Governments the world over have been fighting a stealth war on cash for more than a decade.
Here in Australia, the Black Economy Taskforce has led the charge.
There have been proposals to ban the $100 note and even the $50 note. Cash transactions of over $10,000 have already been banned. As well as any cash transactions for scrap metal in Victoria. And there are still efforts to put expiration dates on your bank bills. As well as nanotech implants that could track your cash via satellite.
If cash were successfully banned, it would give governments full control and oversight over your finances. That could include implementing negative interest rates to spur the economy. The bank would take some of your digital cash savings away from you each month.
With this in mind, the latest news out of San Francisco is heartening.
Avoiding a discriminating reality
As reported by AP, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have voted on brick-and-mortar stores having to accept cash as payment. The city has now joined Philadelphia and New Jersey in a bid to ban cashless stores across the US.
The main reason for the initiative is the fact that paperless payments can be discriminating against low-income earners who may not have a credit card.
Board member Vallie Brown, who introduced the legislation, believes it ‘will go far in ensuring all San Franciscans have equitable access to the city’s economy’.
She brought up the troubling reality that someone may not be able to buy a sandwich if they didn’t have a credit card. This includes young people, immigrants, homeless people, and even those who have experienced ID theft or who have had their purse stolen.
The ‘tenner’ you keep in your sock may be entirely useless to you, should the paperless movement take over.
For those where digital cash isn’t an option
It appeared to be an easy vote for the board, who work hard to lessen the city’s gaping wealth gap.
Granted, the tech savvy who are flocking to San Francisco in order to find their place in one of Silicon Valley’s finest — Facebook, Google, Uber and the like — are likely to favour card over cash. Or even phone over cash, nowadays.
But for the 4,000 who sleep on the streets of the city each night, an active bank account is well out of reach.
What’s more, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 17% of African American households and 15% of Latino households don’t have bank accounts.
There may also be a pocket of people who willingly choose cash over card to avoid leaving a digital trail — cybersecurity does need to be taken seriously, after all.
How did this revolution begin?
This paperless ban is also being introduced in New York City.
It all started with last year’s rollout of cashless Amazon Go stores. These stores had customers scan an app for entry, where any items the customer took were automatically tallied and deducted from their credit card.
Kind of spooky, when you think about it. And apparently, many agreed.
Last month, Amazon succumbed to public pressure and agreed to accept cash in over 30 of their Go stores. Earlier this week, the first cash-accepting store opened in a high-end NYC shopping mall.
Hopefully this will be a given, rather than an exception for future stores.
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