The shortsighted race to a cashless future: Sweden

calendar iconSep 7, 2017

Is Sweden really on the brink of cashlessness? And if so, should that be celebrated?

Brett Scott warns consumers to first consider the downside of having only digital payment options available before supporting the cashless race in a recent article titled, 'Hang on to your cash. This dash to digitise payments is dangerous'.

In a BBC Radio 4 'PM' episode on September 12th, 2017 Eddie Mair looks at the trending cash debate, noting that according to a survey, 70% of Swedes believe their country will be cashless within 5 years. Another article by BBC claims that 'Sweden is the most cashless society on the planet, with barely 1% of the value of all payments made using coins or notes last year.'

But look at it this way. Chairs have been around for the tiniest fraction of human existence, and they are seen as necessary in meetings and transportation. Yet, the human body has not yet caught up with this practice and scientists now warn us of the health dangers that come from sitting in them. And thus, they continue to populate classrooms, homes, offices and entertainment venues.

No one wants to lose their seat! But if a law was passed that made sitting on the floor illegal... well, that's something worth standing up for. Please, take a seat (anywhere is fine) and have a read of this insightful piece...

Excerpt from The Guardian's article by Brett Scott
'Cashlessness is often presented as natural “progress”. Indeed, a recent BBC article about Sweden’s digital payments fetish asks: “So how did the Nordic nation get so far ahead of the rest of us?” As if cashlessness is a state we are all willingly racing towards.

'Commentators often suggest the phenomenon is driven by “consumer demand”. It’s partially true. Ask a room of people to raise their hands if they wish to be able to use digital payment, and most will do so. But if you reframe the question as “Do you want to not have the option to use cash?” people are more hesitant. We like new options, but we don’t like having options removed.

"Engineering public consent for cashlessness is a subtle process. People may indeed enjoy a new payments app or contactless card, but financial institutions then use that to justify the gradual removal of the cash infrastructure – such as ATMS – in order to deliberately make cash harder to use."
"Brett ScottFreelance JournalistThe Guardian

'Automobile evangelists in the early 1900s pitched cars as the transport of the future, superior to other forms, such as horse-drawn carriages. The bicycle, though, has remained stubbornly persistent, despite the car’s greater speed, distance and carrying capacity. That’s because the bicycle is more efficient in certain contexts, and requires lower maintenance. Cars have come to cause congestion, pollution, accidents and urban sprawl, and nowadays we see the simple bicycle as...' [continue reading].

Read full The Guardian article here

Brett Scott is a journalist, campaigner and the author of The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money (Pluto, 2013). He writes for publications such as The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired Magazine and CNN. He is a Senior Fellow of the Finance Innovation Lab, he helps facilitate a course on power and design at the University of the Arts London, and facilitates workshops on alternative finance with The London School of Financial Arts.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2019