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Surviving the Cashless Cataclysm 463

Posted by samzenpus
from the life-on-a-card dept.
MrSeb writes "There's been a lot of noise about Sweden becoming a cashless economy, and the potential repercussions that it might cause, most notably the (apparent) annihilation of privacy. Really, though, I think this is a load of hot air. Physical money might be on the way out, but that doesn't mean the end of anonymous, untraceable cash — it'll just become digital. If Bitcoin has taught us anything, it's possible to create an irreversible, cryptographic currency — but so far it has failed because it doesn't have sovereign backing. What if the US or UK (or any other country for that matter) issued digital cash? We would suddenly have an anonymous currency that can be kept on credit chips (or smartphones) and traded, just like paper money. No longer would handling money require expensive cash registers, safes, and secure collections; your smartphone could be your point of sale. It won't be easy to get governments to pass digital cash into law, though, not with big banks and megacorps lobbying for centralized, electronic, traceable currency. Here's hoping Sweden makes the right choice when the referendum to retire physical money finally rolls around."
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Surviving the Cashless Cataclysm

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  • Secure = Traceable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:04PM (#39434561)

    If it's secure, it's traceable, otherwise you can duplicate it.

    • by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:07PM (#39434601)

      Imagine giving your neighborhood dealer $200 digital cash for some drugs then the cops catch him with your money, traceable to you, on his iphone. Not good.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:30PM (#39434877)

        Maybe its just me, but your logic of using an illegal situation to justify why a digital economy shouldn't exist seems like a bad argument.

        • by shiftless (410350) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:47PM (#39435051) Homepage

          Until you realize that tons are things of illegal that shouldn't be.

          • by EdIII (1114411)

            It's also worth pointing out that the only thing eliminating cash will do is change the consideration in an illegal contract.

            People will start making their own gold coins. It does not matter what it is. If it has a relatively stable value and decent demand in a market it will be used for a transaction.

            The only thing outlawing cash will do is control lawful transactions. Which make up the vast majority of transactions anyways.

        • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:51PM (#39435099) Homepage

          :-) We should think deeply about how to move past have artificial scarcity (including fiat currencies) at the heart of a 21st century abundance-oriented economy. We can do that in part by improving our gift economy (Linux, Wikipedia, Thingiverse, blogging), by improving our subsistence economy (home robotics, 3D printers, solar panels, maybe LENR), by improving our planning (like by using emails and twitters to organize the economy by creating and monitoring demand and feedback), and, if we do have a currency, by having a basic income to go with it, as well as LETS-like local currency systems. It would also help to rethink the nature of most "work" so it is more inherently fun and inherently meaningful:
          http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/whywork/abolition.html [whywork.org]
          http://web.archive.org/web/20110425153540/http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/buddhist_economics/english.html [archive.org]

          As a rule of thumb, if there are laws relating to something about "counterfeiting" or "unauthorized sharing", you are dealing with a system based around "artificial scarcity". We should be able to do better in the 21st century.
          http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=star+trek+money [youtube.com]

          • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:08PM (#39435289) Journal

            We should think deeply about how to move past have artificial scarcity

            The economy will never be "post-scacity", as there's only so much shoreline property. There will always be desireable stuff that is scarce, and there will always be stuff that is desireable it's scarce - even if it's just the concert T-shirt that shows you listened to that band before it was cool.

            including fiat currencies

            In practice, the currency in use is simply the most-easily-exchanged commodity. Fiat currencies emerged because, as economies grew, you simply couldn't find enough notes to do business. BitCoins have a very interesting solution to this problem: they are quite limited in quantity, but you can exchange arbitrarily small fractions of one. That might actually work.

            It has also been pointed out that a gold-backed currency could work in a modern economy with fractional-reserve lending, as the limited amount of gold (and therefore notes) wouldn't matter very much. I agree, but then what problem are you solving?

