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As highwaymen once ambushed travelers to separate the victims from their cash, so today many such opportunities continue to abound. As bank vaults once hunkered like mother bears around people's hoards of gold, now computers labor to a similar function by magnetically holding records of our economic achievements, waiting to be accessed from connected terminals anywhere on Earth at any given time.
The destiny of cash may have arrived at its last logical end. What can we expect when our globally interdependent economies finally render cash obsolete? Have robbers truly gone the way of Bonnie and Clyde, or have they become so sophisticated that they now manifest as banks and governments?
For the moment, the common folk seem willing to trust their funds to their banks, internet providers and the politically privileged. Just ask the Swedes.
But some people think they may be whistling past the graveyard. Given that governments, and the banks that fund them, have a dirty little penchant for war and total control over their subjects, can it be wise to surrender to them your entire means of exchange?
Whereas some consumers and industries may find no fault in the evolution to a cashless society, others raise dire warnings. What do the naysayers predict?
Loss of Privacy
Will the first lamb sacrificed on the altar of total digital economies be anonymity? What consumers eat, read, play, worship and even with whom they associate will be known to the powers that be. At any moment, certain foods, books, websites, religions and associations could be declared illegal or so unsavory as to be criminally suspicious.
If the past predicts the future, then suppliers and those buyers who prefer to make their own decisions will either be driven out of the economy, into a prison or underground.
Those who believe this dystopian future poses no threat to them because, in their minds, they "have nothing to hide" and entertain full confidence in their government, may find themselves unpleasantly surprised by sudden, official disapproval of some aspect of their lifestyle.
Who could have foretold a future where you would be convicted and confined for merely wondering if the official body count of the Holocaust were accurate? Who foresaw that failure to bake wedding cakes for homosexuals would enable bureaucrats to wipe out your business? Tables do turnupside down!
Loss of Accounts to Bail-in Theft
Cyprus 2013, the contrarians say, should have been a screaming wake-up call to anyone with money in the bank. When the Cypriot banks squandered their assets and lost their solvency, they, and their government conspirators, skimmed hundreds of thousands of Euros out of private accounts.
For account holders the world over, the tip of the iceberg has been exposed. Without access to cash, all people, businesses and organizations will find their money frozen within that giant, digitally submerged iceberg, unable to flee when they see trouble coming. In a cashless society, everyone becomes a sheep for shearing.
Chilling of Political Diversity
As mentioned, when a person's life is exposed as an open book to those in political control, expressing an unapproved opinion may be as 'safe' in the West as it is in Red China. Organizing political opposition could initiate, not tanks in a public square, but condemnation of bank accounts.
If individuals and groups disfavored by the elite become known through their purchases, their accounts can be frozen by a simple command from above. The recent IRS scandal targeting conservative groups seems to demonstrate that officially-scorned activity already suffers from Draconian and hostile oversight.
Unofficial Thieves and Bodily Integrity
So long as money exists in any form, common thieves will find ways to abscond with it. Can they be stymied simply because money is reduced to blips on a server? For all the efforts to thwart hackers, they still manage, regularly, to crack into cyber safes and make off with information critical to access financial accounts.
Who knows how much of their success depends on a little inside help? Maybe a few, maybe a lot of security penetrations occur with the assistance of an insider. Even if employees were angels, electronic outlaws continue to haunt the virtual forest.
Creating security access that depends on biometrics might add a thin layer of armor to accounts, but that may only render burglaries and muggings more gruesome. Without the ability to fling your wallet at assailants, now they may torture you for your passcodes and account numbers.
If financial security systems require fingerprints, microchip implants or iris scans for admittance, what would prevent soulless crooks from removing said items from your body? Certainly not your firearms, for those, most likely, must be relinquished before any bank account will be authorized in a completely cashless society.
Since the ability to make large purchases without personally delivering a suitcase full of cash or coin has been a reality for at least a century, the question arises: qui bono, who benefits, from a cashless society?
Some futurists wonder if the full implementation of a global cashless society won't seal the sarcophagus on the ragged remnants of individual liberty.