Australia

Cash is freedom and independence, that’s why ‘progressives’ want to abolish it. In a society where only cards are accepted, the state will know EVERYTHING about us, says PETER HITCHENS

As the crowded train groans and struggles to get through the usual signal failures, switch failures, emergency track inspections and warnings for trespassers, a cheerful voice announces the approach of the refreshment cart over the loudspeakers.

But it adds sternly: ‘Unfortunately, we are not accepting cash today. Only contactless payments’. They are lying. They are not sorry at all. Cash is a burden for them. And it is not just today that they are not accepting cash.

They never accept money. No explanation is given for this restriction, but I know from experience that it is an iron law, not up for discussion.

Well, it could be worse. When I was in the Netherlands recently, I wanted to use the toilet in a giant railway junction.

It's time for a campaign to get everyone to accept cash again, says PETER HITCHENS

It’s time for a campaign to get everyone to accept cash again, says PETER HITCHENS

After finding the facility, I was confronted with a shiny, unavoidable electronic turnstile that only accepted some kind of contactless card, which I do not have. No coins allowed. No card – no restroom.

Anyway, imagine having to use a credit card for something like that. I remember that these cards were only meant for extravagant purchases that you really couldn’t afford, and that they were sold under the slogan ‘it takes the waiting out of wanting’. And that’s exactly what the mandatory use of a credit card didn’t achieve for me at Rotterdam station.

You would think that you could pay for everything in cash in this country. But you can’t. English law says that cash must be accepted to settle a debt. So, for example, cafes that hate cash are careful to put up signs saying that they only accept cash machines.

That way, you can’t take on debt in the first place. We can – and must – change this. It’s time for a campaign to get everyone to accept cash again. It can be done. I’m happy to say that merchants in several states in the US are legally required to accept cash.

And in France, where people have a wise distrust of authority, banks and almost everything, article 642-3 of the penal code states that traders cannot refuse cash payments. There are severe penalties.

Without this, the rapid disappearance of cash from our lives will only get worse. The almost superstitious fear that cash could spread Covid, and the retreat of millions to their homes, away from shops and streets, hastened this trend enormously.

If you objected, you were a bad, irresponsible spreader of the plague. Banks are closing. Time and again I look for an ATM I’ve used for years, only to find it removed and destroyed. And I live in a busy city. Millions of people now live in cash deserts, unbanked.

Someone doesn’t like cash. Social “progressives” have all but abolished it in left-wing Sweden. We are told it encourages money laundering, although I am sure electronic fraud is a million times worse. No, the “progressives” hate cash because they can’t control it, nor the people who use it.

Non-progressive people, on the other hand, like the feeling of independence and freedom that comes with the jingling of coins in the pocket, and the comfort of having bills in the wallet.

And just imagine what you will lose if cash is no longer used at all, as the authorities clearly want.

No more uncles and aunts pressing a banknote into the hand of a cousin or niece. No more cash in the hat of the homeless. No more impulsive money bets. No more private tipping of the waitress who (you suspect) will not get much of the restaurant’s obligatory service charge. These and other pleasures and freedoms will now have to be performed with cards and card readers, or not at all.

But without cash, as we know, everything goes wrong. In 2012, more than seven million NatWest customers were unable to buy groceries, pay bills or transfer money for three days. Some lost their home purchases or were left penniless abroad.

In 2018, five million TSB customers were also locked out of their accounts after the bank botched an IT upgrade.

And surely one of the most frightening implications of the Post Office scandal is that even a working computer system cannot be trusted with our money. And if it goes wrong, it could take years to fix the mistakes. During that time, we, not the banks, will be accused of wrongdoing.

The death of cash means the death of privacy and a massive increase in state power.

How long before the state knows everything our banks know about us, especially Sir Anthony Blair’s renewed plan for electronic identity data. If every transaction is electronic, then every transaction is recorded.

The computer knows what you bought, where and when you bought it. And if it knows, it can tell others.

Your bank and those with access to its systems actually know where you are, often within a few feet, at all hours of the day. It’s not that we’re ashamed of what we do – we just don’t want other people to know everything about us.

And we are wise to think so. Governments are becoming more powerful. And they care about what we do and what we think. In this country we have seen people de-banked because they were not the right person. How could a de-banked person survive in a cashless society?

We already got a hint of sorts in the scandalous treatment of pro-Russian blogger Graham Phillips, which was approved by a decree of the British government.

Imagine paying for your groceries at the unmanned checkout and your card is declined

Imagine paying for your groceries at the unmanned checkout and your card is declined

I don’t care whether you like Mr. Phillips or not. I don’t like him either. But the way he is being treated for expressing views on Ukraine that are unpopular in the State Department is grotesque.

The courts do not help him. When he applies for “licenses” to do perfectly normal things, they do not help him in practice. He is a non-person, as hopelessly trapped as a character in a Kafka novel.

Mr. Phillips can’t earn money or spend the money he has. Others can’t pay him. He is, insanely, forbidden by law to pay his council tax. But he has never been tried or convicted of a criminal offense.

Do we really want the government to have the power it would have over everyone in a cashless society?

Imagine you go to pay for groceries at the unmanned till and your card is declined. The same thing happens at the pub. You get home (on foot) and your inbox is full of messages from people complaining that you haven’t paid your bills. Then your electricity and broadband are cut off.

How far can this go? In China, an elaborate system of “social credit” can be used to prevent people targeted by the state (allegedly for not paying fines or taxes) from traveling within the country. In 2018, it stopped 17 million people from buying airline tickets and 5.5 million from taking long-distance trains because they had low “social credit” scores.

Such power is more or less unlimited, once it is in operation. Combined with constant surveillance, it is the Beehive State in action. By simply refusing to give up money or to abolish it, we can stand in the way of this wretched danger. And we must.

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