            As a rule of thumb, if there are laws relating to something about "counterfeiting" or "unauthorized sharing", you are dealing with a system based around "artificial scarcity". We should be able to do better in the 21st century.

            The American money supply is based on a zero-reserve banking system. Yup, except for demand accounts, banks can lnd out all that they take in. That means the money supply is theorectically infinite, and practically limited only by "friction" - the time it takes for money to circulate. US Dollars really aren't based around "artificial scarcity" any more. What could possibly go wrong?

            • by KhabaLox (1906148)

              The American money supply is based on a zero-reserve banking system.

              No it isn't.
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reserve_requirement#United_States [wikipedia.org]
              http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/reservereq.htm [federalreserve.gov]

              • by lgw (121541)

                Read closer. The only reserve requirements are on:

                Total transaction accounts consists of demand deposits, automatic transfer service (ATS) accounts, NOW accounts, share draft accounts, telephone or preauthorized transfer accounts, ineligible bankers acceptances, and obligations issued by affiliates maturing in seven days or less.

                I called this category "demand accounts" for simplicty. Basically checking accounts, plus a lot of weird internal stuff. No reserve requirements on CDs, most savings accounts, and so on.

            • We should think deeply about how to move past have artificial scarcity

              The economy will never be "post-scacity", as there's only so much shoreline property. There will always be desireable stuff that is scarce

              Both statements are true... we are starting to share some things for trivial cost, like long distance communication, you used to get effective ~10Kbaud for $20/hour, now you get 5MB/s for $30/month - and this has led to "free" encyclopedias and other very valuable things.

              I hope to see a world where this kind of cost reduction can extend to things like staple foods, long distance transportation, etc. "Free" energy will be the key to that, the way that a fiber-optic infrastructure was the key to "free" excha

            • "The economy will never be "post-scacity", as there's only so much shoreline property. "

              See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_habitat [wikipedia.org]

              However, that is not to completely disagree with your point. It is true that abundances of one thing can sometimes create a complementary scarcity of something else (too much information chasing too little attention). But *material* scarcity is over if we want it -- just like war:
              http://imaginepeace.com/warisover/ [imaginepeace.com]
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbKsgaXQy2k [youtube.com]

              "Fiat currencies eme

            • by ultranova (717540)

              The economy will never be "post-scacity", as there's only so much shoreline property. There will always be desireable stuff that is scarce, and there will always be stuff that is desireable it's scarce - even if it's just the concert T-shirt that shows you listened to that band before it was cool.

              However, there is a huge qualitative difference between an economy where food and other basic necessities are scarce, and an economy where collectible t-shirts are scarce: in the former you either be a cog in the

          • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:25PM (#39435507) Homepage Journal

            As a rule of thumb, if there are laws relating to something about "counterfeiting" or "unauthorized sharing", you are dealing with a system based around "artificial scarcity".

            I don't think that's necessarily so. Some things have real scarcity, such as bushels of wheat or energy. There really is only so much, and its limits are quite natural.

            Suppose you and I trade; I'll give you a bushel of wheat in exchange for 100 KiloWatt Hours of energy from your solar generator. So far, this is all on the up'n'up, nothing corrupt or artificially scarce going on, right?

            Unfortunately, I do hundreds of trades like this per day, and we don't really have a cable from your generator to my energy-sucking appliances, and you don't really want to eat that unmilled wheat as-is; you were just going to have me drop-ship it at the miller, along with all the other wheat I've bartered. (Yay, I only have to drive my trucks over there once per day/week/month instead of for every trade.)

            Tell you what, here's a chit that represents your bushel. Maybe it's a physical coin, or maybe it's some cryptographic blob. You're ok with that, right? Of course you are, because this is actually a good idea which improves both of our efficiencies, reduces transportation overhead, and so on. It's a good thing. There's still no corruption or artificial scarcity happening. And I also know you're on board with the idea because you gave me something similar to represent my shiny new 100 KWH.

