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Cashless Society – War On Cash to Benefit Gold?

GoldCore  |  by Jan Skoyles, Editor Mark O’Byrne

Cash is the new “barbarous relic” according to many central banks, regulators, and some economists and there is a strong, concerted push for the ‘cashless society’.

Developments in recent days and weeks have highlighted the risks posed by the war on cash and the cashless society.

The Presidential campaign has been dominated for months and again this week by the power of information that has been gathered through unconventional means – whether due to email hacks, leaked microphone tapes or even late-night twitter rants.

Both presidential candidates have got things to say when it comes to the gathering of information and both are for it. Hillary Clinton sees a thin line between national security and your personal privacy. Donald Trump has openly said that he is open to mass surveillance and as he puts it, putting the country before personal liberty.

cashless_society

Neither candidate is afraid to say that they support information snooping and gathering for the sake of national security. In the ‘punch and judy’ show that has been the U.S. election, important financial and economic matters have been eschewed in favor of salacious allegations regarding alleged sexual advances etc.

Access to your information is one thing, it is how it is read and what is done with it that is pertinent. In a cashless society information replaces cash. How that information is interpreted is entirely subjective and the chances of any recourse when someone has misread your cash transaction seem to be increasingly slim.

Trump_&_Clinton

This information gives more power to unaccountable banks and corporations. It removes power and liberty from individuals and small to medium enterprises.

Opinion is divided among economists and there are many economists who share our concerns about the risks of the cashless society.

One such economist is Doctor Constantin Gurdgiev.  Dr. Gurdgiev is the Professor of Finance (Visiting) at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California. He was previously Adjunct Professor of Finance with Trinity College, Dublin, worked as editor of Ireland’s Business and Finance magazine and was a non-executive member of the Investment Committees of GoldCore. Here is his view regarding the risks of a cashless society:

“Central banks, Governments and regulatory authorities are too often keen to highlight the benefits of the cashless society, e.g. efficiency and speed of transactions, ease of compliance and reporting, etc. However, the same agencies promoting cashless society evolution never mention the downsides or costs associated with creating a market structure in which private transactions become fully public through electronic trace-ability and centralised storage of information.

In most basic terms, cashless society removes anonymity of using cash in private transactions, such as gifts, small transfers and small private payments in transactions not involving use of public resources, e.g. tips. Other key drawbacks of cashless payments systems is that they de facto undermine the key role of money as a store of value. Electronic accounts can and will be bailed in (expropriated) by the Governments.

Cash and monetary assets, such as gold, cannot be expropriated or bailed-in as long as they are held in physical form and under proper storage. Cashless accounts amplify the importance of monetary assets, such as gold, in fulfilling the function of being safe havens against systemic risks – risks that are associated with high probability of Government expropriation.

Finally, cashless / electronic accounts represent a significant, and ever expanding in scope and size threat of cyber attacks and cyber crime. Here too, monetary assets, such as physical gold, offer both hedge and a safe haven opportunities to protect wealth.

Governments’ push toward electronic accounts and transactions is ultimately driven by the desire of the modern States to exert maximum control over private wealth and incomes. The only forms of protection against such policies that individual investors and savers have today are gold, silver and platinum held as a part of well-diversified and legally protected portfolios.”

How Close Are We To the Cashless Society?

There is little denying it, we are edging closer and closer every year. Here are some key facts

  • In the UK over half of all payments in 2015 were cashless
  • Many EU countries have capped the amount that can be legally paid in cash
  • In India a radio address from Prime Minister Modhi urged citizens to stop using cash
  • In Kenya about a quarter of it’s GNP is through mobile payments app M-Pesa
  • In the U.S. the economist Kenneth Rogoff’s latest book ‘The Curse of Cash’ has put the quest to reduce cash firmly on the agenda of many central banks and governments.

Why the sudden strive to eliminate coins and more importantly paper money or cash? Is it environmental? Of course not. There environmental benefit of eliminating cash use is absolutely minimal.

cashless_table

Rather, it is to do with government control and distrust of markets and individual freedom and it is to do with uber Keynesian economics and corporatism which supports banks and large corporations at the expense of the individuals, small and medium size enterprises and the wider society.

However, it is presented under the guise of efficiencies and crime-fighting. Central bankers and governments state a cashless society, or even just currency controls, will help to drive out criminal activity, money laundering and tax evasion, all whilst saving the economy time and money.

But really, as you’ll see, there’s little real benefit to society in reducing the physical cash we have available. Aside from the cash management and cyber security aspect, you need to ask what’s in it for the banks and governments and to also consider how it’s dangerous and creates unappreciated risks when you don’t get to choose how you spend and hold your wealth.

How is the cashless society coming about?

Right now a number of governments, fintech entrepreneurs and economists have declared that we should move to a cashless society. Being told how we can spend our money is always an emotive topic, but now that going cashless is actually happening in the background of a struggling financial system, it is proving to be a real threat to our very sovereignty and freedom.

Cashless has been legitimized in the minds of the electorate by the rise of the trendy industry of ‘fintech’, an industry that I am normally proud to be associated with. Like all new technological movements the intention is to improve systems, economies and the standard of living, but at the same time they can be misused, creating suspicion and undesirable consequences.

New technology that changes the status quo is something that will always be met with some resistance and a belief that more harm than good will come from it.

In 1858 people said the transatlantic telegraph was ‘too fast for the truth.’ In 1904 The Times accused the telephone of creating a ‘race of left-eared people—that is, of people who hear better with the left than with the right ear’! In 1994 the same paper asked if the internet had been ‘overhyped’.

Prior to fintech, which has expanded the means in which we can spend money day-to-day, it was not practical (either physically or financially) to suggest society no longer use physical cash when spending. But in a world seeking financial efficiencies and where there are officially more mobile devices in the world than people, it is not surprising that there are devices and apps to make your money easier to manage, spend and invest popping up throughout the world.

The cashless society is unlikely to become an official thing i.e. cash is unlikely to be suddenly outlawed overnight. More likely, is that cash will be made so inconvenient that people will first live with less cash. But slowly but surely we may find ourselves (and the societies we live in) cashless – like a frog in a pot of cold water slowly coming to the boil.

Efficient to be cashless?

Like all technological developments, we are encouraged to adopt them as it will vastly improve our lives/save money/protect our grandchildren/cure cancer etc. So, is this the case with going cashless?

Cash does obviously cost money. In 2015 the Danish government ruled that businesses were no longer obligated to accept cash payments. The ‘aim’ was to reduce costs of managing and securing money whilst on the premises. Whether you assess the time you spend waiting at the ATM, the cost of transporting the money between banks and businesses or even the cost to count it.

 

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