Dr K.A. Rodgers of
New Zealand writes:
In the current crop of predictions surrounding a future cashless society, I can’t help but hear echoes of the prognostications some decades ago about an impending paperless office. I have a sneaking suspicion that just as we find hard copies essential to our lives today we will have a need in the foreseeable future for some form of hard cash.
I have noted that at the blunt end of the globe that although electronic EFTPOS and credit card transactions have soared in past decades so has the amount of folding money and coinage required in society. There have been changes in the way cash is used but it is still needed.
On a practical level I have stood outside a supermarket where the internet has gone off line, and yet another where a power outage occurred. Hard cash was the answer to purchases on both occasions. Those of us who had it went home with a smile on their face. Those relying on plastic stayed hungry. And when the earthquake bowled Christchurch in general and its CBD in particular, including all the cash machines, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand rode into town with bags of hard moolah to ensure folk could buy essentials such as bread and milk.
These experiences suggest that electronic transactions are still vulnerable on two counts: security of power supply and security of internet. Both need to be present where a transaction is taking place and where it is being recorded and processed. Sadly in our modern society these can’t be guaranteed 24/7 for a number of reasons. Any society that opts to go principally for electronic transactions makes puts itself at risk.
And I get twitchy about the potential cost of electronic transactions. Already our credit cards incur a charge at POS. And not just from the banks; some retail outlets are beginning to charge extra for card use. PayPal, of which I am a fervent user, costs for the convenience although no credit is involved. How long will it be before someone decides to slap a charge on each electronic transaction? Businesses? Banks? Or even our beloved governments by way of a transaction tax. It has already been mooted. In particular, for those of us stuck with a good-and-services-tax/value-added tax, I get very twitchy at the thought of paying a tax on a tax.