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Experts’ debate: what does a cashless society mean?





The phenomenon is only just coming into debate but has been underway for many years: as time goes by, economies resort less and less to cash for payments, and increasingly to digital means. If cash is no longer king, what can we expect our societies and economies to look like tomorrow?

The lay of the land
 
A century ago, purchases as large as houses were often still made with cash, leaving “immaterial” payment means to the very top of the economy. Then came checks and credit cards, which gradually eroded the position of cash in our economies. Today, we have more payment methods than we can count: cash, check, debit card, credit card, wire transfer, swift payment, PayPal, NFC payment, and many others. But as cash had to make room for its competitors, various public and private organizations started daydreaming about how life would be if cash disappeared completely. Well, put simply, some would win, and some would lose, in the shift. The debate therefore hinges on many different parameters and unfolds differently in each country. Scandinavian countries are among the most cashless countries in the world, and it’s hard not to link that to the fact that Northern peoples have traditionally placed immense levels of trust in their government. Germans, on the other hand, have always resisted the cashless revolution - as they remember what can happen when citizens put their entire fate in the hands of an all-powerful State. Many experts have addressed the matter, bringing perspective and nuance into the debate.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

The cashless society from an ethical point of view









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The debate

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