published Jun 04, 2008
It was impossible 20 years ago, and certainly improbable as little as 10 years ago. But since the rise of micro-technology, many have dreamed of a day when cumbersome currency would be eliminated and replaced by electronic funds- a cashless society. As exemplified by the formation of the EU and the struggles to establish the Euro as the universal currency, technology isn’t what hinders that dream.
In order for a cashless economy to work, it must be universal, exclusive, and equitable. Cultural idea-shaping takes time and concerted effort. A global mentality must flourish, creating the unity that permits acceptance of a universal equilibrium (Some individual nations have a stronger currency than others. They need to be willing to compromise). The electronic fund (let’s call it “EF”) must become the only means to do commerce anywhere in the world. The EF must have a stable value, and enable the impoverished population to increase their standard of living. In the USA, we are deep into the process of cultural acceptance of the extinction of cash. It began in the 80’s with the credit card push, which bolstered spending of hypothetical money. Many people embraced it. About the same time was the first time I recall hearing of businesses converting their payroll to direct deposit, something commonplace now. Then came debit cards. The idea was to keep cash out of the consumer’s pockets and in banks. Most Americans have at least one debit card now.
The social pressure has subtly directed consumers to leave their money in the bank, and pay for everything with a card. Its being sold as convenient, safer, and quicker. Most businesses have POS systems where a swipe and a signature makes the purchase, as long as the funds are available. Even some debit cards double as credit cards for those embarrassing times when the purchase is unapproved because you don’t have the money.