A couple of friends got married recently and I found out they paid over half of what the owed in cash to get pretty decent discount.
So before we talk privacy and company let's remember that this kind of hidden economy has a huge cost for society and it's very widespread in southern Europe.
Also, people here know they can report a business for not giving out receipts. They might get a share of recovered taxes for that.
I don't know all the pros and cons of that setup but it seems there are ways to maintain a cash based system and still collect taxes.
If this is truly the reason for the lotteries, is the government / tax agency giving out the prizes? I never bothered to look closely but it always seemed something run by those businesses.
Yes of course. Every country has trouble collecting taxes. In Taiwan they memorialize the day when the police were too heavy handed with a woman selling untaxed cigarettes. A citizen died in the skirmish.
This day is 2/28 and largely remembered as the beginning of a 40 year period of martial law in Taiwan. I recommend visiting the 228 museum in Taipei's peace park. Even though the current government, KMT, revised the history in this museum to downplay the fact that 20,000 people went missing in Taiwan during this period, the museum still tells a great story. It's great because the story wouldn't exist at all in a place without free speech, such as China.
Though as I understand it, it requires a dot matrix printer to populate these receipts (or writing them by hand).
Edit: reading further I see China is rolling out their lottery in more areas the last few years
We asked for them quite often and they gave them each time. Total, we won 2 cans of Coke and maybe 10 yuan :)
Fun fact - fapiaos you get might be fake. Once I got fake fapiao, printed from fake printer, in fake taxi. I know it's fake because I tried to validate it online (there's service for that) after I noticed I got fake bill :/
One thing I wonder is if you have an increased likelihood of winning if you buy more. Does a $1 purchase give you the same chance to win $100 as a $20 purchase? I don't really know. Over 100 receipts you usually win like $5
In a cashless society, it becomes possible (if not inevitable) the enforcement of that taxation will become even more onerous.
$20 from grandma for your birthday? Gift tax.
You and your co-workers decide to split a large lunch?
Temporary incorporation tax.
Your friend buys a 50 pack of DVD-Rs and you split them by reimbursing him half of the cost? Sales tax, again.
Sell an old comic book to a friend for more money than you paid for it? Capital gains tax.
Cash acts as an inhibitor to the impulse to tax everything or to tax it too greatly. It's understood that if you make a tax too burdensome, people will avoid and evade it.
It's not that simple. Scandinavia has a higher tax rate than Italy (and Russia), but much less tax evasion.
If the people of Scandinavia feel that what they're getting in return is worth it, they'll pay the taxes.
People in Scandinavian countries have a higher amount of trust in their governments too. I'm sure that has a lot to with it.
Someone who believes that their tax money is going to be used for the legitimate(In his or her mind) needs of society has a greater incentive to pay them than the person who believes that their tax money is going to be used to pay kickbacks to the political allies of the people in charge.
When that trust erodes, through government sinecures and throwing too much money at a brother-in-law's construction firm to build infrastructure, etc. Then people are unwilling to fund that activity and limit their tax payments as much as they can. And when they really lose faith as they did in Greece it seems, well not paying taxes seems to be more common than paying taxes and the whole thing breaks down.
You meant "cost for government," right?
It sounds like the slice of society that gets the cash discount is benefiting greatly from this "hidden economy." Saving 50% on a venue is a big win for the newlywed's pocketbook, leaving more money in their pocket to buy goods for their new household.
Well, until the bridges start falling down, anyway...
No, I don't believe the government is necessary to do those things.
But if you look at actual government spending, these sorts of infrastructure projects are dwarfed by things like military spending, which could use a reduction.
I live on a very long (two miles) private road that I jointly build and maintain with an association, etc. There is no government role whatsoever, and we even have bridges.
So it would appear that my experience validates your libertarian fantasy world. Look - we're actually doing it!
I've got sour news for you. Even a wealthy, well educated collection of fair minded and well intentioned people find it very difficult to maintain a dirt/gravel road to an acceptable condition. It's very difficult and costly. We are right on the edge of success or failure in this maintenance.
