Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Throw your cash in the bin!

Rapid Advance To Cashless Society And Digital Control

Society has come a long way since the days of barter to the era of coins followed by paper currencies, and now banks and governments around the world stand ready to take the next step: eliminating cash altogether. 

People increasingly rely upon direct deposit of wages, credit cards and now electronic payment services offered by such companies as Google and Apple, but could the cash point machine and cash itself disappear altogether in the coming years? 

Imagine a world in which you cannot hold a dollar bill in your hand and may only send or receive money with permission of a bank.

The reasons often given to eliminate cash are to disrupt criminal transactions, cut off funding to terrorism, stop tax evasion and of course, to save on the costs to banks and governments. 

Following the money has been a time-honored tactic, from Al Capone who was brought down for tax evasion to the bombings by the United States of cash stockpiles held by the Islamic State. 

Soon that will be only a click away for the corporate-controlled Surveillance State.

For England, in 2015 cash was used in less than half of all transactions which should not be a surprise after a new poll revealed more than two thirds of Brits and three quarters of Londoners think that cash will be a thing of the past in just 20 years.  

The poll carried out by the Mayor of London's PR company, London & Partners, shows that 68% of people think that cashless technologies will completely replace physical money by 2036. 

The figure is even higher in London, which has seen the greatest rise in the use of contactless payments thanks to the technology's presence on the public transport network.

It was only a few years ago that The Payments Council advanced the proposal of eliminating checks. The Council reversed its position due to popular opposition, but it isn't likely to be the last such proposal.

Elsewhere, the move to eliminate cash is a seemingly inevitable trend.

Norway's largest bank, DNB, proposed as recently as 2015 to stop using cash throughout the country. DNB Executive Trond Bentestuen is quoted as saying, "Today, there is approximately 50 billion kroner in circulation and Norges Bank can only account for 40% of its use. That means that 60% of money usage is outside of any control. We believe that is due to under-the-table money and laundering." 

For those in power, the assumption that what the bank doesn't directly control must be used for crime is a convincing argument for greater control. The Nordea Bank of Norway stopped accepting cash in November, 2015.

Sweden and Denmark are closer to the goal of a cashless society and both governments and banks have made their intentions clear. Michel Busk-Jepsen, the executive director of the Danish Bankers Association, recently stated that , "A cashless society is no longer an illusion but a vision that can be fulfilled within a reasonable time frame." 

In Denmark, cash has been replaced by a combination of credit cards and mobile payment services. One such service that allows payments between individuals as well as in stores is Danske Bank's MobilePay and it's now used by 40% of the population. In Sweden, cash transactions represent no more than 2% of all economic activity.

India's PM, Narendra Modi, has also come out in support of replacing cash with digital payment platforms. Combating black market activity is a justification echoed elsewhere, but rarely has it been said so clearly, "If all of us adopt this, then we won't need cash or currency. It will be a dent on underhand dealings in business. There will be transparency, influence of black money will lessen."

Yet the dark side of currency controls is not difficult to find either. Venezuela did not officially ban cash, yet a combination of hyperinflation, currency exchange controls and the requirement to present biometric ID for all transactions has had a similar effect. 

The notes that can be withdrawn from a cash point are insufficient for the most basic needs and political opponents of the central government have seen their transaction privileges revoked, leaving them unable to buy even food. 

It would not be paranoid to think of this as a foreshadowing of the book of Revelation in which the leader's mark of allegiance grants or revokes privileges of commerce, "and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

The dangers of totalitarian control are real, but so are the threats of hackers, power grid failure and the ease with which governments can confiscate digital currency in times of crisis. 

Many in the financial sector also foresee negative interests rates on the horizon, but without the option to withdraw one's money, we may all soon pay the bank the privilege of holding our money, a move applauded by governments as a measure to increase consumer spending and stimulate economies.

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