Open Source Investigation: The War on Cash

Image source: The Money Project

Following last nights shutdown of Visa’s payment system across large parts of Europe, we thought this would be good time to revisit the topic of money. Cold hard cash is on the way out, following a sustained global effort to undermine its usage. Is that a good thing? Does the Visa crash exemplify just how little power the consumer wields in a world of universally digital payments? James Corbett has been running his Open Source Investigation into the “War on Cash” since 2016, here we post some of the more concerning findings. Feel free to contribute BTL if there are any further developments, or get in touch with The Corbett Report directly here.

The Cashless Society List

ARGENTINA – Argentina’s currency crisis has been known for some time. In short, Argentinians don’t trust the peso and are willing to pay premium for any currency they perceive as “more stable,” especially US dollars which are traded on the black market as “blue dollars” at prices far exceeding the official exchange rate. That’s why Argentina has been tipped for some time as a country that is likely to go cashless sooner than later, with a 2014 report from the Bitcoin Market Opportunity Index ranking Argentina as the most likely jurisdiction to replace sovereign currency with bitcoin. Argentinians have reason to be wary about this New Monetary Order, however; in a move described as “an eerie glimpse of what a cashless society enables” the Argentinian government mandated that banks report every credit card purchase made in the country directly to the tax authorities and added a 15 percent tax surcharge every time a purchase is made outside the country using a credit card issued by an Argentine bank.
AUSTRALIA – Late last year the Westpac banking group issued a “Cash Free Report” touting the highly self-serving finding that “Over half (53 per cent) of payments currently made in Australia are cashless” (using Westpac online banking services like their cardless ATMs, no doubt). The report goes on to predict that Australia will be cash free by 2022. Meanwhile, the government is readying a cashless welfare system that will allow the government to control what the money is spent on. What could possibly go wrong?
BELGIUM – In 2014 the Belgian government passed new restrictions on cash payments: cash can no longer be used to pay for real estate, and there is a 3000 euro limit on cash payments for other assets (unless purchase second hand).
CANADA – In 2007 the Canadian government stopped allowing payment of taxes in cash at government service centers. In 2010 Passport Canada followed suit. In 2011 56% of Canadians polled said they were happy to live in a bankster-controlled cashless society so the country killed the penny in 2012 and the Royal Canadian Mint started pimping the “MintChip” as a new form of electronic payment that will be “better than cash.” The Mint ended the program in 2014 but the Great White North is still on track to be a cashless society in the coming years.
CHINA – The People’s Bank of China, citing the need to “reduce costs, curb crimes and money laundry, facilitate transactions and boost central bank’s control on money supply and circulation” set up a research team in 2014 “to study application scenarios for digital currency and strive for an early rollout.”
EU – The head of the EU Anti-Fraud Office Giovanni Kessler, came out earlier this year to call for abolishing the 500 euro note because they “can make the life of fraudsters much easier.” He also noted that a more widespread adoption of electronic payment systems would be better for his office because “Traceability is paramount in fighting corruption and fraud.”
FRANCE – In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks last year, the French government stepped up its war on cash. In March of last year, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin declared it necessary to “fight against the use of cash and anonymity in the French economy” in order to combat “low-cost terrorism.” As of September 2015 it is illegal for French citizens to make purchases exceeding 1000 euros in cash.
GERMANY – In a rather abrupt turnaround from a 2014 Bundesbank paper on “The Irreplaceability of Cash,” the German Finance Ministry (perhaps egged on by the country’s leading Keynesian economist) is looking into a 5000 euro cap on all cash payments. And although Germany is still a cash-based society, things are changing; a 2014 survey found that 34% of the population makes purchases electronically already and 20% can envision making all their purchases via smartphone payment systems in the future.
HONG KONG – When it launched in 1997, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway’s Octopus Card was just the second contactless smart card system in the world (after South Korea’s UPass). Although originally used to pay for journeys on public transit, it can now be used at convenience stores, vending machines, supermarkets, photo booths and other retail outlets. In 2004 all metered parking spaces in Hong Kong were converted to cashless meters that required Octopus Cards for payment.
INDIA – India is one of the most cash-dependent economies in the world with a cash-to-GDP ratio of 12%, almost four times that of fellow BRICS nations Brazil and South Africa. But it won’t be for long if the Indian government has its way. Last June the Indian Ministry of Finance posted a draft proposal to its website for facilitating the rise of cashless payments in the country. In his 2015 budget speech the Finance Minister declared: “One way to curb the flow of black money is to discourage transactions in cash. Now that a majority of Indians has or can have, a RUPAY debit card. I therefore, proposes to introduce soon several measure that will incentivize credit or debit card transactions and disincentivize cash transaction.”
