The Cashless Society is Here

I have seen our future dystopian cashless society. What could go wrong? After all, it’s not the government would ever use its power to shut off people’s access to their money with a flip of a switch.

24 Comments. Leave new

  • alex_the_tired
    September 5, 2014 6:40 AM


    And the discussion will focus solely on how this will make us all “safer.”

    “It’s not like some crackhead can hold up a 7-11 anymore. The minorities should welcome this, as it will allow Great White Allfather to keep them safe from themselves. If I were black and able to comprehend the issues involved, I know that I’d be grateful.”

    Just think, when someone goes to buy a Ted Rall book at The Strand, TPTB can simply block the charge from going through. Right thinking is rewarded. Bad thinking is punished.

  • From what I remember, this was originally a right wing thing, but of course even nut jobs are right sometimes. The first place I remember seeing this was in the old Travis McGee novels, he only used cash. These were from the late 60’s!

  • I’m gonna give up Science Fiction. The goods & evils of a cashless society have been a staple for years. In Heinlein’s novel “Friday” he envisions a protagonist on the run from the government suddenly finding that her [debit card] no longer works, and cash is history. In other stories the government has used the charges to track the protagonist. Still and all, I envisioned it as A Good Thing right up until it was staring me in the face.

    I’ve got a copy of The Anarchists’ Cookbook, for which I paid cash in person rather than leave a paper trail. When I go to the organic medical dispensary, I always pay cash. I use a false number when asked to get a buyer’s club card. (“Jenny don’t change that number…”) etc.

    I still buy paper books for much the same reason. An online book can always be ‘edited’ for ‘historical accuracy’ – or removed from circulation altogether – but they’d have a helluva time doing that to the paper copy on my shelf. You can have my books when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands! (shout out to “Fahrenheit 451”)

    • Labor saving devices end up eliminating people from the labor force.

      I fear the elimination of poverty will likewise result in the elimination of poor people, under the slogan “work will make you free”. Human Smoke

      We know that humans, as a species, are capable such murderous deeds. We must examine ourselves to see if we as individuals are.

    • Heinlein, re my post below, was a right winger too. Never read Friday. I somehow lost my copy of TAC…

      • > Heinlein, re my post below, was a right winger too.

        Incorrect, even though many people today try to portray him as such. His contemporaries referred to him as a “Flaming Liberal” while he referred to himself as a “Libertarian”. This was before the current trend of wingnuts insisting they are “Libertarian” – his political views bordered on anarchy.

        He had an open marriage in 1938, and he was writing novels with protagonists of color long before it was popular. He often advocated free love, and did not believe that recreational drugs should be illegal.

        Many people use the novel “Starship Troopers” (1960) as an example to justify the ‘right wing’ label, but in that novel the protagonist has a Hispanic name, and he washed out as a pilot while his girlfriend went on to earn her wings. That’s hardly a conservative slant on things. It was also one of his “early” works, and he later described himself as ‘politically naive’ at the time it was written.

        He was openly critical of religion and authoritarianism, and usually portrayed conservatives as self-important buffoons lacking in common sense and generally impeding progress.

        RAH was born in 1907 – over a century ago – and as such we must view him as a historical figure: a product of his times. He witnessed two world wars and lived through the Great Depression. Unlike today’s wars, WW II posed a serious threat to the United States. That would tend to color one’s perceptions about war and peace.

        The society of Starship Troopers was facing even a deadlier threat: an enemy which appeared bent on genocide against the entire human race. In many of RAH’s works, the society reflects its environment; and one would naturally expect that a species faced with extinction might function differently than one at peace with its surroundings.

        He considered patriotism to be a virtue, but did not confuse it with nationalism as do today’s conservatives. Rather, he defined it as service to a group of people larger than your family. He considered service to the entire human race to be an even greater virtue and cited Neil Armstrong as the living embodiment of that virtue. Contrast that to today’s conservatives who make a religion of selfishness, and believe science to be a waste of money.

        While some of his views do seem rather conservative today; if you look at them in the light of his life and times, he was, indeed, “A flaming liberal.”

