Cash payments have been slowly receding over recent years, as mobile payments have been on the rise. The shift occurred naturally for the average man on the street, but charity organizations in the country fear our increasingly cashless societies could turn into a nightmare for the humblest amongst us.
When most readers were children, they probably witnessed all sorts of odd jobs. Gas station attendants, small grocery shops, small and young farmers who had simply been given a few animals by an established uncle or father, and so on. Slowly and silently, these jobs vanished out of our sight, to give way to automated gas stations owned by large companies, supermarkets and large mechanized farming facilities. As governmental control developed after the war, regulations increased and, in time, the average citizen simpcashly couldn’t face them. When the gas station attendant received government notice that new safety regulations forced him to invest way more than he had into security features, they simply went out of business. The government’s intention was good in that it promoted security, but the collateral effect was simply that, if you were not a rich and solid corporation, you were simply out of a job.
The same thing is happening with more and more countries considering the possibility of no longer printing or producing cash. The policy’s intent is, in many ways, positive: fighting crime and corruption, and making our countries more modern user of digital money. However, not everyone has a bank account. Not everyone has access to the internet. Not everyone has constant access to electricity. Of course, most of us do. But “large unbanked population stands to become even more marginalized in a cashless world”, writes Nkiru Anizoba in Stears.
Two considerations arise, in this cashless perspective. In Britain, many people have no bank account, for a variety of reasons. The BBC reported in 2010 that “ Almost a million adults do not have a bank account, according to the government-backed watchdog, Consumer Focus. It has issued a major report, On the Margins, looking at why so many people exist solely in the cash economy". If you add people without the ability to surf the web, you must include a large portion of the elderly, and the number dramatically escalates. The BBC also covered that subject :”Ian Hosking, an expert in design for the elderly at the University of Cambridge’s engineering design centre, believes we need to get the basics right first. "There are some very tech-savvy older people around, but there is clearly a large cohort of people who feel excluded by technology. They find it a bit impenetrable," he says.”
First, many people believe that a State’s duty is precisely to protect the humblest citizens, not the wealthy. If society goes cashless, the middle-aged well-off will barely notice because they already are cashless for some transactions. The poor and destitute, and the older generations, will go through living hell, however. The general idea is that people who are well off don’t really need the State to care for them, as they can care for themselves. But some of us depend on society to survive, for lack of alternatives. “Some experts now fear a two-tier urban realm in which those on the lowest incomes become disconnected from mainstream commercial life by their dependence on traditional forms of currency”, The Guardian reported. In the same way, The Irish Examiner fears that “the debate has divided along demographic lines with older people holding on to the idea of cash (…) There’s also a lot of sense to the argument that a cashless society will push the poorest even further towards the margins”.
Many also believe that a government’s duty is to unite a country, not divide it. “Besides its symbolic importance, banknotes and cash money in general mean freedom, wrote Ryan Martin, editor at CurrenScene. And our societies are slowly losing that freedom. Most of us have never thought about paper as the symbol of liberty. Yet, what represents freedom more than the ability to do what you want with your money, whenever you want, without having the need to tell anyone or having your bank to keep track of it?”
No cash means no transfers between us, the average people, and the homeless man on the street who depends on our couple of pounds to go and buy his lunch. It means no handing over a coin or a small note as a reward to a child who can run off to buy some sweets. It means no quick payments to the grandparents whose pension hasn’t come this month because the file got lost somewhere in the administration. No cash means basically, the average and rich in one market, and the poor and “disconnected” in the other. Good Luck, People.