Living without ever using any physical money is already possible in many places. But it has at least two big drawbacks, that most people do not seem to see at all.

A 100% cashless society would be great. Except for a couple of things /img/cashless-or-not.jpg

The first problem with a cashless life is that it leaves you, from a certain point of view at least, with literally nothing to hide. Every expense you make, no matter how small, is instantaneously recorded. Please do not answer:

“So what? I have nothing to hide”

That argument is dumb in general, but even dumber from this point of view. If everything you buy and where you buy it is stored in one place, whoever gains access to it can discriminate against you, in ways that you may never even notice (example: making you pay a just a bit more than others when you shop online, because your file shows that you can afford it, or that you regularly buy certain medicines).

You cannot spend YOUR money as YOU like

The second, maybe even more serious argoment against going totally cashless is perfectly represented in a real tweet by @AnooBhu:

“It’s happened: 3 of my bank accounts been frozen, without sending me any prior information.”

If you only give or receive money through digital payment systems, you give whoever controls those systems the power to decide which of your “suppliers” gets your money first. If that doesn’t seem a big deal, consider any variation fo this scenario:

  • you only have 100 Euros left in the bank
  • your monthly car payment of 80 Euros is due today
  • your seriously sick daughter needs 80 Euros of medicines today
  • (alternative: to have a chance of getting that job you so desperately need, you absolutely need to spend some 50 Euros today, between gas and a new dress, to look professional and be there early tomorrow morning)

If you had those 100 Euros in cash, you would surely use them as any other sensible and honest person would: buy the medicines, or the gas and dress today, and the hell with the car payment. You’ll pay that with the due interests next week.

In a cashless society, instead, the bank will have locked, and handed to the car company, 80 of those Euros before you have any chance to do what matters the most with them.

The equivalent of today’s cash must remain available

And the most likely candidate of that payment method, that still has all the convenience of cashless payments is alternative digital currencies. The more the better, possibly at different levels: city-money for local payments, international alternatives otherwise. Of course, the several systems must be actually interoperable, i.e. you must be able to move your “digital cash” among them and your bank as you want, at the smallest possible cost.

What technology should we use, you ask? As far as I am concerned, that answer can wait (and the *chain word is already way overused). The first step to get there is to acknowledge what are the real reasons to not eliminate any form of what we call “cash” today.