The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society
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For ages, money has meant little metal disks and rectangular slips of paper. Yet the usefulness of physical money—to say nothing of its value—is coming under fire as never before. Intrigued by the distinct possibility that cash will soon disappear, author and Wired contributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigate the future of money…and how it will affect your wallet.
Wolman begins his journey by deciding to shun cash for an entire year—a surprisingly successful experiment (with a couple of notable exceptions). He then ventures forth to find people and technologies that illuminate the road ahead. In Honolulu, he drinks Mai Tais with Bernard von NotHaus, a convicted counterfeiter and alternative-currency evangelist whom government prosecutors have labeled a domestic terrorist. In Tokyo, he sneaks a peek at the latest anti-counterfeiting wizardry, while puzzling over the fact that banknote forgers depend on society's addiction to cash. In a downtrodden Oregon town, he mingles with obsessive coin collectors—the people who are supposed to love cash the most, yet don't. And in rural Georgia, he examines why some people feel the end of cash is Armageddon’s warm-up act. After stops at the Digital Money Forum in London and Iceland’s central bank, Wolman flies to Delhi, where he sees first-hand how cash penalizes the poor more than anyone—and how mobile technologies promise to change that.
Told with verve and wit, The End of Money explores an aspect of our daily lives so fundamental that we rarely stop to think about it. You’ll never look at a dollar bill the same again.
out of huge amounts because of it. It’s part of what the IRS calls the tax gap: the difference between what taxpayers should cough up and what they actually pay.56 In 2008, some 84 percent of Americans voluntarily reported and paid what they owed.57 But there’s still that gap: almost $350 billion a year. On his blog, Birch recounts a conversation he had with a fellow consultant. The guy had just boasted that he was saving a lot of money by paying his contractors in cash—“£50 notes in bundles of
people who unwillingly accept fakes. Chant once tried to examine the costs associated with efforts to prevent counterfeiting. One such cost falls to businesses, organizations, and government agencies that have to take steps to avoid accepting counterfeits, which they more or less all do. Casinos, for example, have counterfeit detection technology on site. Staff at currency exchanges, banks, and anyplace else where paper money is frequently handled need to be trained to avoid taking phony bills.
this visual equivalent of a subconscious whisper—credit caaard—willingness to pay jumped 50–200 percent compared to the control group.14 The credit card effect, as it’s known, has been demonstrated time and again, and is perhaps best encapsulated by the cheeky research paper title “Always Leave Home Without It.”15 Scientists have also found that when using a credit card, people don’t recall their expenses as well as they do when using cash. Sticking to a budget is that much harder if the
almost instinctively, see a mutually beneficial accord in the making? Let’s make a deal! Swapping your food for my furs will suit us well, but this form of trade hinges on what British economist William Stanley Jevons famously dubbed the “double coincidence of wants.” Should you not want to trade your potatoes for my furs because it’s summertime, we’re out of luck. That is, unless we could come up with something else for me to give you—something that you know some third party will also willingly
to my family. Finally, thank you Spencer, for being such a magnificent kid. And Nicola—for everything. I love you. NOTES Introduction 1 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/01/03/2010-01-03_plane_questions_dont_fly_right_warning_signs_were_evident_yet_bomb_suspect_still.html. 1: The Missionary 1 Gene Hessler and Carlson Chambliss, The Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money, 7th ed. (Port Clinton, Ohio: BNR Press, 2006), p. 8. 2