            We still have to worry about and try to prevent counterfeiting. If I drop off 100 bushels of wheat at the miller and 200 people show up with my chit to collect flour, that's a legitimate problem. Crud, we can't use chits? Let's try to think up ways we can both have chits and not introduce any unwanted side-effects, like counterfeiting or big brother. It's worth the effort, assuming it's possible (and I'm not sure it is).

          • by Guppy06 (410832)

            by improving our subsistence economy (home robotics, 3D printers, solar panels, maybe LENR)

            All require raw materials, none of which are "inherently fun" to obtain, especially not when it comes to obtaining useful quantities.

            As a rule of thumb, if there are laws relating to something about "counterfeiting" or "unauthorized sharing", you are dealing with a system based around "artificial scarcity"

            Money is used in exchange for labor. Labor takes up a person's time. A person's time is finite. One has only to look through the local obituary to realize that the scarcity is quite genuine.

            We should be able to do better in the 21st century.

            The 21st-century computer you composed this on is only possible because of people supplying raw materials and manufacturing in 19th-century conditions.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Preloaded disposable visa.

        All this will do is create a thriving money laundering economy. People will buy and fill disposable visa cards, then give those out like cash.

        • 1. card creation center makes card
          2. retailer stocks card on shelves
          3. user picks card of shelf
          4. user pays cashier
          5. .... pays cashier with what? there is no cash anymore.
          6. user pays cashier with electronic device, which is tracable
          7. user takes 'cash card' and gives it to drug dealer
          8. drug dealer passes it through 'laundering chain'
          9. organized crime underground 'prepaid visa card' center collects cards and launders money
          10. oops, its all tracable to the original retailer.

          • Barter! Just buy something for the seller. And if barter's too clumsy, then, um... use little bits of paper with "IOU" written on them?

            Actually, you're missing something. The user doesn't need to pay the cashier. The user could pay someone else to buy the card at a small premium. As long as there are enough purchasing brokers and enough users, the user would be anonymous.

            • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:50PM (#39435093)

              The user could pay someone else to buy the card at a small premium.

              So when the drug dealer's money is confiscated and traced back to someone, it will be someone who you paid to buy it for you, and since there is no physical money anymore, that person will be able to provide your info to the cops. Or he'll go to jail.

              Care to debate which option your local prepaid VISA card reseller who doesn't want to go to jail and doesn't give a damn about you will pick?

              It doesn't matter who you buy the card from, they'll have your information because you can't pay them untracably. Even if you could barter all the money you need with them, they'll have your info.

              • by wierd_w (1375923)

                This discounts international transactions, which was meant to be implied.

                Eg, you make a nice little vacation trip to belize, use a bank to get local hard currency, buy an epic shitton of preloaded 200$ visa cards.

                Upon return home, you sell them for "favors".

              • It would require a professional code of conduct to protect clients' anonymity, but it's not inconceivable. If enough people are concerned about privacy, there may very well be, realistically, too many clients for a given broker to remember. Also, a lot of obfuscation can be accomplished through gifting people indirectly: if broker A gives out $150 to 10 people and broker B gives out $100 to 8 people, then the customers of broker A can repay broker B, and vice versa, and then B can pay A $50 to balance thing
                • by Obfuscant (592200)

                  It would require a professional code of conduct to protect clients' anonymity, but it's not inconceivable.

                  How many professional codes of conduct survive a US federal marshall knocking on the door, backed up by an extension to the Patriot Act? It won't even take something as radical as the Patriot Act to get laws that require "money sellers" to release records with a subpeona.

                  If enough people are concerned about privacy, there may very well be, realistically, too many clients for a given broker to remember.

                  They have these marvelous things today called "computers" that can keep track of stuff for billions of people to the exact penny. How many times can a "money seller" tell the marshalls "I forget" and get away with it? Especially when the

                  • by wierd_w (1375923)

                    This assumes records are even kept.

                    See for example this scenario:

                    100 initial launderers go to mexico with their real visa cards. (They don't have cash afterall.)

