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The Cashless Society is a Con -- and Big Finance is Behind It



All over the western world banks are shutting down cash machines and
branches. They are trying to push you into using their digital
payments and digital banking infrastructure. Just like Google wants
everyone to access and navigate the broader internet via its privately
controlled search portal, so financial institutions want everyone to
access and navigate the broader economy through their systems.

We can learn from the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci in this
regard. His concept of hegemony referred to the way in which powerful
parties condition the cultural and economic environment in such a way
that their interests begin to be perceived as natural and inevitable
by the general public. Nobody was on the streets shouting for digital
payment 20 years ago, but increasingly it seems obvious and “natural”
that it should take over. That belief does not come from nowhere. It
is the direct result of a hegemonic project on the part of financial

Twenty years ago nobody believed that cash was “inconvenient”, but
every time I walk into London Underground I see adverts that address
me as if I was a person who finds cash inconvenient. The objective is
to reverse-engineer a belief within me that it is inconvenient, and
that cashlessness is in my interests. But a cashless society is not in
your interest. It is in the interest of banks and payments companies.

Digital systems may be "convenient", but they often come with central
points of failure. Cash, on the other hand, does not crash. It does
not rely on external data centres, and is not subject to remote
control or remote monitoring. The cash system allows for an
unmonitored "off the grid" space. This is also the reason why
financial institutions and financial technology companies want to get
rid of it. Cash transactions are outside the net that such
institutions cast to harvest fees and data.

A cashless society brings dangers. People without bank accounts will
find themselves further marginalised, disenfranchised from the cash
infrastructure that previously supported them. There are also poorly
understood psychological implications about cash encouraging
self-control while paying by card or a mobile phone can encourage
spending. And a cashless society has major surveillance implications.