Cashless Society? No Thanks

Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco
October 25, 2014

Every day one hears about the impending demise of physical cash – the dirty coins and banknotes that our grandfathers used for everyday transactions, and some filthy criminals still use today – and the upcoming transition to a cashless society. To us geeks that seems initially a good idea – more virtual, more wired, more connected, more cyber – but then one has second thoughts. Cashless society? I say NO, thanks. Not yet.

Sweden Leads in Cashless Transactions

Cashless as they intend it means 24/7 surveillance. It’s a tool of Big Brother. If you have doubts, let me lay them to rest for you: every payment with credit cards, mainstream payment systems like PayPal, Western Union, is instantly monitored, placed in a database, and made available to the government and to countless spammers who will use the information – what you bought, when and where – to scam you into buying more and more useless things.

Except cash. If you pay in cash, you are truly anonymous and untraceable.

It’s no wonder, then, that governments want to limit and in the long run eliminate the use of cash. There are already regulations in place to force merchants to ask for your official id, and file it, for cash purchases above a certain amount. It seems evident that this trend will continue, and the ceiling for anonymous cash transactions will decrease until you are forced to show your id at McDonalds. Then, they’ll eliminate cash altogether.

If your payment at McDonalds is traced, you will be in the list of bad people who eat too much salt and saturated fat, and drink sugary sodas from big mugs, contrary to the recommendations of the benevolent health zealots. Remember that Bloomberg wanted to eliminate big sodas from New York – the plan was rejected as unconstitutional, but we must keep watching because I am afraid they would abandon the Constitution rather than giving up control freakery. If your name is on that list, your health insurance company might raise your premium or cancel your policy altogether, and the government might place you on a watch list (if you ignore their benevolent health advice, chances are that you support terrorists as well). Dystopian science fiction? Sadly, I don’t think so.

I prefer cash, and I will continue to use it wherever I can, for as long as I can.

Bitcoin Is E-Cash

Sooner or later, they will eliminate cash altogether. But when that happens, I hope Bitcoin will have taken permanent hold as anonymous, untraceable electronic cash.

So I think we are in a race against time: by the time they eliminate cash, we must make Bitcoin ubiquitous, accepted by anyone anywhere, true universal e-cash as it was always meant to be.

There are encouraging signals that Bitcoin is going mainstream: new quasi-mainstream Bitcoin banks like Circle are emerging, and there are indications that governments and financial institutions are warming up to cryptocurrencies. That is good, and a necessary step toward universal acceptance of Bitcoin, but it comes at a price: mainstream means regulated by the government.

Therefore, I think we must protect and foster the Bitcoin underground. Besides Circle, Bitcoin-friendly banks and credit cards, and government-sanctioned options to pay taxes and parking tickets in Bitcoin, underground networks of anonymous and untraceable cryptopayments based on altcoins (e.g. Darkcoin) and anonymizers (or, after yesterday, privacy-oriented sidechains), must continue to exist.

What do you think? Comment below!

Images from Shutterstock.

Tags: Cashprivacy
Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco

Science writer, software developer, Bitcoin/crypto enthusiast.