IRELAND – A 2013 paper from the Central Bank of Ireland lamented Ireland’s slow adoption of electronic payments and over-reliance on cheques, noting “Ireland could save up to €1bn per year by migrating to more efficient [i.e. electronic] payment instruments.” Later that year, the Central Bank launched a National Payments plan to help facilitate the transition and kicked off a €1m national marketing campaign to encourage the migration to electronic payments. The scale of the campaign surprised many, with the Irish Independent pointing out that “It’s a major advertising spend in the current climate, where a big-promotion budget spend is considered to be in the region of €500,000 outside of the big global blue-chips.” Late last year the Cork City Centre Forum attempted to take the lead in the cashless transition by launching the “Cork Cash Out” campaign aiming “to encourage consumers to ween off cash and opt-in for electronic-only transactions instead.”
ISRAEL – In 2014 a special committee headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff Harel Locker released a report examining how to reduce the use of cash in the country. The report advocates reforms (including restrictions and limits on cash transactions) as part of a strategy whose aim is “reduced use of cash, reduced use of endorsed checks, and increased use of electronic means of payment.”
ITALY – In 2011 newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti made cash payments over 1000 euro illegal. “What we need is a revolution in Italians’ thinking” Monti told reporters as he announced the emergency decree which was put into law before it was even formally voted on in parliament.
KENYA – Last year the Kenyan government awarded a contract to MasterCard to administer a smart card that can be used to pay for government services and receive welfare payments. Anne Waiguru of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning explained: “Uwezo Fund beneficiaries, Youth and Women Funds disbursements, National Youth Service, Social welfare government cash transfers to families, government food subsidies, hunger safety net cash transfers and cash transfers to orphaned children will be disbursed through the cards,” neglecting to add that the card also gives MasterCard access to the biometric details of 170 million potential customers.
MEXICO – In 2013 the Mexican government banned cash payments of more than 500,000 pesos for real estate and more than 200,000 pesos for cars, jewelry or lottery tickets.
NETHERLANDS – In 2013 the mayors of Almere, Rotterdam and Maastricht engaged in a publicity stunt to promote a campaign encouraging the public to abandon cash. They spent a week without spending any cash, relying solely on debit cards for purchases. The campaign is part of a long term trend away from cash and toward debit payments in many supermakets and other businesses around the country.
NORWAY – Late last week Trond Bentestuen, a senior executive at Norway’s largest bank, complained to the VG Newspaper that the Norwegian central bank “can only account for 40 percent” of the Norwegian kroner in circulation, meaning “that 60 percent of money usage is outside of any control.” There’s only one conclusion, according to Bentestuen: “There are so many dangers and disadvantages associated with cash, we have concluded that it should be phased out.” Don’t worry, though, the nation’s Finance Ministry says it has “no plans to change the law in this area”…for now.
PHILIPPINES – In the Phillippines, the government has launched an “E-Peso” project with the explicit aim of “transforming communities into cashless societies.” Touted as “a digital/virtual currency based on the Philippine Peso” its main selling point (according to the E-Peso’s own website) is that: “Since E-Peso transactions are completely digital, everything will automatically be recorded onto the customer’s account activity log.” The initiative is funded by infamous CIA front USAID, which “has awarded a US$25-million, five-year project to a company called Chemonics to support the Philippine government in the promotion and adoption of e-payments in the Philippines.”
SAUDI ARABIA – A MasterCard report on “The Cashless Journey” noted that by increasing the share of debit card transactions in the economy between 2006 and 2011, Saudi Arabia was moving at a faster than average pace toward a cashless society. Commenting on the report, Khalid Hariry of MasterCard noted: “Saudi Arabia is indeed moving at a better than average pace on its cashless journey, which has been significantly spurred along by government leadership. Regulation mandating wages assignment of employees’ to bank accounts has vastly increased access to electronic payment methods for the Saudi population over a short period of time. These changes, coming alongside initiatives to spur acceptance, and a push to migrate payments made during the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, can be expected to shift substantial share of consumer payments away from cash in the coming years.”
SPAIN – Citing budgetary austerity and the need to clamp down on tax fraud the Spanish government banned cash payments of more than 2,500 euros in 2012.
SWEDEN – Last year Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology released a report stating that the country is on track to completely eliminating cash transactions in the foreseeable future. Noting that there are now only 80 billion Swedish crowns in circulation in the economy (down from 106 just six years ago), the report highlights how digital person-to-person payment technology “Swish” (developed in collaboration with Danish banks) is already transforming the country’s banking sector, where there are now entire banks that do not accept cash. Meanwhile, the Swedish public is being urged to stop using cash by no less a cultural icon than ABBA’s Björn Ulveaus, who brags that the ABBA museum is now a cashless institution.
UK – In 2014 cashless payments surpassed cash payments for the first time in the UK, with research (from cashless payment provider Kalixo Pro) suggesting that the average Brit only carries £17.79 in cash at any time and 1 in 4 will walk away if a business doesn’t accept card payment. London buses went cashless in 2014 and just last year the Bank of England’s chief economist made the case for negative interest rates and abolishing cash.

can you spare $1.00 a month to support independent media

Unlike the Guardian we are NOT funded by Bill & Melinda Gates, or any other NGO or government. So a few coins in our jar to help us keep going are always appreciated.

