No more ‘cashing out’

The war against one of the last traditional bastions of ‘privacy as we once used to know it’ – cash money – has been raging ever since credit and debit cards gained mass traction as instruments of payment in the 1970s.  Since 9/11, attacks on relative, limited and conditional anonymity offered by bank notes have been stepped up in a shrill crescendo under the pretextual justification of “preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.” While this noble and unquestionably laudable purpose can under no imaginable circumstances be achieved by ending the use of cash, what it really does is increase transaction cost for the enjoyment of a modicum of big-brother-free privacy. Given that bank accounts have come to be ‘interest-bearing’ in a laughably nominal sense at best, and given increasing chatter about limiting or abolishing deposit insurance for bank accounts while the Cyprus bailout has opened Pandora’s box on another taboo – participation of bank customers in the losses of a government-regulated and presumably highly supervised financial institution – since those days, lock boxes for cash have become a fairly rational choice. They ceased to be the stuff of conspiracy theorists, drug lords or made men. Cash has become one of the last effective tools for limiting public transparency of the individual.