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Zusammenfassung von Cloudmoney

Brett Scott

Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets

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19 Min.

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    The war on cash

    Let’s take a look at how we got to where we are today. Our story begins during the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, anti-bank sentiment was rife – big financial institutions were viewed as the cause of the economy’s crash, after all. The ramifications of the crisis were huge, and much of the global economy entered into a recession. 

    At the same time, a technological revolution was happening. In the summer of 2007, just before the financial crisis really got moving, Apple released the first iPhone. This led to startups quickly coming up with apps for all sorts of things, including finance. The promise of this new “fintech” industry? To disrupt the power of the banks, democratize finance, and widen financial access. In the near future, they declared, we would live in a “cashless society” with frictionless transactions.

    But what happened next was not the promised revolution over the banks. Instead, as the tech industry morphed into “big tech,” it became part of the established order it had promised to replace. Companies like PayPal that originally set out to disrupt finance ended up being a new interface to transmit money from our existing, traditional bank accounts. 

    If anything, the advent of fintech has embedded the financial industry even more into our daily lives. We’re fed the narrative that digital, cashless payments are the way of the future, and that we don’t need cash anymore. We see this in the slow disappearance of ATMs and bank branches – the excuse is that customers are moving toward digital payments and no longer require them. But is this actually a big, collective desire from below? Are people really demanding a cashless society?

    It turns out that this bottom-up narrative of customers clamoring for a cashless world is false. In fact, there’s been a huge top-down push against the cash system from powerful financial institutions. They have two goals here: to make profit and get data.

    Let’s consider a perfectly normal situation – you’re ordering a drink at one of the increasing numbers of cashless bars. To do so, you need to download an app. Then, to log in, you’re asked to confirm your identity with Google or Facebook. Two commercial bank accounts are involved, as well as Visa or Mastercard who enable the transaction between the banks. 

    During this process, you’ve interacted with at least three corporate giants. Visa or Mastercard have taken a small fee for conducting the transaction. Studies show that the marginal transaction cost of a cashless payment is 50 to 150 percent higher than when using cash.

    Meanwhile, Google or Facebook now know what you’ve bought. They’ll harvest the transaction data and sell it to companies who’ll use it to target ads toward you. Who knows – you might even receive ads related to the drinks you like to purchase at bars!

    At the end of this process, you receive one drink. Of course, in most bars you can still pay for your drink with cash. But with the war on cash accelerating, more and more businesses are going cashless. 

    Over the years, the anti-cash front of financial giants has used many arguments to get businesses and their customers to go cashless. In the past, it was convenience and speed. Now, in the age of Covid-19, they’ve used a new argument to dramatically accelerate the war on cash:hygiene. 

    Take large retailers, for example. Egged on by payment companies, many of them stopped accepting cash payments at the beginning of the pandemic. Sports superstore Decathlon was one of them. But were they right? Well, England’s central bank released a report early in the pandemic saying that card machines, shopping wagon handles, goods, and self-checkout screens all posed a much higher risk of transmitting the virus than cash. So what’s going on here?

    The fact is that the anti-cash alliance is able to afford huge amounts of propaganda in the form of lobbying and PR. This means it’s becoming harder and harder to fight back. After all, who’s fighting on the side of cash? Central banks are essentially neutral on the topic. With financial institutions having a lot to gain in defeating cash, what do the rest of us have to gain in preserving it?

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    Worum geht es in Cloudmoney?

    Cloudmoney (2022) provides an overview of our present payment landscape. As it turns out, the age-old question of “cash or card” is not as simple as it seems. Underneath the push toward cashless is a murky world of powerful interests trying to extract profit and data from people’s purchases. And the disappearance of cash has more disadvantages than you might think. 

    Wer Cloudmoney lesen sollte

    • Literally everyone – we all use money
    • Anyone considering getting rid of cash altogether
    • Students of finance, economics, or politics

    Über den Autor

    Brett Scott is a journalist, campaigner, and author. He used to be a broker, and knows the financial system inside out. He is a fellow at the Finance Innovation Lab, and has published other books such as The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance.

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