Further, if we were to actually pave the road (a true fantasy) it would be completely, totally unthinkable with regard to cost. Asphalt is paid for by the square foot and it isn't cheap. When you drive by a very quick section of asphalt road being resurfaced ... say 200-400 meters or something - very short ... understand that that is millions of dollars in asphalt work. Millions.
Can you build some roads and bridges without the government ? Sure, of course you can. Will they approach, in any category, even the bare minimum acceptable standard that you hold ? No.
Here's a link: http://www.dot.state.fl.us/planning/policy/costs/costs-D7.pd...
Florida says 2-lane roadway is $3.3M per mile. So a few hundred feed, costing millions? Nonsense.
1. Your parent actually actively maintains a private road, and has probably done their research...
2. It costs them so much because they just have a single road, so they can't amortize the cost over an entire city or country of roadway. Public utilities tend toward monopoly for exactly this reason -- providing the utility to any small fraction of society is enormously expensive.
Make no mistake, natural monopoly is what happens when you privatize utilities. Ever met a Comcast customer who feels anything short of contempt toward Comcast? Now imagine dealing with Comcast any time you need to drive to the grocery store. Or even leave your house.
3. Parent's numbers actually make sense when compared to Florida's, once you realize Florida has an entire state over which it can amortize costs.
Maintenance a private road outside the USA. Labour is cheaper, however, everything else is more expensive so it balances out vs US numbers last time I checked.
Again, I was giving my own anecdotes about my own road, but then mid-comment switched to a hypothetical "stretch of road" that someone might drive by, being maintained, and in my mind I was thinking of a four-lane highway. It was unclear.
I will say, however, that with all due respect - things are more expensive here in California than they are in FL, so while 400 meters of four-lane @ the Florida rate posted above comes out to ~1.2 Million, it's probably a fair amount more in California.
Again, $M for a few hundred feet is nonsense.
Especially for a previously unpaved roadway with bridges that probably also needs widening, leveling, etc. That isn't patch work cleaning up existing paved road...
The number is high but not unfathomably so...
Anyways, either parent is telling the truth or not. But I find it hard to believe parent helps maintain a 2 mile private road and also you know better than him the cost of paving that particular road.
Which raises the question: should this very expensive road, which is primarily used by members of this specific and admittedly wealthy community, be subsidized by the rest of (relatively) poor taxpayers of that state?
Also, shifting the cost of such roads to everyone encourages even more construction in remote areas, which doesn't seem like a good thing to promote...
And actually, here in the country, there are many cell networks that do very poorly. Houses still have land lines mostly because connectivity can be very spotty. A govt-mandated tower utility would help that.
Lastly, its not about subsidizing. E.g. REC was not subsidized, just a protected class of business that was mandated to provide service to everyone in their area. Subscribers pay the whole freight. Its like insurance; those near the generation plant are kind of subsidizing those far away, but everybody gets service.
"Florida says 2-lane roadway is $3.3M per mile. So a few hundred feed, costing millions? Nonsense."
I was thinking of a stretch of highway or freeway - four lanes - when I asked the reader to "think of a stretch of road being worked on". Sorry - wasn't clear.
Also, I was measuring in meters. So, 400 meters of four-lane @ 6.6M per mile ... that's ~1.2M, give or take.
1) If it's expensive to do for the private sector, it's expensive to do for the government, no part of the cost equation changes.
2) It only seems "cheaper" b/c the private sector would have to ask for money by providing enough value enough for you to part with your money, while government doesn't, and raises money by pointing guns at people. However, to avoid the free-rider problem, you can use assurance contracts to raise the construction money and tolls to pay for maintenance, similar to what governments would do anyways.
3) American infrastructure was rated a D+ by the ASCE, so in what way is having government the sole provider of infrastructure a guarantee of quality?
4) slightly unrelated, but do you really think we'd have the same level of urban sprawl, needing a car to get anywhere in suburbia and such a heavy reliance on fossil fuels if roads were built through market forces rather than government subsidy?
The same thing is true in most other parts of the world (i.e. who is financially responsible for building and maintaining the roads). In general you will find that the milder the climate is, the nicer the roads are.
> 4) slightly unrelated, but do you really think we'd have the same level of urban sprawl, needing a car to get anywhere in suburbia and such a heavy reliance on fossil fuels if roads were built through market forces rather than government subsidy?
