YELLAND: No Internet? No Groceries: The Dangers Of A Cashless America

John Yelland

John Yelland Contributor
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My wife and I recently took our son to the movies. As we walked through the door, I noticed a prominently displayed sign. It said they no longer accept cash as a form of payment.

The screaming, hot-blooded, American eagle in my heart balked at being told what I could and couldn’t do.

Can’t pay with cash?? Ya know what — I’m just gonna cash even harder!

But this made me reflect. First, I bought our tickets online, and second, I intended to buy concessions with my debit card. I was ahead of the cashless curve without even realizing it. A cashless America is already here, and we’re letting it happen.

Why did this sign bother me so much though? Was it just my you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do instinct, or was there something deeper that made me uncomfortable?

In France, it’s illegal to make and accept cash payments larger than €1,000, and in Italy it’s €2,000. This is a global, decades-old trend.

In 2016, India Prime Minister Modi announced that bank notes of ₹500 and ₹1,000 would be removed. Citizens were given 50 days to deposit these bills. One thousand Indian rupees sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It’s about $14 US dollars.

Modi’s justification? Fighting corruption, black markets, and crime.

However, a recent UK-based study found it was actually banks and accounting firms that are the leading facilitators of illegal transfers and funding. The study found that banks are almost twice as likely to be involved in money laundering than cash transactions. 

Given this risk assessment, we should ban banks before cash.

In a cashless society, you don’t have custody of your own money. Wells Fargo or Goldman Sachs does. You can claim that number on your account balance belongs to you, but ultimately your claim only means as much as it can be enforced.

And make no mistake, you are powerless against the likes of J.P. Morgan.

During the 2015 Greek debt crisis, banks imposed a nationwide limit on cash withdrawals to €60 per day. Greeks were prevented from accessing their own money — all in the name of protecting the national economy.

A cashless society provides banks and companies unaccountable and unchecked control over your finances. You will have no choice but to accept their services on their terms.

The effects of this will spill over into social and political realms, as payment providers have already proved they’re perfectly happy to ban customers for speech or political positions.

While a cashless world does seem convenient and efficient, it’s fraught with danger.

With cash you can “go dark.” For example, I can withdraw $60 and go shopping, and neither the bank nor the government know what I used that $60 for.

Various authorities will contend that this “dark money” is how criminals fund their exploits. But as we’ve already seen, cash is third down the list for criminal transfers and funding.

In a cashless world, all of your finances are subject to surveillance — you have no expectation of privacy. With every transaction being conducted electronically, individuals’ financial data becomes much more accessible to third parties, including the government, corporations, and hackers.

Government agencies can use this information to monitor our spending habits. This is an infringement on individual rights and freedoms.

Cash transactions don’t have processing fees or out-of-network withdrawal fees. In a cashless society, we’re at the mercy of banks and mobile payment services like Venmo and PayPal.

Even now, most electronic payment methods charge fees or transaction costs, particularly for small businesses. This will raise costs for both consumers and businesses, particularly for those who are already struggling.

Lastly, a cashless society increases financial instability. Without cash as a physical store of value, we’re entirely reliant on electronic payment systems. This could leave them vulnerable to technical glitches, cyber attacks, or other disruptions in the electronic payment system.

No internet? No groceries.

The future of terrorism is digital.

If the electronic payment system fails, individuals and businesses cannot transact. In short, a cashless world is a world much more susceptible to economic chaos.

John Yelland is the director of communications for the Libertas Institute, a liberty-focused think tank based in Utah.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.