Opinion - The Cashless Con was Never about Hygiene

The Celtic Chameleon

The Truth about Cashless Societies

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At the height of the Covid panic, the cashless con was promoted by some in America and around the world under the umbrella of hygiene, safety measures and technological progress.

But it's not all about hygiene or safety.

"The World Health Organization pushed back…on a report that people should beware of cash as coronavirus spreads. "We did NOT say that cash was transmitting coronavirus," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told MarketWatch in an email. "We were misrepresented".

You handle objects others have handled every time you step into a store.

Deal with cash as you do everything else you encounter outside  - continue to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer if you can't - that's a standard hygiene practice, regardless of current circumstances.

Harms Caused By Enforced Cashless Societies

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1. If you're in an abusive relationship, forget about organizing a slush fund to flee, and give up on the hope of organizing financial independence.

If you think there are easy ways around this for most, you don't understand the realities. It's difficult and potentially very dangerous  to try to create a hidden bank account. You run a high risk of being caught, you need apps, you need internet access.

2. Elders and vulnerable people who rely on assistance are forced to give private information such as card PINs, and hand over access to accounts when cashlessness is enforced. Many vulnerable people can't manage the demands of technology, but can manage small amounts of cash which they can access safely from banks.

3. People with physical, cognitive or mental health problems often find using digital services difficult. Forcing this on those who can't negotiate these systems adds a further barrier to being functional in society.

4. Those who experience financial stress often rely on cash to ensure they budget properly.

5. Paying electronically increases spending rates, and lower socio-economic groups simply cannot afford that.

6. Digital fraud will naturally increase.

7. Loss of privacy - it's not just criminals who don't want every detail of their transactions stored by a data provider.

8. Financial exclusion. Reports from Sweden, which has enforced cashless transactions, show that vulnerable people are no longer able to access public transport and essential services - many pharmacists are also enforcing this exclusion.

9. Any problems with the internet or technology quickly leads to a chaotic environment in an enforced cashless society.

There may also be other harms we're not yet aware of.

 Who's Promoting Cashlessness and Why?

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Enforced cashlessness can offer a means to acquire information.

Some don't have concerns over their information being leveraged for various purposes - but it shouldn't be a requirement to hand over private information to simply exist within society.

Every time you tap your card your data is being manipulated.

"Simply put, cash is good for keeping people from prying into our lives, and credit cards are not. That starts with the stores and restaurants where we use them."

Many governments favour of cashless societies

No cash means your Pizza delivery boy can't get your tip without his boss and the government knowing.

Women who work in lower socio-economic jobs -  like nail salon factories - can't hide any of the money they earn from their boss or from tax man.

No cash makes it incredibly difficult to buy anything illegal. Some would say that's a good thing - but that can lead to bartering, which can lead to coerced sex trade practices.

And it also means you can't sell your grandmother's vase on Facebook marketplace without your bank knowing all about it.

It's almost always people in lower socio-economic classes and trades people doing manual work who accept cash payments.

The government wants to put a stop to anyone ever managing to avoid giving them a chunk of what they earn.

Unless they're billionaires, of course.

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Governments worldwide seem content to allow billionaires to pay little tax.

Meanwhile, the prospect of ever-tightening reigns on everyday workers' cash flow is imminent, under the guise of health restrictions, convenience and tech progress.

Poor Business Practice

For businesses who want to offer less service and choice to the customer, enforced financial exclusion is sometimes just a side effect.

But there's simply no doubt - going cashless will lead to further difficulties for many of the most vulnerable citizens.

"The beauty of cash is that it's a direct and simple transaction between all kinds of different people, no matter how rich or poor," explains financial writer Dominic Frisby. "If you begin to insist on cashlessness, it does put pressure on you to be banked and signed up to financial system, and many of the poorest are likely to remain outside of that system. So there is this real danger of exclusion."

Meanwhile in India:

"Some of the poorest street vendors cannot afford card readers, and have struggled to operate payment transfers on their mobile phones…Rickshaw drivers and fish market sellers have been left with no way of accepting payment from middle-class customers now inclined to do everything digitally. "It's senseless to try to make everyone go cashless," says Rodrigues. "The government seems to have lost sight of the plight of the common man."

Ask any homeless person how they'd feel about you offering to drop a couple of dollars into the bank account they don't have - assuming you'd even bother trying.

We may or may not be able to stop the cashless con from eventually being enforced by controlling governments and lazy business owners.

But you should understand what you're losing when you hand over the right to pay in cash.


Further reading:

https://www.valuepenguin.com/credit-cards/credit-card-spending-studies#why https://news.sky.com/story/sky-views-why-we-shouldnt-rush-to-become-a-cashless-society-11770606 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/who-we-did-not-say-that-cash-was-transmitting-coronavirus-2020-03-06 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/who-we-did-not-say-that-cash-was-transmitting-coronavirus-2020-03-06

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