It is already mostly financed through market forces by local governments and via various use taxes (e.g. fuel tax, property tax, etc)
I worked as project manager for a contractor doing public works at one point. The government (at least in the US and probably everywhere) wastes a staggering amount of money.
Not saying the government doesn't need funding. They do. But they could certainly do a lot more with less.
Imagine a programmer who has to document what they do every quarter hour of their work day to ensure accountability to auditors looking to reduce waste. They end up wasting more time documenting what they do than you end up saving.
And actually-enforced penalties for individuals in government who stonewall the auditors because they know an honest auditor would want to reduce their budget.
We cheered when that scumbag Reagan talked about starving the beast. It was clear that even George HW Bush, Reagan's running mate knew it was a stupid idea. The problem that neocons won't talk about is that we don't have a single preferential way of allocating budget. Imagine we shrunk government income by one trillion dollars. That's the easy part but where will we cut our expenses? We haven't dealt with the difficult problem at all.
Remember that every dollar "wasted" goes to someone. If they are loud and influential, they will probably get to keep their money/credit. So basically the rebalancing brought upon by starving the beast is nothing more than a cash grab by the more powerful more influential over those less so.
I invite anyone who talks about cutting taxes to first come up with a plan to cut government spending. If the spending cut is palatable and can survive the mobs, I am in favor of starving our babies to cut taxes for the wealthy. But we can't put the cart before the horse. No new tax cuts without at least a matching spending cut that we can keep for at least a decade or so.
I don't mind discussions of cutting the federal government drastically even with overblown threats of riots and unrest. Why continue to prop up a federal system that was never designed to scale up to the size it is and that is out of control? It can't be fixed by any amount of tinkering so just let it collapse back to the original limited powers concept.
U.S. state and local governments do a much better job spending taxpayer money, just revert all these poorly run federal agencies and programs back to the state level.
We can talk about our successes with independent school districts where communities proudly fund their own schools with taxes at rates that they think are the best. Or take local police and EMS or local utilities for that matter. It is glorious when it works as it creates a sense of ownership and responsibility towards a community resource.
I agree with you in broad strokes that we can and should support devolution. However, I assert that we should not do this because our federal government was not "designed" to do this but because it is the right thing to do and it is in all our best interest to do it. We should not do something or avoid doing something based solely on what the system was "designed" to do. We should be willing to make changes to the system as we learn new things. I cringe on the amount of reverence with which we hold our founding fathers. The United States is a well recognized nation throughout the world and we do not need this crutch. (:
Any power or service the federal government was not designed to own is reserved for the individual states. All the wealth transfer programs, pension plans, and public services we have now federally can be delivered by the states. So yes, there is a "design" there, we're just not adhering to it.
And when it all reverts to the states, then we can have real fights over what's the "right thing" for the state to do and where the dollars go.
A good solution would be to create a universal basic income at the federal level funded by a no-exceptions flat tax on consumption, which keeps the federal government simple, and then let the states do everything else.
You can believe that churches and governments can easily match and surpass whatever the federal government can dish out once economic power reverts to the States.
The difference is, as already mentioned, citizenship. The US is under no obligation to provide welfare benefits to foreign nationals or grant them citizenship. US states have no equivalent way to prevent low income US citizens from moving there and claiming benefits.
> Every year around springtime, hundreds of homeless will literally start a trek from Portland OR to Berkeley CA to get enrolled in their generous welfare programs. What you describe happens already.
How is the fact that it actually happens supposed to disprove it?
Perhaps when the States have to administer their own welfare programs, it will no longer be profitable for the individual states to shoulder the burdens of hosting the underclasses when neighboring states will not. Sanity might return to the immigration debate, it could be a really good thing.
That was kind of my point. It isn't profitable already. Increasing the magnitude would make it unsustainable. There just wouldn't be any states offering the same level of welfare programs as the federal government currently does.
> Sanity might return to the immigration debate, it could be a really good thing.
Federal universal basic income to all citizens as a replacement for existing welfare would do the same thing. Immigrants who cut the line wouldn't get it (and all the other welfare programs would be gone), which would make living here too hard to be worth breaking the law. Then we could correspondingly increase the number of legal immigrants we accept because we'll have more capacity to integrate new legal immigrants without the people who cut the line.
