Published in El Pais, 14 November 2020.
Society has been slowly moving away from a cash system for some time. It is simply easier to pay with card and no longer worry if you have enough money on you. Having a bulging wallet can also make you vulnerable to thieves where if your cards are stolen you can cancel it and limit the thief’s option. Sending money to your friends is not a difficult feat either as apps like Venmo and email money transfer makes it possible to not even need cash to pay back your friends. This pandemic has shown even less love for cash as it is found that germs stay on the surface of bills much longer than other services making them a prime vector for the virus. Many stores are refusing cash while others are at least requesting debit or credit as the preferred method.
So how do we go about doing this? Well cash will unlikely go away overnight, but companies are finding ways that are allowing us to move off the cash system even without the governments involvement. With the utilization of blockchain technologies stablecoins (cryptocurrecies that are always pegged to a commodity like the US dollar or Gold) can allow users to digitize their money and send it to people around the world. This would be quite the upgrade as most digital money sending platforms are limited to their own country.
Of course, it would not be money without having a large amount of government intervention so any blockchain company will have to likely work with governments and not against them (see Facebook’s libra coin as an example of what not to do). It is because of these regulations that this option will more likely happen first, a government backed digital currency. China has just had a “lottery” distributing roughly $1.5 million dollars worth of yuan to its citizens to spend at local markets in Shenzhen in attempt to make the country go cashless. Many governments around the world will be paying attention to this experiment as they look to create their own digital currency for their people.
Be it through cryptocurrency or government sanctioned digital money we are seeing an end to the coin and paper bill. There will be resisters sure but as long as the phase out is done slowly and properly it could benefit all of society.