                    They go to the bank and get pesos, because they are smart tourists that know mexian vendors will gladly take 1$ USD, when the real cost is 1$ MX. They get epic shittons of folding pesos.

                    They use this money with a contact in mexico, who gives them well laundered bills, for a fee.

                    Using the laundered bills, they buy the initial preloaded visas for lar

          • by geekoid (135745)

            I would just say it was stolen. If they are laundering it, then it won't matter.

            OTOH, removing the convient way to get something illegal might start motivating people to change the law.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      If it's secure, it's traceable, otherwise you can duplicate it.

      Chaumian digital cash is anonymous in at least one direction; the buyer or seller can be anonymous, but probably not both.

      So long as you have to deposit the cash back at the bank after every transaction, duplication isn't possible... the cash is either accepted or rejected during the transaction.

    • by 0-9a-f (445046)

      If it's secure, it's traceable, otherwise you can duplicate it.

      Hard currency is secure because it's hard to duplicate, not because it's traceable. Everyone seems to ignore the fact that every cash note has a unique serial number on it, and the technology exists to scan and record each note and who it went to.

      Of course, nobody goes to this effort because it's only useful if everyone's doing it, or it's centrally managed. But how do I know that the ATM is not recording each serial number against my card? A

  • by theNetImp (190602) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:13PM (#39434667)

    When I lived in he US, I rarely carried cash. I used a debit card for 90% of my purchases, including food purchases. I saw no point on carrying anything but a $20 on me for the random times a place I frequented didn't have a mag strip reader for my card.

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:24PM (#39434783)

      Precisely this. Remember that "A does not necessarily equal B", in this case digital cash does not automatically mean an anonymous currency - all money these days is digital in actuality, as no major currency is backed by a gold or silver standard anymore - new money is created by issuing it to an account in a computer, and it suddenly exists because the computer network says it does. Central banks move money to regional, trading and public banks by transferring it electronically, not by moving huge piles of notes around. Only when you actually take some physical money out of an ATM does it stop being digital.

      And it's all traceable.

      Remember that BitCoin also had several PR failures recently because of its irreversible feature - BitCoins were stolen, but there is no way to cancel that transaction even tho you can see where the money went because there is no way to reverse the procedure. Sort of the worst of both worlds, semi traceable but totally useless at the same time. Both better than and worse than cash at the same time.

  • by ScottyLad (44798) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:13PM (#39434673)

    Back in the 1990's, I was working on payment machines when the Mondex Trial [wikipedia.org] started out in Swindon.

    Essentially, this was just a smart card which you could load up with cash - if you lost your card, then you'd lost whatever cash was on it at the time.

    At the time, I thought it was a useful idea, and it did take off to a certain extent for micropayments, particularly in newsagents, but as far as I recall, the trial fizzled out an died after a while. I do recall at one point the promoters were trying to hand out free Mondex cards loaded up with £5 but the general public just weren't ready for the concept 20 years ago.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      From what I remember, Mondex was not anonymous. I may be wrong as it was very hard to find technical details at the time, but I'm pretty sure that was the conclusion.

      • by ScottyLad (44798)

        I couldn't say for sure now as it was a long time ago, but it was the recollection of Mondex cards being handed out in the streets which made me think of it as an anonymous system, along with the emphasis placed on the value being stored in the card itself.

        I certainly think it had it's advantages, whether anonymous or not - I don't generally carry cash with me, and get caught out anywhere that doesn't take cards (eg the coffee stall on client sites) or has a minimum transaction fee (my local newsagent). Obv

    • Same here in Portugal in '94/95. Never really caught on, and they eventually killed the project in 2004.

  • Folks in countries with high value-add or sales taxes revert to the dawn of civilization practice of just trading goods and services, with no monetary transaction. That way, there is no transaction to tax. Whether it is legal or not, is another matter. But a good way to avoid traceable digital transactions.

