Myths Behind the War on Cash

The attacks on physical cash from a phalanx of economists, central bankers, commercial banks, and politicians have not diminished in recent years.

– Ronald-Peter Stöferle

On the contrary, in the face of the worldwide increase in terror attacks, particularly in Europe, and ongoing pressure on public budgets, the cash ban issue is increasingly dragged into the spotlight.

In a highly-recommended study entitled “Cash, Freedom and Crime. Use and Impact of Cash in a World Going Digital,” Deutsche Bank Research demolishes numerous popular myths surrounding cash, inter alia in the context of crime and terrorism. Without cash there are no longer bank robberies at gun point, instead there are now electronic bank robberies. Fraud involving credit cards and ATM cards is massively increasing in Sweden, the country considered the pioneer of the cashless society. The argument that adopting a cashless payment system would facilitate the fight against terrorism doesn’t hold water either:

As regards terrorism in Europe, an analysis of 40 jihadist attacks in the past 20 years shows that most funding came from delinquents’ own funds and 75% of the attacks cost in total less than USD 10,000 to carry out — sums that will hardly raise suspicions even if paid by card.

Moreover, many terrorists, particularly if they are prepared to risk their own death, won’t be deterred by prohibitions, just as stricter gun laws have no impact on people who must use unregistered weapons for their crimes. Often, they are unable to get hold of a weapon by legal means anyway if they have a criminal record. Planned terror attacks are as a rule characterized by a meticulous and careful approach. At best a cash ban might make financing of terrorism more difficult (even that is doubtful), but at the price of subjecting the law-abiding peaceful population at large to even more intrusive surveillance.

Legislators have passed additional regulations in the past 12 months which at least restrict the use of cash; bans of high-denomination banknotes (e.g., the 500 euro note) and (lower) thresholds for legal cash payments. There are however also technological developments that are significantly reducing the transaction costs of cashless payments and are therefore making cash comparatively unattractive.

In Sweden, an app called “Swish”  introduced by the country’s leading banks has revolutionized cashless payments. To this point, the app has been downloaded 5.5 million times. In the Scandinavian country only 2% of all payments are settled in cash these days.

Sweden’s central bank expects that this percentage will decline by another three-quarters to 0.5% by the end of the decade. 900 of the 1,600 bank branch offices in the country no longer have any cash in store. …

https://mises.org/library/myths-behind-war-cash

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