Creepy IMF Paper Teaches Governments How to Wage War on Cash
There’s been another shot fired in the “war on cash.” Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published a working paper offering governments suggestions on how to move toward a cashless society even in the face of strong public opposition.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen a steady push to eliminate, or at least limit, the use of cash around the world. In May of 2016, the European Central bank announced it will stop producing and issuing 500-euro notes by the end of 2018. Not long before the EU announcement, a former Obama economic adviser/ex-Treasury secretary floated the idea of eliminating the $100 bill in the US.
Banks have also gotten in on the act. Last year, Chase capped ATM withdrawals for non-Chase customers at $1,000 per day. Recently, ATMs in Mexico stopped issuing 500-peso notes, leaving the 200-peso note as the highest denomination available. CitiBank Australia stopped handling cash transactions altogether late last year.
Indians also felt the squeeze last fall. On Nov. 8, the Indian government declared that 1,000 and 500 rupee notes would no longer be valid. They gave the public just four hours notice. Why? To force so-called “black money” into the light.
About 90% of all transactions in India are in cash. It is an overwhelmingly cash economy and virtually every Indian has currency stashed away in their home. The government can’t tax transactions using black money. By making the 1,000 and 500 rupee notes valueless, government officials hope to force the black money into the economy so they can get their cut.
Officials always justify their war on cash with talk about “customer preference,” and fighting terrorism and drugs, but the drive toward a cashless society is really about control.
By controlling access to your own money, banks and governments increase their control over you. They can collect maximum taxes and fees, they can track purchases, and they can even manipulate your spending habits by imposing negative interest rates that effectively charge you for saving.
Needless to say, many everyday people like cash and the relative freedom it provides. In a worst-case scenario, they can at least shield their wealth by shoving cash under their mattresses. You can’t do that if there isn’t any cash.
Well, the IMF wants to help governments crack down on cash in a kinder and gentler way. In “The Macroeconomics of De-Cashing,” IMF analyst Alexei Kireyev explains how governments can overcome the objections of their citizens as they wage their war on cash.
“Although some countries most likely will de-cash in a few years, going completely cashless should be phased in steps. The de-cashing process could build on the initial and largely uncontested steps, such as the phasing out of large denomination bills, the placement of ceilings on cash transactions, and the reporting of cash moves across the borders. Further steps could include creating economic incentives to reduce the use of cash in transactions, simplifying the opening and use of transferrable deposits, and further computerizing the financial system.”
Kireyev suggests governments will encounter less resistance if private institutions lead de-cashing efforts. After all, governments don’t want to give the impression they are trying to control their populace.
“In any case, the tempting attempts to impose de-cashing by a decree should be avoided, given the popular personal attachment to cash. A targeted outreach program is needed to alleviate suspicions related to de-cashing; in particular, that by de-cashing the authorities are trying to control all aspects of peoples’ lives, including their use of money, or push personal savings into banks. The de-cashing process would acquire more traction if it were based on individual consumer choice and cost-benefits considerations.”
Note: the paper does include a disclaimer. “The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF.”
Nevertheless, the suggestions in the working paper are creepy, to say the least. They certainly confirm the powers-that-be are very interested in limiting your access to cash and exercising maximum control over you.
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