A Cashless Society is a Surveillance Economy

calendar iconNov 15, 2021

Switzerland—one of the world’s most advanced free market economies, renowned for its finance industry—loves cash. For spending and for saving, physical money is ever in favour. Economist Fergus Hodgson argues this reliance on cash is ‘a symbol of good governance’ and a robust defence against the rise of surveillance economies.

Writing for Troy Media, Hodgson observes that despite a push towards online and contactless payments driven by the pandemic, cash remains the number one payment method in Switzerland. Banknotes in circulation are rising according to the latest report from the Swiss National Bank. Around 70 percent of the Swiss population keep cash at home or in a safety deposit box, with most holding around 1,000 francs ($1,100/€940) in case of emergencies and as a reliable store of value.

This popularity endures, Hodgson notes, despite the longstanding efforts of the Better Than Cash Alliance, initiated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with members including many governments and companies such as Visa and Mastercard. He describes it as a ‘taxpayer-funded coalition [that] lobbies to cajole and coerce people into digital payments, where they can more easily be taxed, monitored, profited from and subjected to negative interest rates.’

Cash offers anonymity in a world, where personal data is routinely collected and monetised. Hodgson quotes a warning from Jerry Brito of the Coin Center that ‘a cashless society is a surveillance economy… [The] death of cash means the birth of perfect financial control.’ Online, Hodgson sees this as fuelling a need for private cryptocurrencies, which can ‘at least mimic the benefits and privacy of cash’. Offline, of course, the easy option is to pay in cash.

The fact that the Swiss still use cash as their chief medium of exchange and even as a store of value is a symbol of good governance, including respect for civil liberties, purchasing-power resilience and fiscal maturity.
"Fergus HodgsonResearch AssociateFrontier Centre for Public Policy
Last Updated: Jan 17, 2022