Our Bitcoin JTR code is: 1JR1whUa3G24wXpDyqMKpieckMGGW2u2VX

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Graham Hooper
Graham Hooper
Jun 3, 2018 2:56 AM

New Zealand is Not Mentioned in the Article ….I Believe we were one of the Big Users of Electronic Payments Early Adopters of the Technology. Because of our Small Population it was easier to Roll out across the Country.Chgeque Books are Almost History Most people Use EFTPOS.Electronic Funds Transfer At Point Of Sale…..But i Wonder What Happens to Homeless who Ask for Small Change and the Buskers ..Will they Need Mobile EFTPOS Machines or Pay Wave Payments instead of A Guitar Case to Drop Money into.

John G
John G
Jun 2, 2018 9:41 PM

I’ve been next to cashless in New Zealand for about 20 years. I pay by credit card for nearly everything.
It is a bit harder when I go home to Australia and in Asia you always need cash.

Bal S
Bal S
Jun 2, 2018 9:32 PM

I’m just waiting for a MSM troll to remind us peasant minded plebs that Herr Fraulein of Buckingham Palace never carries hard cash on her and it’s never done her any harm, gaawd blessa!
So move along now, nothing to see here, everything will just turn out peachy……

Jun 5, 2018 4:37 AM
Reply to  Bal S

When you’ve got your own phizog on all the notes anyhow, all you have to do is take a selfie to print some more.

Jun 2, 2018 9:30 PM

Millions of homeless people are going to starve to death

Bal S
Bal S
Jun 2, 2018 9:59 PM
Reply to  homeslicez

The bankster cartel will view that as an added bonus (they’re very competent when it comes to bonuses) not an atrocity.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Jun 2, 2018 11:32 PM
Reply to  homeslicez

As intended.

Jun 2, 2018 6:54 PM

Cash does not require any technology in order to work.
Electronic cards and payments do require technology. i.e. the internet.
There is more redundancy in the cash system, but very much less in the alternatives.

Jun 4, 2018 8:58 AM
Reply to  KAIAMA

When “major‘ credit cards or their sub-brands or international funds transfer systems such as “Swift” are involved, “Internet transactions” use the Internet only up to the point that the purchaser types his or her credit card number and amount payable 7into the payment form. All of the processing communication after that point is carried out over networks that are not connected to or accessible from the Internet.

Jun 2, 2018 5:26 PM

Here in Germany we still like cash payments.I pay almost everything in cash.Only a few recurring payments I transfer via online banking.And if some “business partner”requires cashless payment.I like to go to go store get the stuff I want to buy go to the cash register put the money on the table count the change and good bye.I leave no name and leave no traces. I’m not against cashless money transfer but I want to a choice.

Jun 2, 2018 4:08 PM

“Cold hard cash is on the way out, following a sustained global effort to undermine its usage. Is that a good thing?”
In my opinion it is the road to absolute tyranny. I remain wary of Bitcoin as well because it relies on the internet which can easily be disrupted on a large scale or via your IP address..

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Jun 2, 2018 11:35 PM
Reply to  Maria

Just wait until the next phase of the banking crisis, Maria, when ‘bail-ins’ see bank deposits confiscated and replaced by useless ‘shares’ in the insolvent bankster organs.

Jun 2, 2018 3:14 PM

A small incident a couple of weeks ago, my son me asked to go to his bank and deposit £40 into his savings account.
“Sorry you can’t do that any longer, we’re not allowed to accept cash from third parties into accounts.” The lady from Santander told me.
“When did that happen?”
“New regulations this April though other banks have implemented it before us” came the reply.
“The best thing to do is to pay the cash into your bank account and then transfer the money to his via internet banking.”
Supposed to prevent money laundering as “cash needs to be traceable”. I suppose if you’re going to deposit a million quid in cash but £40? I remain puzzled.

Jun 2, 2018 4:34 PM
Reply to  Avenir

Ugh, utter nonsense with such a small value. There won’t be any banks left on the high street soon to pay cash deposits anyway. Well, you have to feel for the bankers – unlike us, they’ve really been suffering since 2008 and it’s not like they caused the crash themselves. Oh wait, no they haven’t and yes they did.