    Money washers will be able to provide plenty of other tips.

  • by godel_56 (1287256) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:15PM (#39434693)

    For the criminals, the simplest alternative would be to use another convertible currency for your transactions.

    Euros, US dollars, whatever; as long as all countries haven't joined in to the digital cash trend, evil doers can just ignore it

    After that, what . . . barter?

  • With the last tie to reality removed, here comes unlimited inflation.
    • It will start with the Supermarkets using LED price tags that get updated wirelessly in the store. As inflation hits, the price gets updated daily. Before you know it, hyper inflation becomes so bad that real-time price updates can't keep up due to high frequency.

      Screw that. Learn to barter. That will be the true "currency" of the future I'm afraid.

  • >"Really, though, I think this is a load of hot air. Physical money might be on the way out, but that doesn't mean the end of anonymous, untraceable cash"

    I don't really agree with that statement. Most every form of electronic payment can be traced in a variety of ways. And something as elaborate as what was proposed in the posting can certainly have all kinds of security and privacy implications because it usually has to be funded in some manner and will still leave trails.

    I don't want to have to perfo

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      The whole motivation of elimination of cash is not because it is good for citizens, it is because it is good for law enforcement or tax collection.

      No, it's because it's good for control. Once all transactions are digital, anyone can be made a 'non-person' unable to buy or sell anything.

      Imagine waking up one morning and finding that your 'payment card' had been disabled overnight.

  • MrSeb is hopelessly out of touch with reality if he thinks any country will issue an anonymous digital payment system. Well maybe some tax-haven might, but not likely since they want access to the international banking system. Do you not read the news at all, let alone releases from the senate, treasury department or IRS??

  • ... for it to be hacked and broken, given that the entire criminal resources of the world, together with any hostile governments, would be in a race to see who could crack it first? The people at the Cambridge Computer Lab are also quite good at that sort of thing, but I wouldn't put any money on academics winning this race.

    • If it's a system without auditable transactions, it's already broken, you just need to keep a copy of your "digitally signed money" and use it again. If you're truly anonymous, nobody can tell which copy of the money is "real."

      If it's a traceable, auditable system like today's bank-wire transactions, you can break it, but they'll catch you as soon as they check the transaction, which I believe takes less than a second. The cryptography is just to keep the rabble out, the real security is in the accountin

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:25PM (#39434797) Journal
    I don't give a crap about who tracks what already. Cash may be one of the last bastions of anonymity and privacy left to us! If I want to pay for cash for everything I can, then I should be able to do that! What I buy at the grocery store, or what movie I go see, or what restaurant I eat at, etc. is nobody's business but mine. Aren't things already bad enough in this world? I can't say it loud enough: DO NOT WANT!
    • by alienzed (732782)
      What if you buy bomb materials at the grocery, see a movie about making bombs and then go eat at the same restaurant the President is eating at...
    • is there any doubt that along the lines of the recent "do not track" legislation proposed in the US and the court rulings in the EU, there would inevitably be a do not track debit card? there are anonymous cell phones (pre-paids) so why not pre-paid debit cards - aka "gift cards"?
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2@nospAm.anthonymclin.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:29PM (#39434849) Homepage

    It won't be easy to get governments to pass digital cash into law, though, not with big banks and megacorps lobbying for centralized, electronic, traceable currency.

    You have that a bit backwards. It's not the megacorps lobbying for traceable currency, it's the government forcing the banks to have traceable currency so that they can monitor and shut down terrorists, drug cartels, tax frauds, etc. Hint: the term "money laundering" means moving money through transactions not traceable by the government. Plenty of banks and megacorps have in the past and continue to provide essentially untraceable transactions.

    If Bitcoin has taught us anything, it's possible to create an irreversible, cryptographic currency — but so far it has failed because it doesn't have sovereign backing.

    You're going to need to provide some evidence for the claim that bitcoins have failed because of a lack of sovereign entity backing them. There's a whole slew of other reasons that probably contribute far more to the poor adoption rate of bitcoins.

