jobs. They may rent homes or apartments. Such people try their best to make ends meet. However, they don’t have bank accounts or credit cards.

A cashless society would make it nearly, if not totally impossible for people in this category to survive. Also, what about kids? Would each child need an electronic banking system? How could an elderly neighbor, for instance, pay a kid $20 for mowing a lawn? Imagine how challenging life would be for the elderly! I know how stressed my 92-year-old mother feels just trying to work a new TV remote. Is it fair to ask our elderly population to learn how to navigate a cashless society?

Who is it that wants a society with no cash?

cashless, Barack Obama speaking into microphone

Why is there a push to get consumers to shift to digital commerce? Some say it’s because cashless-ness is much easier to track, to monitor, to confiscate funds, to control. Who is it, though, that wants this power? Many people believe it’s “Big Brother”– the government.

The “advertisement” for going cashless is played and replayed over and over again. It tells consumers that it’s the best way to catch bad guys such as drug dealers, tax evaders — even, terrorists. Those who oppose a no-cash society, as well as those who distrust government, say that’s a ploy. In fact, they say, government and others (i.e. Big Pharma and those who dream of a One World Order) want to take away your cash so they can control you. In spite of that, many people are jumping on board. They say the convenience of GPS, cell phones and other tracking devices outweighs the inconvenience of allowing outside entities to know where they are, what they’re buying or what they’re talking about in “private” conversations.

What do you think? Is a cashless society a good or bad thing? Do you believe we’re headed that way in the United States? Share your thoughts us.



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