Cash-Free Isn't Theft-Free

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Those who like to imagine that money as the root of all evil are thrilled that in Sweden, the percentage of economic transactions that involve actual cash changing hands is the lowest of any European economy and may continue to dwindle.

Bills and coins represent only 3 percent of Sweden's economy, compared to an average of 9 percent in the eurozone and 7 percent in the U.S., according to the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella organization for the world's central banks.

Three percent is still too much if you ask Ulvaeus. A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for someone who made a fortune on "Money, Money, Money" and other ABBA hits, but for Ulvaeus it's a matter of security.

After his son was robbed for the third time he started advocating a faster transition to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.

"If there were no cash, what would they do?" says Ulvaeus, 66. [link removed]
The article answers itself later on, for anyone who realizes that theft needn't be physically violent and that graft isn't the only illegitimate form of political activity: The criminals will join the only gang left, the government. (Conversely, one might ask what a criminal would do, seeing that electronic transactions are more convenient, and therefore, becoming more popular.)
[T]here are pockets of resistance. Hanna Celik, whose family owns a newspaper kiosk in a Stockholm shopping mall, says the digital economy is all about banks seeking bigger earnings.

Celik says he gets charged about 5 Swedish kronor ($0.80) for every credit card transaction, and a law passed by the Swedish Parliament prevents him from passing on that charge to consumers.  [bold added]
In a society that has forgotten (or never knew) that the government is supposed to protect individuals from having their money and property taken from them by force, nobody will bat an eye at the idea of terms being dictated to a businessman as to how he might offer a cashless option to his customers. (I think the impossible-to-fulfill requirement that he somehow not pass on his higher costs to his customers speaks even worse of such a society.)

So what if there's less graft when, economy-wide, the government's cronies (e.g., corrupt bankers) can legally (but still improperly) skim a little bit off of every electronic transaction, or there's an easy way for the wolf guarding the hen-house to trace everyone's economic activity?

-- CAV

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