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How Feasible is a Cash-Less Society?

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  • #16
    that's a good idea.. I use paypal quite a bit...
    if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.

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    • #17
      Implications of a cashless society

      No one has mentioned one of the key implications of a cashless society--audit trails. Cash is a faceless, essentially untraceable transaction. The government doesn't like not being able to track who is transferring money to who. Granted, there are some legitimate reasons for their concern, but in setting national policy based on, say, the fact that many drug traffickers move large quantities of cash around, they are affecting ALL of us. Any deposit you make to a bank in the US that totals at least $5,000 must be reported to the IRS by that bank (some banks even voluntarily choose to report smaller amounts). You're not allowed to move more than $5,000 out of the country (either physically or by wire transfer) without it being reported to the government. They see it as an extremely useful tool in tracking the finances of various known or suspected criminals. Mostly these laws grew out of a desire to track the finances of large, organized crime groups, but the accessibility of audit records makes them useful for all sorts of investigations.
      The government is especially worried about digital cash--it has all of the advantages (such as anonymity) of cash, without the disadvantages of physical bulk, serial numbers, etc.
      To answer Null's original question--I think we're very close to a cashless society. But I personally think there are some significant disadvantages to it... Not just from the government, but especially from the profiling practices of various large corporations. They're not bound by the same laws and civil liberty restraints that the government is. Most people don't realize just how much data about them is collected and collated.. This convergence of massive amounts of digital tracking information is the greatest threat I see to personal privacy (perhaps we should start a separate thread about that :) )
      "The truth must be told though the world crumble" -- Fichte

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      • #18
        True, cash is great for avoiding paper trails.. I assert that personal privacy has all but lost its validity in the argument, though. It is nearly possible to live in this country without creating a lifelong fingerprint or who you are and what you do. This is nothing new.. Things such as monitoring $5k+ transfers is the least of my grumbles. For those unwilling to revert to bartering in secluded portions of unclaimed land, the movement from cash is just a simpler way of living according to the laws and policies that comprise the box we adoringly call freedom.
        if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.

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        • #19
          Largely true...

          True, it's essentially impossible to live a completely anonymous life in this country (and most others). But the degree of tracking, and the amount of information being collected, is growing extremely quickly. It used to be that your income was reported to the government, you probably had a driver's license and hence some record of your address associated with that, and of course medical records have been kept in a central repository for quite some time now. But then lenders and credit agencies realized that it would be useful to track everyone by the single unique identifying number that every citizen of this country has--their social security number. Sure, you can't be *required* to give your SS number to anyone but the government and your employer for tax purposes, but these companies can refuse to do business with you if you don't provide it. And since nearly EVERY company now wants it, you would simply not be able to borrow money or have a credit card if you were unwilling to give your SS number out. Mailing lists are now commonly sold to various interested parties, and often combined with other offline and also online records and databases (doubleclick.net and various other companies have recently been noted to be tying together medical records, insurance records and web browsing records, for instance). Criminal and civil court records are often now available electronically, removing the need to physically go to the courthouse of that county to obtain them. Many companies (such as Best Buy), have you sign for credit card receipts on a digital pad so that they can capture your signature electronically.. Many places now require your thumbprint on a check.. Many states sell DMV records, including the pictures (it was recently discovered that many states, such as Colorado, were selling these records to a new check-verification company on the east coast, which was also largely funded by the Secret Service). Hell, you can't even buy a battery at Radio Shack without them asking for your name, address and phone number. While you don't HAVE to give it to them, most people don't think twice about it.
          And now, of course, in the wake of the 09/11 attacks, people are willing to sacrifice even more of their civil liberties in order to feel more secure. For instance, face recognition software is being tested in airports, they're considering use of biometrics (hand and iris scans) for travelers to prove their identity at airports.. Several cities in the US already have CCD camera systems deployed in "problem" neighborhoods. Face recognition software was used at the last SuperBowl.. In Great Britain, a VERY large number of camera systems have been deployed in cities, and they are already using face recognition software on them to match against known or suspected criminals.

          So while I agree with you that it's been impossible to be truly anonymous for quite a while, I do think that we're becoming much LESS anonymous..

          I don't mean to sound like some paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I for one would prefer to be able to remain mostly anonymous, and I see that ability quickly disappearing..
          "The truth must be told though the world crumble" -- Fichte

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          • #20
            true, what means of anonimity existed are quickly disappearing... although at this point in my life, I'm not exactly sure how much I care. I agree with your phrasing for "sacrifice even more of their civil liberties in order to feel more secure". Because it is highly unlikely that the measures will make much of a real difference, but the public perception of safety will be greater. Well.. until the next attack... How can one really stop a handful of individuals, willing to learn specific tasks and give their life in any event, at any cost to do so?
            if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.

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            • #21
              Yes..

              Exactly.. Though I suppose it's hard for the government to say "well sure we got attacked and didn't stop it, but we don't feel there's anything more we can do to prevent it in the future". They essentially HAVE to implement SOME new measures to appease the public..

              (It almost seems like the two of us have a private message board here, considering the lack of posts by anyone else) :)
              "The truth must be told though the world crumble" -- Fichte

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