Cash will eventually go away. So will checks. Someday all you will need is a retina scan and a password, or an embedded chip, or something along those lines. Imagine a world where all transactions are digital. I'm not sure we know what's ahead.

For starters, you wouldn't have to prepare your taxes. All of your transactions would be reported to the IRS as they happened. Perhaps you'd have a separate password for business-related transactions to keep things straight.

I wonder how much of the budget deficit could be closed by eliminating the ability for cash businesses to lie on their taxes. It's probably a big number. A cashless world could create a huge shift of the tax burden to lower income folks who currently get paid in cash.

When you eliminate cash, you also eliminate a lot of crime. Criminals need cash to stay off the radar. In a cashless world, drug dealers and crime syndicates could try to set up fake businesses to launder their revenues, but it wouldn't work. Imagine setting up a fake dry cleaner, for example. The government could easily determine whether that business is buying the type and quantity of dry cleaning supplies typically needed, and whether the profit margins are at industry norms. All of that information would be available through the tax records. A drug dealer could pretend to be a consultant, but even then you expect a digital trail for buying printer ink, business travel, and the like. Perhaps the drug dealer's address and educational level would be tip-offs too.

Violent crime will greatly diminish too, because so much of society's violence happens in the context of criminal enterprises that will no longer be profitable or practical.

In the cashless world, you would never need to carry a wallet. You would never need to balance a checkbook or spend an evening paying bills. Many of you have already reached that point. But you'd also never have to drive to an ATM because some caveman paid you with a check, and you'd never need to wait in line behind someone who is paying by check. I can't wait.

Everyone's fear, of course, is that a cashless society is more vulnerable to government tyranny. But realistically, moving from a 95% cashless world, where we probably are today, to 100%, probably doesn't generate that much extra tyranny, unless you're a drug dealer.

There's a privacy issue, too. But as I have argued before, privacy will someday be a quaint footnote in history. When privacy goes away completely, we'll all be freer. There's only a penalty to privacy when your asshole neighbor can look down his nose at your hobbies while secretly masturbating to Field and Stream magazine. The best two situations for society are when you have either complete privacy or complete non-privacy. It's the middle ground that creates problems. That's where we are now.

Kids already have no privacy. Their texting and browsing histories can be monitored. Their locations can be tracked. And if they have a credit card, their purchasing can be tracked. In practice, parents don't take advantage of all the ways they can monitor their teens, but everyone understands that the tools exist. That generation will never have a memory of privacy as their parents knew it.



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Jul 2, 2010
Cash will exist for as long as polticians want to hire hookers...

As a side note the UK is already phasing out Check books, (atiquated things that they are) as usage has dropped below 3% of the national spend.
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Jul 2, 2010
There will always remain those who wish to remain off the radar, for a variety of reasons. Including the poor and irregularly employed (who wish to avoid taxes), criminals, drug dealers and drug purchasers (who wish to avoid detection), and those obsessed with privacy and avoiding government interference in their life as a matter of principle. In the absence of cash, they may well revert to some form of barter.

The barter system will become more sophisicated. Rather than exchanging goods and services for someone else's goods and services, people will start using vouchers and tokens in exchange for what they provide, and use those vouchers and tokens in exchange for stuff they get off other people.

Soon, people will be handing these vouchers and tokens to each other because they have taken on a value in their own right. At this stage we can start calling them bank-notes and coins, since those people using them will have developed their own economy, with its own currency, beyond the control of the banks and the Inland Revenue.

Cash will never die, and if we try to kill it, it will spontaneously re-appear in exactly the places we most wanted to eradicate it from. Like ivy.
Jul 2, 2010
I use mostly plastic, but take away cash, and most people will never know what their account balances really are.
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Jul 2, 2010
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Jul 1, 2010
Actually, I would find dipping into my wallet to pay cash more convenient than having my retina scanned everytime I spend.
Jul 1, 2010
I'm sorry, I won't be happy until I can barter my attention (and the attention of people around me) for a branded product.
Why should I have to pay for Nike shoes, when I'm promoting their brand?
Why should I have to pay for Starbucks, when I'm promoting their brand (as a coffee shield)?

As an alternative to the barter between attention and branding, I'm willing to operate in a society similar to that preference as long as it's not that different.
Jul 1, 2010
LOL re: neighbor masturbation. That was priceless.

I do agree with a few of the comments, though, that crime would not necessarily disappear, or even decrease. I think criminals will just get smarter, and where there's a (criminal) will, there's a way. I'm sure law enforcement thought that with the all the new ways to invade our privacy, crime would decrease. I don't think it has to the extent that they'd hoped. Did the Patriot Act to anything to combat terrorism? Of course not. It just made poor law-abiding American Muslims afraid for their lives.

