Revisiting cashlessness

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that one of the realities of writing an opinion column is that not everyone agrees with a position or sentiment I present. Sometimes the objection is minor, but on rare occasion someone offers a distinctly contrary view. That’s what happened recently when I got an e-mail with the “from” line showing only “David” – no other identifier. Being fearful of some kind of lurking malware, I nearly deleted it without opening, but my curiosity caused me to find out what “David” had to share with me.

As it turned out, David wanted me to look at material that was in favor of a totally cashless environment – a position in direct opposition to that I recently expressed. We exchanged e-mails and I agreed to share with readers the vision of such a cashless society – according to the advocates of this concept. And so, here is a kinda overview of such – as derived from a number of sources.

First of all, everyone who “receives” or “spends” money must have a means of doing so using a credit card, smart phone, or some other device that has access to a bank account or similar financial holding through a payment system. Even the most casual payment such as to the teenagers shoveling snow from my walks and driveway would be made by some sort of electronic transfer.

One feature of such a society would be that many crimes would necessarily disappear, thus making communities much safer. Banks would no longer be repositories of cash – no huge vaults bulging with stacks of bills; no teller cages with drawers full of currency. Nope, bank robbers like the notorious Willy Sutton, who when asked why he robbed banks reportedly replied, “Because that’s where the money is” would be out of business. Yep, no more terrified tellers, exploding dye packs, surveillance cameras, or law enforcement appeals for public assistance.

Armed robberies of businesses and individuals would also disappear because the objective of these criminal acts is cash. Pizza delivery drivers would carry only credit card information – no cash. Break-ins, whose purpose is to get cash and valuables, would also be deterred – no cash – and if stolen valuables were to be “fenced” any such transaction would be electronically identifiable.

What about the illegal drug scene? Well, some estimates show at least half of the drugs responsible for overdose fatalities is purchased with cash on the street. Furthermore the big time drug traffickers and dealers rely almost exclusively on cash. Thus, eliminating cash could help decimate this scourge.

Okay, moving on. Eliminating cash would also wipe out the government’s costly burden of making coins and printing currency as well as the expense of all financial institutions and businesses of safeguarding both the storage and transportation of cash. Just think, no more armored cars.

There’s lots more to be considered about this concept such as the burden to the estimated 25-30 million folks in this country currently without bank accounts or credit cards because they cannot maintain the required minimum balance or afford the fees and charges. There’s also the unanswered question how the enormous amount of information about every financial transaction of every individual could be safeguarded, but supporters are not deterred.

David R. Warwick (the “David” of the e-mail I referenced) concludes in his blog “The true beneficiaries of cash are crooks who rob (violent by definition), burglarize, and steal cash ($40 billion per year from businesses alone) and who take advantage of its tracelessness to peddle pernicious drugs, to bribe officials, to traffic human beings, to trade in stolen property, to hide income from child-support judges, and from welfare providers, and from creditors and, of course, from the tax man.” Check his blog for lots more.

Well, there you have it – as promised to David – a once over lightly review of a contrary view to that I expressed about cash in our society. After having spent some time in looking over this counter argument, I’m sticking to my preference for a mixed variety of payment options.

I want my payment method to be both convenient and easy to use – which means sometimes it’s credit or debit card, automatic addition to and deduction from my bank account, check, or cash depending on the situation. I’m still a bit leery about the safety and privacy of any digital transfer means, but I am well satisfied with those issues when it comes to cash. All in all, I guess I’m too old and stubborn to change my ways. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at