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16 June 2005

The Cashless Society

By way of a conversation betwixt The Antagonist and a very dear friend, the topic happened upon the notion of a society without cash, its implications, and whether or not such a thing could ever occur.

Said dear friend stated that the notion of a cashless society was beyond comprehension until The Antagonist pointed out the following:
  • No cash ever changes hands when salaries are paid by bank transfer, or cheque.
  • No cash ever changes hands when standing orders and direct debits transfer funds to pay for the likes of mortgages and rent; water, electricity and gas bills, along with other frivolities like gym memberships, satellite TV and Internet access.
  • No cash ever changes hands with credit card purchases and, earlier this year, credit card purchases in the UK exceeded cash purchases for the first time ever.
  • No cash ever changes hands when you use your permanent ticket to ride on public transport.
  • No cash ever changes hands when you purchase things online.
And there are countless other ways in which we can and do interact with the already existing cashless society on a daily basis, if we choose to see them for what they are rather than conveniences.

In reality, we're not terribly far from an entirely cashless society, to the point where most payments in the UK are now no longer rely on the transfer of physical tokens, but the modification of arbitary numbers on bank and credit-card company owned computers and networks.

The point of all this? Ultimately, the gradual removal of society's dependence on the tokens we still occasionally use in order to obtain goods and services from each other.


This makes cash and credit management far easier to control for those that run these systems as it reduces the need for banks and governments to concern themselves with the whereabouts of all the millions of bits of paper and metal that we can all currently freely exchange, without having to be accountable to anyone for it.

It also removes the need to worry about counterfeit money, cash-transactions that avoid tax, and any transactions that could be vaguely considered 'illegal' under the plethora of ever-increasing laws over which mere citizens have almost no control.

When the tokens we can freely exchange between each other are replaced entirely by electronic transactions on bank computers, every single transaction will be monitored, non-repudiable and, ultimately, taxable at whatever rate those that we allow to decide these things for us choose.

Luckily, there is still a choice. The question is whether or not this choice will be acknowledged by sufficient numbers before it's too late.

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