Jul 1, 2010
Cashless would work as Scott describes it, but there is a major practical problem (as opposed to philosophical problem). The problem is that everything in the world would need an identification code so it could be bought, sold, and transferred. Every apple, every share of stock, every hour of a car mechanic's time, every parcel of land, every month of living in an apartment, and a million things you haven't thought of would need some kind of GUID (programmers know what I'm talking about) because they get bought and sold. You could shortcut that in certain ways, like just transacting from account to account and letting the people or companies on both ends keep track of what was bought and sold. But anything that wasn't registered with a unique code would be fair game for an underground economy of barter or a de facto second currency, or at the least would be vulnerable to theft. And as long as any good or service exists off the grid, so to speak, it's an opportunity for someone to undermine the tax collection and efficiency gains of implementing the system.
Jul 1, 2010
So many of you who are pointing out who Scott is missing the large portion of people who exist without computers or credit cards or whatever, seem to think that time is frozen.
10 Years ago, how many people reading this blog had a computer?
10 years from now many many more people will have computers, and credit cards? A lot, because it will be forced on them by our changing culture. Cashless culture will be driven by people with money and influence who live lives with credit cards and computers and so businesses (and especially banks) will be catering to them. When the small minority of people who are living on cash are costing the banks money, they will lobby the government to get involved and some kind of law will make everyone get into it. (think about what happened with TV).

I don't think Scott is wrong about cashless. I dont' think Crime will will go away, though. Criminals are always going to find a way.
Jul 1, 2010
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Mark of the Beast yet - that usually crops up in these discussions. From The Bible, Revelation 13:

16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Jul 1, 2010
They steal your i-d-e-n-t-i-t-y. Your foul language filter is way out of control!
Jul 1, 2010
I personally think that carrying around pieces of metal and paper in your pocket to pay for things is as out-of-date as paying your doctor bills with a chicken, but I don't see it going away in my lifetime. As far as crime goes, it will always be with us. When you look at the many different ways criminals have come up with to steal !$%*!$%*!$ these days, I just don't see how any technology can be invented that can't be hacked in some way. And anything you carry around with you can be stolen - even your retina pattern (let's hope they don't have to steal your actual retina!).
Jul 1, 2010
I have been hearing people say this for over 20 years. I think it depends on where you live and how things are transacted. Here, any deal I do with another person is always cash, no exceptions, ever. Unless it's a friend, no one will take a check. Many stores out of the city have a $10 or even $20 minimum for electronic payment, otherwise they charge a substantial (and potentially illegal fee). I know many people with no credit cards, no bank accounts and stashes of cash. Some do have a safety deposit box, my guess is, full of cash.

I see to many places with signs that say, no credit cards and no cash. If you live an area and the power and telecomm is out for days or weeks, stores don't have backup generators. A friend who was a victim of identity theft had to live on cash for over a month.

At least where I am you must pay cash for a lottery ticket or scratch off game. I heard someone go off on the store employee earlier this week because they wouldn't take a check for scratch off's, or a credit card and wouldn't give cash back so they could buy a lottery ticket.

Until we come up with a better and more personal way to intrograte electronically exchangedmoney on a personal level that doesn't involve massive skim from a third party, I don't see this happening.
Jul 1, 2010
But what about all the "urban entrepreneurs" standing on the freeway off ramps? Could you beam them a quarter from your iPhone?
Jul 1, 2010
Big Brother is watching you.
Jul 1, 2010
Due to the entrenched need for money laundering and casinos, cash will never go away.

IE: How would politicians get paid off???

As bobman1235 said: "A large swath of the country still doesn't use computers, doesn't use credit cards, and would read this post, if they could find it, and laugh their asses off."

As in why do you, Scott, think Western Union and money orders still exist?
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Jul 1, 2010
It would suck if you were Scott's neighbor and subscribed to Field & Stream. The neighbor must be thinking "How'd he know?"
Jul 1, 2010
So many of your posts, Scott, talk about the inevitability of some paradigm shift of culture. None of them will ever come true. Society is constantly evolving but it's rare that anything ever just goes away. Just because we invented dishwashers doesn't mean the idea of washing dishes in the sink disappeared.

You're a rich, urban American and see the world solely through that viewpoint. A large swath of the country still doesn't use computers, doesn't use credit cards, and would read this post, if they could find it, and laugh their asses off.

We can't get people to stop using wasteful V8 engines despite an energy crisis, we can't adopt the metric system in this country despite the rest of the world already having done it, you really think enough people would EVER agree to drop the idea of cash? Barring a dictatorial uprising where the people have little or no say, or some kind of societal reboot, this will NEVER happen.
Jul 1, 2010
Or, you could eliminate 90% of the crime by legalizing drugs.
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