The Cashless Society: Orwellian Nightmare or Beneficial Certainty?

by Lauren Bowling on May 7, 2013

Cashless SocietyI recently went and had my dog, Murray, micro-chipped. I mentioned to my boyfriend how awesome it would be if we could micro-chip children and possibly reduce the number of kidnapped and missing children in America.

“That is a horrible idea.” He said, “Then the government would always know where you are.”

“The government technically already knows where I am. I’m either at work or at home, and both of those addresses are on my W2’s and tax returns…micro-chip or not.”

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, digital technology is happening and it is moving our society forward into a Jetson-ian era where everything happens virtually. In addition to micro-chipping and being able to track people, currency as we know it would become completely virtual. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, or whether you believe this is where our society is inevitably headed, I’d like to discuss some pros and cons of having a truly “cashless” society.

Pros to having a Cashless Society

Reduction in crime: Yes, cyber-crime will still exist and most likely increase, but because illegal activities are  primarily cash business, having a cashless society would definitely cause a welcome decrease in crime.  Once you eliminate the money that changes hands, criminals will have to come up with more clever ways to conduct business, which will hopefully altogether cease violent crimes like muggings, burglaries, and murder.

Drugs are another “cash only” operation. Once you eliminate cash-what are the drug dealers going to do? Get a paypal account. No, they’re going to find something else to do. This could account for an increase in property values since more undesirable neighborhoods could become safer and drug free for families with children.

Convenience: Everything is mostly online nowadays anyhow, but a final push to a cashless society would mean greater ability to conduct transactions electronically or online. No more having to go out of your way to the ATM to get cash out for the bar cover, or to pay back your co-worker the lunch money they loaned you. You wouldn’t have to worry about changing out currencies when traveling abroad, or –the worst-actually losing your money by putting out the wrong bill (Guilty), or dropping it while you are rummaging in your purse (Guiltier.)

How many times have you misplaced five or ten dollars?

Reduced Government Spending: Yes, you turn on the television and it’s more bad news about the U.S. economy and our government’s spending.  I’m sure you’ve probably heard already how the treasury spends more money producing pennies than they are worth. With no more cash to print, the government could save MILLIONS of dollars each year. Money which could go back into non-profits, or our school systems.

And think about how many fewer GERMS there would be because dollars and coins wouldn’t keep changing hands. Ick!

 Cons of  a Cashless Society

Loss of Control: Not that I’m the type that hides gold bars in my back yard like Ron Swanson, or put wads of cash under my mattress like my Grandmother, but even the thought of having less control over my money sent a chill up my spine as I typed this sentence.

I don’t know what I’m getting my undies in a twist about: I rarely have cash on hand or use paper money, but the fact that I could have access to it if I needed it makes me feel better. What if the zombie apocalypse comes? What if I’m framed for a crime and I need cash to flee the country?  What if an uber-hacker took over my bank’s control system and transferred all of my money into his account? These are all very scary realities and one of the biggest reasons (I think) we haven’t gone cashless already. Giving up control is a scary thing, my friends. Possibly, the scariest.

Loss of Privacy: As I said in my opening, I micro-chipped my dog so I can find out where he is. I’d micro-chip my kid if it meant I could find them easier should they ever go missing. Still, if we are operating in a cashless society that means our virtual dollars would have to be monitored by the government since they control the treasury. This would most likely mean more unwelcome government regulation on our money and personal spending.

I’m not anti-establishment, but this would provide government agencies increased access to my spending habits, which aside from being awkward and uncomfortable, could completely change the face of marketing and advertising. Marketing would become even more invasive and targeted than it is now;  not only would the government know exactly where I’m spending my money, they’d know how often and how much I could afford to pay. I’m sure big corporations could brain storm a bajillion ways to get that information from Uncle Sam, and then use it to their advantage.

These are just my musings, but what do you think? Are you for or against a move toward a cashless society?

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Lauren Bowling

Lauren Bee is a freelance writer and social media specialist based in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing for One Smart Dollar, she is hard at work blogging over at L Bee and the Money Tree. Lauren enjoys editing, red wine, karaoke and the color pink.

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  • The idea of a cashless society is my worst nightmare. I don’t agree with the pros of a cashless society. The cost of printing money would help reduce costs but switching to a cashless system would probably outweigh those costs. Even if this nightmare were to come true, society would adopt another currency to exchange illegal goods or make transactions without the government knowing.

  • It certainly would feel like a loss of control and that we are now conforming to their every whim because they hold the secret think tank of money. I don’t know how I feel about it but I’m sure there are pros and cons but until we actually live it than it would be hard for me to say yes or no to the other. We don’t use cash as it is so it wouldn’t bother me all that much.

  • I wonder how often it happens that a bandit follows someone to an ATM or something and makes them take money out… it’s basically my biggest fear.

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