The Great Pandemic of 2020. It has left millions of people worldwide living at least part of their lives in isolation.
Of all the pandemic's long-term economic outcomes, the worst might be the complete eradication of cash.
Cash hasn't been very useful during the Covid-19 season. Under the shadow of lockdowns, many stores and restaurants have become delivery-only services. Cashless payments have become not just convenient but indispensable.
Even if we could use cash just now, most of us are nervous about handling paper notes and coins.
Of course, we were moving incrementally toward a digitally-driven economy well before Covid-19. In 2016, only 34% of payments in the UK were made in cash. In Finland, cash is already considered outdated. In 2018, Sweden's central bank announced that it would like to be cash-free "in three to five years."
Sexy mobile apps have made it possible for us to spend without carrying even a credit card - and to do it on the same devices we use for entertainment, education, communication and so much more.
Meanwhile, virtual cash systems like Bitcoin are now so widespread that they are considered a new class of assets. An estimated 100 million people own Bitcoins and 400,000 people trade in Bitcoin every day.
There's no doubting the convenience of cash-free platforms, but is the cashless revolution all that it's cracked up to be? Would a fully cashless society really be such a good idea? What would it mean for our financial viability and security, our mental health and our civil liberties?
Who Would Lose Most in a Fully Cashless World?
Some people still prefer cash, despite the streamlined sophistication of online payments. Elderly people, for example, often have problems with numeracy related to mental decline. They find it easier to deal with money they can see and feel as opposed to digital cash, which exists only as numbers on a screen.
For some of them, working with mobile apps is unthinkable - they were raised with different tools.
Poorer people in our society will also lose if we eradicate cash. One and a half million people in the UK have no bank account. According to the Financial Inclusion Commission, more than half of the 2.7 million people who rely mainly on cash have a household income of less than £15,000.
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