    Why would any government endorse an untraceable digital currency scheme, when the whole point of the scheme is to circumvent the government's regulatory and investigatory powers?

  • Let's back up for a minute:

    #1 reason for a country to go to an electronic purse is to eliminate the tremendous costs of managing currency. Think about the logistics required to keep money in an economy. It's not just "oh, ship $10 million USD to Las Vegas so peoples can gamble or whatever." It's an ENORMOUS HASSLE. Electronic purses are very tantalizing way to be far more efficient as a currency provider.

    Banks and nations have mostly gone to a banking standard with a smart card providing a great degr

    • Bob wants to give Joe $10 for a cool Commodore 64 and there's no paper currency in the economy. So, Bob has his smart card and puts it into a dumb, untrusted reader. The reader device asks how much to transfer. Joe then sticks his card in and like magic $10 in value is added to Joe's card and Bob's is credited with no network connection. Can the transaction be fed back to some server? Depends on the electronic purse. Can you have a relatively anonymous system that works? Yes.

      Can Bob hack his smart card to give the same $10 to Suzy for other good and valuable consideration? Yes. Will Bob and Suzy be pissed off at Bob when they find out that he has handed them copies of the same $10 "digital cash"? Of course. If Bob's real name is Steve and he's just skipped out to Mexico, do you feel like your "untraceable electronic cash" is very secure?

      I don't.

  • We would suddenly have an anonymous currency that can be kept on credit chips (or smartphones) and traded, just like paper money. No longer would handling money require expensive cash registers, safes, and secure collections; your smartphone could be your point of sale.

    Anonymous currency stored on a perpetually networked device with a long list of known escalation exploits? What could possibly go wrong?

  • TFAs fantasy world (Score:5, Informative)

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:30PM (#39434867)

    Bitcoin is not anonymous. Bitcoin transactions are necessarily public information.

    You can't be anonymous (disconnected) while at the same time expect digital currency to remain globally consistant and secure. It's an oxymoron.

    Even if it were possible it is unrealistic to assume a single government exists on the planet who would choose to implement such a system. Where is the value to the government in not being able to trace all transactions even if you ..wink wink nudge nudge don't know "who" owns what money at a point in time.

  • You can read my original post [slashdot.org] dated January 16th 2012.

    Sometime in the future, it's quite possible that we will live in a cashless society. Lord knows the Federal Gov want's to tract each and every transaction. It would cut down on violent crime, drug abuse, and prevent tax evasion. It would also save by not having the Treasury create physical currency. It would also allow them to inject more money (inflation) in real-time into the system via a few keystrokes sort of speak.

  • BitCoin didn't fail because of the lack of government backing. It failed because it's expansion curve was stupidly chosen, leading to an impossible amount of deflation required (thousands of %) for it become anything larger than a geeky toy. The necessary deflation led to hoarding, which in turn led to illiquidity, which in turn led to downright insane swings in value.

    Maybe BitCoin 2.0 will learn those lessons. But I have my doubts.

  • by Nethead (1563)

    What if the US or UK (or any other country for that matter) issued digital cash?

    I think Greece is thanking you right now.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:40PM (#39434973)

    First, the obvious: How do you pay someone who doesn't have the means to register your payment? Private to private money deals will become virtually impossible unless both parties have some kind of electronic device on them permanently. And it may be unbelievable to some, but there are still people who refuse to carry a smart phone around. How do I lend my buddy 10 bucks if he has no means to receive them?

    Then, the criminal. Untraceable, yeah, sure, tell someone who believes you. Criminals will not use it. Instead, they will keep the cash in circulation. And why shouldn't they? The very first thing I will do as soon as it becomes a fact that this goes through is to go to the bank and withdraw as much money as I can in the lowest possible bills available. Trust me, this money will become more and more valuable as time goes by, as it is used for back alley deals and as it gets out of circulation because of busts and people returning it to their account. ANY currency that you can only spend but not collect becomes more valuable over time, as long as there are people who give it value. And that stuff WILL be valuable, and if not, I can always still hand it back to the bank and deposit it. The alternative being, of course, that some foreign currency suddenly becomes the street bill. For reference, see Cuba. You want something aside of the state-approved crap? You better have greenbacks with you.

