Going Cashless? Why Ethics Matters

The global health crisis has led to an increase in going out cashless due to fears of transmission of the coronavirus. Yet this has had an adverse impact on social and economic inclusion. It has also exacerbated the so-called “digital divide” over who has access to the internet and can buy things online. In the United Kingdom, 1.9 million households do not have an internet connection.

Cash, an integral part of daily life for millions of people, is being sidelined to make way for digital payment systems, under the guise of anti-corruption efforts, increased convenience and security for consumers. The act of going cashless has crept into our everyday lives, and it seems somewhat inevitable that advanced economies will fully digitalize in the not-so-distant future. In the UK, for example, over a third of consumers have reported being refused when trying to pay with cash “at least once since the first lockdown in March 2020.”

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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.

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