Inequalities and danger for Freedom: The bitter taste of Cashless Economy

In the latest chapter in the seemingly never-ending pandemic-fuelled global drama, the introduction of vaccine passports in Europe has alarmed many who fear yet another governmental invasion of the private sphere, another attack on our civil liberties and basic freedoms, with some feeling sufficiently outraged to take to the streets in London, Paris and other cities.

Although the ethical debate on such passes during a global health crisis is certainly nuanced, the deeper-rooted issues regarding civil liberties are becoming ever-more prevalent in a global economy in constant motion, evolving exponentially as technological advances create pathways to an ostensibly utopian future.

The cashless debate has often focused on related issues. How can we really be ‘free’ in a cashless society where our entire economic life can be accessed at the behest of the big banks… Our data at their fingertips? How could we ever hope to appear ‘off-grid’ in a society lacking the most basic asset of an unfettered day-to-day economy, namely, cash? Many see cashless as yet another opportunity for governments, the FinTech industry and big banks to assert more control over our daily lives. And you can’t blame them…

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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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