    And finally, how about people who do not get a bank account? It's not like it's possible for them to have a halfway decent life now, but then, it will become virtually impossible. Try to get a job in Europe without a bank account. Just try. No such luck. There is NO way you will be paid in cash. No company I know of will ever even consider doing it. Now on the other hand, try to open an account if you're homeless. Try it. I dare you. How the heck do you think these people will ever get back on their feet? Because then your excuse "if he really wanted, he could" doesn't work anymore. He CANNOT anymore.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:16PM (#39436465) Homepage

      And finally, how about people who do not get a bank account? It's not like it's possible for them to have a halfway decent life now, but then, it will become virtually impossible. Try to get a job in Europe without a bank account. Just try. No such luck. There is NO way you will be paid in cash. No company I know of will ever even consider doing it.

      At least here in Norway there no such thing, through the post office you're always entitled to a bank of last resort. Ignoring that I've never been asked for my bank account number until after I've been employed, they may think I'm crazy but they'd still have to pay my salary - they will need my id number for tax reporting though. I would not get paid in cash but I would get a "payout referral" or something like that - I'm not sure how to translate it, it's not a cashier's check but more a wire-to-cash transfer you can collect at the bank. The money is reserved but the transaction is not done until the recipient collects at the bank. If the recipient doesn't collect in 3 months, it expires and the reservation is lifted and the money stays on the account. I used to work in the financial industry and occasionally customers would get payouts but have closed the bank account they were supposed to receive it on. We would then send out these things, most people would simply direct the money to the right account but they could also cash it without having any account at all. If they didn't collect we still had to keep them as client funds until someone asked for them.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carpane[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:40PM (#39434977) Homepage

    Bitcoin, last I checked, had not failed, and was still in use. Having used it in the past myself, I remember it being rather easy to get my money in and out. So... failed? So rising to $5/coin is failure? Or is it just because the $30 bubble burst?

    Bitcoin is deeply flawed, but, as of one of just a handful of largish attempts at a non-soverign digital currency, I would say the lack of government backing is hardly a proven requirement, any more than a few early flight failures proved that flight was impossible.

    • by ddt (14627)

      How is bitcoin deeply flawed?

      It seems extremely well-designed and robust to me, much more so than traditional currencies. It also seems like an incredibly valuable hedge against sovereign-backed currencies face-planting because a country goes into the shitter or because the government instantiates money out of thin air.

  • What if the US or UK (or any other country for that matter) issued digital cash?

    "Yeah, we're really unhappy with how traceable electronic cash is. By all means, let's issue a government-backed anonymous currency to ensure people once again can transfer money without us watching. We'll get right on that."

  • What if the US or UK (or any other country for that matter) issued digital cash? We would suddenly have an anonymous currency that can be kept on credit chips (or smartphones) and traded, just like paper money.

    The one and only question I have is what would be the motivation for the US or UK to create anonymous digital cash?

  • With correct legislation reasonable privacy can be preserved even with digital currency. Forbid banks from selling the data and require a warrant for the police to peep into it.

  • by dark grep (766587) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @08:26PM (#39435517)

    I can't remember which Heinlein novel (maybe Time Enough for Love?) was set in a 'nearly' cashless society. Cash however, was still needed because, as was phrased, it was 'the oil needed for the wheels of commerce'. What Heinlein was implying was that the contribution of black and grey markets can't be ignored, and indeed without them, normal commerce wont work at all.

  • Easy! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:47PM (#39436717) Journal
    Surviving the Cashless Cataclysm? You're kidding. I have been dating her for 15 years...

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