People ask what is wrong with a cashless economy, and they have a point. It’s a practical, cleaner alternative to the slow and dated concept of cash, making it easier to carry out and keep tabs on monetary transactions.
But there’s a catch. Cashless means digital, and digital is a ghost. Here now, gone in an instant, faster than a fire burning the cash down, or lifting it from a vault. We’re talking nanoseconds. Digital time.
Digital money, in other words, is almost magical. Not just promissory like a note, but truly incorporeal, subject to the codes and algorithms, firewalls and processors of any electronic database. It takes up less space in every way, meaning that it’s a reach too far (from human grasp).
But it’s always within reach of its handlers.
I ask the champions of a cashless economy: Do you see a problem with this arrangement?
They say: Sure, but the benefits outweigh the costs.
Like the benefits of cutting down a bunch of liberties to gain more security? I ask, mixing it up.
Yes, respond some of them (the fanatic and jingoist and not so well educated — as well as the far too well educated, the ones whose education is a means to indecency and greed).
No, say the ones who get the analogy, cognizant of the point but nevertheless unswayed. This, they say, is a matter of practicality. To reach greater heights of progress we have to upgrade the economy’s apparatus. Just like we had to ditch the barter system for a currency system; just like we had to exchange wheelbarrows and scythes for steam engines and combustion engines and robots and automation to accommodate our knowledge and facilitate progress. Cash is a remnant of the past. It may feel strange at first to ditch it for a digital alternative, just like it felt weird to transition from letters to the telex and from there to the telephone, but it has to go.
To which I say to them: This is all well and good, and I agree with the principle, but here’s another viewpoint. Imagine for a moment your family pictures, the ones you took over the decades. Precious, aren’t they?
Part 2 to follow