      • Crazy H,

        Well, we could argue for days about this. He was, as best I understood it back when I was a sci-fi nut, a “libertarian,” which didn’t mean the same thing back then. He did write with non white characters, but it wasn’t, from what I remember, any sort of “liberal” perspective on them. He had a novel, name long forgotten, where a white family gets sent forward in time when a nuclear bomb explodes right above their bomb shelter. They end up in a society run by blacks, who are just as bad to whites as the whites used to be to the blacks. Classic conservative sort of plot. He had another nobel, maybe it was the Puppet Masters, where there was a long diatribe about how our founding fathers deliberately set up the government so nothing could ever actually get done, classic libertarian thought. I could go on. He was right wing, but not in any real current sense, not even like those who now consider themselves libertarians.

      • @suetonius17

        The novel you’re thinking of is “Farnham’s Freehold” – but the takeaway is that the blacks were in charge and doing fine, rather than being portrayed as silly people incapable of running the world as in ‘classic conservative thought’. They outsmarted the white protagonists several times along the way to the conclusion. In that world, the whites and Asians had blown each other up – one wold expect that a ‘classic conservative’ would only consider a world in which the whites had prevailed over all other races.

        In “Podkayne of Mars” the protagonists themselves are black, or at least have black ancestry that they are proud of.

        The definition of ‘liberal’ is, “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” and that most certainly described The Grandmaster far better than ‘conservative’ (holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.)

        (BTW, this post is meant as ‘friendly debate’ rather than some other form of discourse – πŸ˜‰

      • Farnham’s Freehold, wow, somewhere buried way down in my brain πŸ™‚ Look, my memory of reading that is that it is true the blacks were portrayed capable, but they were also horribly stereotyped, in a classic pseudo liberated but not really sort of way. I can cut him some slack for when it was written, but I remember being appalled at points.

    • My techie friends often mock my ludditism when I purchase CDs, books and DVDs. Just wait till Zero loses the 13th century.

      • You need to get his post-mortem, “Grumbles from the Grave.”

        Heinlein’s last really good novel was “Friday.” It was significantly an expose’ on “racism,” more in the line of cultural bigotry than actual racism.

        When Heinlein wrote “Farnham’s Freehold,” even simply talking about Colored folks being in charge could have got anybody lynched in Northwest Louisiana. Heinlein was very good at assessing what the rubes of any particular time could reasonably absorb.

        But conservative? Heinlein’s real breakout novel of freewheeling debauchery was “Stranger-in-a-Strange-Land,” which really didn’t become popular until nearly a decade after it came out. Of course, it also became Charles Manson’s “bible.”

        I consider his final novels to significantly be ghost-works. Tightly supervised, but still not all his own.


      • Dan – we agree on Friday and Grumbles both.

        His last couple of published works were crap – publishers taking advantage of his name when they knew damned good and well his writing was no longer up to snuff. Capitalism at its finest.

        I read ’em, I burned ’em, I forgot ’em.

    • Well, CrazyH, I’ve never liked Heinein, but you’ve almost convinced me to take a new looks at his later works. I guess I’m easily influenced…. πŸ˜‰


      • Cool!

        I discovered RAH in junior high, read everything I could, I thought he was a god.

        When I got a little more discriminating in my reading I realized that his characters are two-dimensional, his plots are simplistic, and his moralizing gets tedious.

        Even later still, I started recognizing his genius for what it is. Even though his characters were flat, he’s the one who started taking humans and human societies into account in SF. “Okay, so we’ve got this great new invention … how does that affect society?” Before then, the three B’s ruled. (“The broad, the bum, and the Bug Eyed Monster”)

        He’s got a set of stories in a future USA where it’s become a theocracy, with president as High Priest. When I first read that I said, “That’s ridiculous, this is AMERICA and that would never happen here” … but now I’m not so sure.

