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Beware ‘cashless’ society

Is cashless just too easy? Will we pay the price?
Joy Johnson, Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Unite’s annual political school in Durham, in the week of the inspirational Miners’ Gala, was one of the best that I had attended.


It’s an intense three days. This year was no different in that respect, but we were carried along by the infectious atmosphere of those taking part. There was a tremendous range of speakers among which were the newly elected Battersea MP, Marsha de Cordova who had a 10 per cent swing in the last general election and Laura Pidcock, newly elected MP for North West Durham.


We also heard from Dr Stephan Nolan, economist with Trademark who spoke on ‘The Nature of the Political Economy’.   It was a cracking lecture laying out the stark realities of today’s economy.  I was particularly struck by his analysis of the cashless society the pace of which is gathering speed at an alarming rate. Anyone who thinks this is just progress should think again.


Have you seen that cinema advert that shows us how we can make our life even more easy if we went cashless? The run up for a movie to start is the ideal captive, targeted audience for advertising.


Waiting for Baby Driver (great movie by the way) we were treated to the latest bit of manipulative public relations in the banks and internet giants’ determination to wipe out cash.


A young woman, to an upbeat backing sound track, flits through shops, tubes, and taxis on her happy jaunt as she tap, tap, taps her way to her final fling with friends.


I bet you never realised that life was so much harder when you had to delve into your handbag scrabbling for a purse or trying to find your wallet and then having to remember your pin’s four digits?


Neither I guess did you realise that life would come to a juddering halt because you are holding up the queue as you count out money?


That’s another advert I saw, this time on the internet.  The queue is flowing in the self-service cafeteria until some Luddite counts out money causing a pile up.


It’s more than 20 years since Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said, “Banking is necessary. Banks are not.”


In a consumer driven society we are inching to an economy where activity in cash is zero. We lap up all things automatic. Just look at how we queue up to be our own cashier in the supermarket.


Be wary

But we should be wary. Cashless has enormous implications.  Our right to have purchasing power in paper currency is diminished.  Our shopping habits will no longer be private.  As it is when we use search engines one day the next we are targeted with adverts that relate to our searches.


Spending is valued above saving.   Not a lot of point with low interest rates. Yet the future will be worse.   Expect to see fees being imposed on accounts with credit balances.  Expect being charged negative interest rates.   There’s no doubt we are going to end up having to pay for our hard earned cash even if what we are able to save is small.


There will be other consequences. No runs on the bank. We will lose control of our own money.  In an economic crash the banks won’t be bailed out they will be bailed-in.


This is not some worst case scenario scare mongering we’ve seen it in Cyprus when in 2011 it was teetering on the financial cliff edge.


People on lower incomes need an economy that has cash. Not for anything illegal.  They just need cash to exist.


As Dr Nolan argued the banks haven’t changed. The financial institutions haven’t changed.  There is no reason to believe that an economic disaster of the magnitude of 2008 won’t happen again.



All this drive for consumerism is sickening. While writing this I was watching the news with images on our television of dying and suffering people emerging from the rubble of cities in Syria and Iraq – Aleppo, Raqqa and this week, Mosul.


These last few weeks have transformed our political landscape. We have wealth disparity on an enormous scale.   Oxfam recently reported that eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6bn people who form the poorest half of the worlds’ population.  Eight billionaires. It beggars belief.


If ever a political slogan was pitch perfect Labour’s: ‘For the many not the few’ inspired by Shelley, was it.


During the election campaign Jeremy Corbyn armed with a transformative manifesto, a fat cat levy on wages over £350k, return of the 50p tax rate for the richest, £5bn Robin Hood Tax on finance just three policies that would make a difference, was liberated.


Liberated from the Parliamentary Labour Party he went from strength to strength. He defeated Theresa May who not only lost her majority she lost her authority.   Now we have a cabinet in turmoil.


She’s now the beleaguered Prime Minister who will not be the mistress of her fortunes while Jeremy is the Prime Minister in waiting to head up a Labour government in waiting.


This comment was first posted in Tribune, July 12


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