Seriously, No More Cash in 2012

It turns out that 2012 is a kind of magnet for apocalyptic thinking. Justin Wolfers has predicted that the name Cash, currently riding a wave of popularity, will largely disappear by that date. Will actual cash — currency, greenbacks, dineros — survive much longer? David Wolman is the latest in a long line of people hoping the answer is no. While we’ve argued for ditching the penny, Wolman writes in praise of abolishing physical money altogether, in favor of a streamlined, emoney future. The technological solutions, he says, are in place. The policy solutions are, we think, another matter. [%comments]


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  1. Kijeren says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the tooth fairy or the piggy bank!

    Nine months of loose change was the basis for each of my kids savings accounts.

    Sorting coins by denomination and year and tarnish level kept my OCD 4 year old occupied for HOURS.

    What about flipping a coin?

    Or convincing your kid brother that he should trade you his two small dimes for your two big nickles?

    A digital world would just NOT be the same.

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  2. Zoltan says:

    What would I do with for garage sales, parking meters, loaning friends a few bucks…and paying my contractor and mechanic in cash?

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  3. Holme says:

    I seriously doubt this would work, especially in a time where people are loosing trust in the current monetary system.
    If cash is abandoned gold might very well become a common mean of trade.

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  4. Mike says:

    in addition to having some sort of safe secure way to pay digitally we would also need a safe way to be paid. If you want to have a garage sale would you have to get a credit card reader? The football pool at work? chipping in for pizza? any system needs to be as fast and as easy as throwing in a pile of money on a resturant table and the guy quick at adding up makeing sure there is enough to cover the tip

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  5. Sean F. Kennedy says:

    The Freakonomics theme of unintended consequences:

    No matter how much you say that you can still have anonymous transactions, the end of cash would create a rebirth in barter.

    I see this coming from those low income consumers still not having access to as Wired put it “a ubiquitous and secure network of places where people can transact electronically.”

    Those who work in cash markets will likely find other ways to do business.

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  6. Ben says:

    Seems like one of the Credit Card reform proposals (don’t know if it made it into the final law) would allow merchants to charge credit card users the processing fees. Currently the merchant agreements with Visa & Mastercard technically don’t allow them to charge credit card customers any more than cash customers, although I know this is common practice in other countries I’ve been to. But my point is that use of cash will likely see a resurgence if credit card users are suddenly getting stuck with an additional 3% fee on each transaction.

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  7. Tim James says:


    If the power goes out now you won’t be able to buy groceries — the computer-based cash registers don’t work too well when the lights go out.

    Prediction: its not going to happen, at least not by 2012.

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  8. Emmett says:

    Clearly we will have an “embodied” cash system for a very long time (for all the reasons already stated — and more).

    BUT no one has brought up the fact that there are ideas about making all cash instantly traceable and DE-certifiable via RFID tags. Any piece of cash could be essentially “turned off” while in your pocket. “Turned off” cash could live in the world of the have-nots for a while until it traveled to a big enough retail outlet where it would be checked by the RFID equipped cash register and be declared worthless.

    I worry about this semi-cash scenario.

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