        He came up with a philosophy of Secular Humanism before anyone coined the term. Ayn Rand started from the same assumptions for Objectivism, (“there ain’t no god, now what?”) but concluded that selfishness was the logical path. RAH was more about service to others (Self, family, country (tribe), species)

        While I don’t always agree with his politics, I love the way that he expresses them, and that’s why I wind up quoting him so often.

        Suggested reading: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, Glory Road.

        Suggested burning: The cat who walks through walls. (although it would have made a great short story, it’s far too tedious as a novel, and his writing days were behind him by then. Any decent editor would have thrown it back on the slush pile, but hey, there’s gold in Heinlein’s name.)

  • This from those pre-internet days of untrackable books, pamphlets, money, and data collection on reels of magnetic tape instead of banks of fast access hard drives. And political movements that required the physical presence of state agents to infiltrate and subvert:

    In The Beginning
    (Graeme Edge)

    “First Man: I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.

    “Establishment: Of course you are my bright little star,
    I’ve miles
    And miles
    Of files
    Pretty files of your forefather’s fruit
    and now to suit our
    great computer,
    You’re magnetic ink.”

    Today is Totalitarianism on steroids, compared to the old days of the COINTELPRO.

  • The opening scene in “Brazil” says it all.

  • The advantage of living in Mexico is that almost ALL transactions are in cash.
    Some stores will accept a debit card, but there aren’t a lot of them.

  • Whats worse than government snooping?
    Business and government teaming up to snoop

    At first to look for capital crimes, then for small crimes, then for anything

    Computers will check everything you buy, too much unhealthy food…time to raise your co pays

    Owe taxes to the government a bad debt to business, your card will restricted to essentials food, rent the power bill, you will have to make request of the court to get a new clothes for an interview and by the time they say yes some else will get the job that could have lifted you out debt.
    The list could be endless………………..
    Add in the hacking of the system in cashless world

    Then to top it off what happens if you get a a storm or earthquake and the the power is out for days, people will forced to loot then blamed for the crime. People might barter to make though days without power but they end up escaping sales taxes, another crime. Of course if your rich you have a month of reserves in the basement so who cares, just send the police to guard the gated estates.

  • Watch how Jason Bourne did it … (quite anonymous) stashed cash is where the real security remains. In the US Constitution, GOLD (and its more plentiful sister, Silver) is identified as real “money.” Only later did bank notes adopt the (cold, hard?) cash nomenclature.


  • Ted, I think we covered this half a decade ago. The cashless society cannot work because the entire underground economy of drugs and contraband will continue. This could be a consideration of elite societies or secretive sections of the larger societies that go electronic like rich restaurants or bitcoin, but the government, and all the untraceable crap it needs to do will be deeply affected if it goes cashless.

    The paranoia angle is interesting, but its also annoying and old. I think focusing on how inequality is allowing the rich to impose on everybody else is the more meaningful line of attack.

    • alex_the_tired
      September 8, 2014 6:50 AM

      I think — I could have it wrong, but I think — that what Ted is more focused on is not so much the “cashless” society in the sense of a society in which cash simply does not exist at all but rather the de facto cashless society in which cash is so less convenient than other forms of payment that attempting to use cash causes delays and complications.

      Small example: imagine having to go through the toll booth that is not automated, every day. It adds to your commute, your costs, everything. Don’t think about driving off to work without enough cash in your pocket. What’s that? You couldn’t make it to the bank yesterday? Well then, my friend, you are shit out of luck. You can’t go to work today because you don’t have enough cash to get through the toll booth. You could always run over to your neighbor and borrow $10. I’m sure they’ll trust you for it. I hope you don’t mind the look you’ll get when they realize you don’t have a credit card … What kind of a weirdo doesn’t have a credit card?

  • No need to worry about a completely cashless society. It would eliminate Congressional incentive payments, otherwise known as bribes. Not going to happen.

  • Credit cards will soon be passΓ©, Ted ; people will be required to stare into a machine which will compare their retinae with the registry and deduct the appropriate amount from the right account. Total control over the economic life of hoi polloi ! What happens when people are affected with diseases like diabetes which induce changes in the appearance of the retina, I leave to the science-fiction authors….


You must be logged in to post a comment.