Why Cashless Economy means social exclusion

The other day I met with an articulate advocate for social justice, equity and diversity. We were to have a coffee, and the advocate suggested a popular venue in Capitol Hill.

When I got there, I found the establishment accepted only credit cards or “Apple Pay” but not cash. Without the former, the server said unapologetically, I was free to cancel my order and go elsewhere.

In a prior job, I worked at a clinic for new immigrants and was sensitized to the fact that many of the most vulnerable among us — the undocumented, the homeless, the working poor — may not even have bank accounts, let alone credit cards or sophisticated phones that can be linked to them. Businesses that don’t accept cash are by design or ignorance excluding a broad class of potential customers and making the neighborhoods they serve hostile to the underprivileged.

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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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