Dave Hansell
Dave Hansell
Jun 2, 2018 3:07 PM

What goes around comes around:

Jun 2, 2018 1:47 PM

Recently in Australia when the Telstra mobile phone network went down for about 3 hr., one cafe said it had to turn away about 200 customers as they had no cash and thus unable to pay. Internet service here is slow, unreliable for online banking, mobile cell phone service non existent in some areas, the phone now goes through the internet, when the power is off, can’t even make a phone call. Cashless society is about control of the population.

Jun 2, 2018 2:03 PM
Reply to  Dana

In this day and age it is good to carry lots of cash… when shit hits fan.. you are prepared a little

Jun 2, 2018 1:40 PM

Currently in Australia we are having The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, findings mostly negative. Who would trust the banks? We’ve been told within 2 years Australia will be cashless. So, do all the reserve bank bankers get together and decide which country goes first, e.g. a country of smallish population, etc.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Jun 2, 2018 11:46 PM
Reply to  Frances

With the Federal regime led (ostensibly)by an hereditary parasite, a bankster who, despite,(in my opinion at least), never doing a day’s honest toil in his life, is a multi-millionaire, the efforts made to attempt to avert the Royal Commission were extreme. To no avail, but when it comes to ‘consequences’ we can expect the usual lack of interest by the enforcement agencies. You see, future employment and larcenous ‘wages’ for the apparatchiki of the various regulatory agencies rely totally on not pissing off their future employers.

Jun 2, 2018 1:19 PM

Apart from the dangers resulting from the control by the powers that (schouldn´t) be over a total cashless Society one should also think of what could happen by an extraordinary solar storm destroying all electronics!

Jun 2, 2018 1:50 PM
Reply to  Schlüter

The powers that be haven’t thought that one through, they are only interested in keeping the majority misinformed and WORKING for nought

Annie McStravick
Annie McStravick
Jun 2, 2018 12:35 PM

I use my debit card as little as possible, and most of the time choose cheques or cash (both still widely used in France, where I live).
What about the migrants and other poor people begging on the streets, how to help them if cash disappears?

Jun 2, 2018 12:26 PM

The Irony being Australia leads the way in un-counterfeit-able notes and has just introduced braille recognition. So If a
cashless society is in the works nobody told us… mind you we are dumb as all fuck down here in the Southern Hemisphere just like you silly fuckers up there in the North

John Jeffery
John Jeffery
Jun 2, 2018 11:58 AM

You can run but you cant hide. The banker dictatorship is not elected. It is controlled by the BIS and yhe network of central banks. They control governmrnts corporations and people throigh the fiat money systrm where credit is freely available.This is globallism by stealth.
Like most dictatorships they will be absolutely ruthless. What happens when you dont pay the mortgage?

John G
John G
Jun 2, 2018 9:44 PM
Reply to  John Jeffery

Central banks are government agencies.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Jun 2, 2018 11:49 PM
Reply to  John G

No, they are not.

James Scott
James Scott
Jun 3, 2018 7:32 PM

it depends on which country you are talking about MulgaM.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Jun 3, 2018 10:11 PM
Reply to  James Scott

I believe that the vast majority of central banks are consortia of private banks like the US Federal Reserve, or ‘independent’ ie non-democratic and running the racket co-ordinated by the BIS. A racket to protect elite wealth and power, as exemplified by the private banking system, at ANY cost. Oceans of blood, if and when necessary.

Jun 2, 2018 11:43 AM

There are pluses and minus of going to a cashless society. This is true of most any change. I believe the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Jun 2, 2018 12:47 PM
Reply to  engine44

You believe.
Yet you do not say why you believe.
Your argument, if it exists, isn’t persuasive.

Jun 2, 2018 11:35 AM

Can alternative web currencies circumvent the govt tracking every smallest transaction of every smallest person?

Jun 3, 2018 9:20 AM
Reply to  vexarb

Short answer – no. They rely on blockchain (a distributed ledger) and each and every transaction is tracked and recorded for posterity. As we know from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and our smart phones – they track us all the time and that data is freely available to any government or corporation that requires it.
Crypto currrencies are a sneakipeeks wildest wet dream.

Neil McCormick
Jun 2, 2018 11:34 AM

So scary this. Total control over your money in the hands of a private company who’s only interest is in making money for their share holders. It is bad enough they own your house until you’ve paid off your mortgage. Now they will own YOU and what they allow you to have available to spend each day.

Jun 2, 2018 11:58 AM
Reply to  Neil McCormick

Is bad enough that they own the house Until you paid your mortgage?! Makes a lot of sense this

Jun 2, 2018 12:43 PM
Reply to  James

question That if sense what, James makes