Sweden, Proving Grounds for Global Cashless Society
Sweden was the first western country to introduce banknotes in 1661, what we have since lovingly referred to as cold hard cash. Sweden is now farther down the plank than most nations of the world and apparently about to abandon its ground-breaking innovation and plunge headlong into a cashless economy. Recognized as one of the most technologically advanced nations, one of the most affluent and boasting nearly the highest quality of life who can argue the Norsemen know what their doing?
There are lots of arguments for going cashless namely, crime reduction. According to the Swedish Bankers Association the shrinkage of the cash economy, accounting for only 3% in Sweden (as opposed to 7% in the U.S.), is putting a dent in crime statistics notably, security transport and bank robberies, which are down to record levels. But what happens when thieves get smarter? What happens when they don’t have to pull out a butterfly knife to intimidate you into tossing your wallet, rather high tech muggers steal all the information they need from the safety of their car or by walking next to you? What if these criminals are powerful and well connected? In the end wouldn’t you rather face your attacker than have some central bank slowly bleed the citizenry of their collective wealth like the Federal Reserve admittedly has done since 1912?
Graft and therefore corruption is also another crime less prevalent in Sweden than other cash cultures like Brazil, Greece, and Italy. After all it’s hard to get away with bribing someone when there’s a receipt. Russia, notorious for its corruption, suffers from rampant graft and has undergone recent attempts to crackdown on its physical currency where “the total share of cash is 25 percent of the total money supply” according to Russian Finance Minister Anatoly Siluanov. “The figure in developing countries is about 15 percent, while in developed countries it is 7 to 10 percent.” It may seem at times “mo money, mo problems”, but a similar correlation exists between developing countries and higher crime. Whether cash itself is the real culprit is unclear.
Another argument proffered by proponents of a cashless society is the reduction of black markets providing drugs, counterfeit goods, and weapons. “If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities” says Friedrich Schneider an expert on underground economies at Johannes Kepler University in Austria. Black markets are interesting animals, but nonetheless ones borne of government fiat. Other than abhorrent white slavery rings the black market is predominantly brokering merely victimless crimes and illicit consumables. It is their illegality and false scarcity which leads directly to organized crime, graft and extreme violence not the services or commodities themselves. Nobody heard of the Las Zetas Cartel or Al Capone when Bayer was selling more than aspirin.
For politicians and their bureaucrats a cashless economy theoretically translates in less tax avoidance and thereby more revenue for cash strapped governments. That alone should get everyone on board the cashless express, right!? A digital economy is also red meat for bankers whom will pounce on the opportunity to charge every transaction of our life and lobby their friends in power to pass laws restricting businesses from passing it on to the consumers. In Sweden credit card companies are enjoying $0.80 per effortless transaction.
Retailers whether terrestrial or over the internet will eventually capitulate and accept it once they realize more than ever before they’ll reap the benefits of vast oceans of information gathered from our shopping patterns. A whole nation of neat profiles saturated with data able to be sold off to the highest bidder.
While some may think that pennies are “worthless little mettle plugs” and a fist full of dollars is merely a “pile of inconvenience incarnate” where after the aforementioned does freedom or anonymity come into the equation? How much are they worth? Some might say a whole lot more than the paltry “$1.3 million a year due to the time required for cashiers [at Walgreens] to hand out correct change.” Or the painful inefficiency and market distortions caused by travelling to an “ATM, [driving, building and staffing] armored trucks, banks, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, anti-counterfeiting technology developers, cotton fields where the linen fibers originated,” etcetera, etcetera.
I’d like to think of all of this as monetary due process. The peace of mind that comes from exchanging cash freely without a paper trail is as much a right and a safeguard for innocent civilians concerned about privacy as it is for a pimp, drug kingpin or weapons dealer working with Eric Holder & Co. so why should we abridge our rights to flush out the bad guys in the name of public safety or some monolithic concept of an efficient and orderly society? Even those whom enjoy slipping a rancid $2 bill into their favorite dancer’s lace stocking can understand cash is more than an anachronism or petty nostalgia – it’s a form of protection.
In the final summation, should we go cashless privacy will be of paramount concern. Our money will be tied to our very identity and with the threat of data theft companies like IBM will be more than happy to step in and provide us with security as we move even beyond the cashless society into a full spectrum control grid. Moreover, the idea of a cashless economy is merely another attempt at consolidating the world under one supranational currency like the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) special drawing rights (SDRs) which were revived after the 2008 crisis. This would all be monitored by supracentral banks like the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements, the central banks’ central bank based in Basel, Switzerland.
Physical cash and an honest money supply backed by gold or competing currencies would enable us to fight against the further centralization of our money thereby allowing the powers to be to rob us incrementally in order to fund their idea of an ideal society. It would empower the individual over the collective, the human over the state.