No? I'm glad you caught that. Illegal immigration IS profitable, that's why it continues to happen. The advocates seem to cross political lines too, everyone must be profiting from cheap labor.
I love unsustainable pants-on-fire arguments like this. Any country or state that is being overrun in a truly unsustainable way either ejects the invaders (or does worse to them) or ends up conquered.
> Federal universal basic income
It's fun to imagine how one would tinker with the system, but you're just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.
I am afraid this 12% tax will drive a lot of our economy underground forcing us to raise rates. How do we prevent that from happening?
Imagine you're an IT contractor that needs to bill international customers for your services.
In Italy you have to pay very high taxes since being an independent worker you fall in the same category of those who can easily dodge taxes although you're not in exactly the same position: the government treats you as a thief by default and puts you up to a taxation level that makes sense only once that it's assumed that you will only declare about half of your revenue.
This is actually a big problem and has severe repercussions on the ability to spawn new businesses in Italy.
Well, depends on if you want a government capable of affording to pay for public education, roads, military, etc.
I mean if you care about none of these things and want the government completely destroyed, a 50% revenue cut might seem okay to you.
If you want to argue governments act in part to facilitate waste and fraud, i.e. those airports and bridges don't really cost that much, I agree, but unless there's aggressive auditing attached to every project, I see no way around it. Enough people are sufficiently dishonest and greedy they will take if they can get away with it.
There is an excellent EconTalk expisode with Tooley, as well as a lengthy article here by the author.
2) His argument still would fundamentally function as a regressive tax burden greater than the existing tax burden [for education] on the poor.
3) A fee-for-service regressive tax burden will ultimately cut the poor off from services.
> With a minimum wage of about $33 per month in the area, monthly fees in the private unrecognized schools are thus about 12 percent of the average monthly earnings of an adult earner.
You do understand in the US the poor aren't paying 12% of their income to send their kids to school right?
The full federal tax burden for education, infrastructure, etc. on the poor is ~3%.
If you factor in the state-and-local burden, the full burden is barely higher at ~13%. So for literally one service, the cost is nearly the entire tax burden for the poor.
There! Done in one :)
Either you have privacy and accept that sometimes, some people are going to use that privacy to commit crimes (such as dodging taxes), or you don't have privacy. If there can be an exception to privacy because tax, then there can also be an exception to privacy because terrorism.
When one is quite ok right now and that he/she needs to spend energy and think, and take responsability, for what's going to happen way later, it's rarely done.
So "privacy but" are going to win. Because it takes thinking and effort to fight it. And what for? Righ now, i'm alrigh.
Banks would not accept this deal, as they need the customer data for data analyzes and market research. It is also a resource to be sold in some places or to be "shared" by "partners" like insurance companies and marketing firms.
Government would not accept it, since if the tax department get this then a dozen other department also want it. Police, secret police, and prosecutors want to dig for dirt, and has a long history of ignoring anything that would benefit a defense. Social security want to dig through it in order to skip doing a real assessment of a person (having dept is a good sign, and a buffer is a sign that the person should be denied help). Political parties and political research wants to analyze it and draw conclusions without having to talk to people and do polls.
I do not want someone else to analyze my transaction, and if they have to, I want safeguards that prevent incorrect conclusions to be drawn. As it stand, there isn't any, and its barely even recognized that I am a stake holder with any rights over the data.
It's the big businesses who practically need to log all sales and transactions by the book. Companies which have lots of employees and locations can't possibly maintain such double books in practice, not to mention keep it secret. (They can try smart "tax planning" via remote jurisdictions and tax havens though, which on the other hand isn't generally available for the local entrepreneurs.)
However, if you buy a lunch or pay your barber with cash, is it right that he gets your cash and the government gets nothing? Wrong. The minute the bistro owner or barber goes buy food from a chain store or fills up at the petrol station, VAT and other taxes will be paid and the money will re-enter the official circulation.
At best the money will bounce a few times between a few local entrepreneurs until it eventually becomes taxed again. How much effort is worth spending trying to chase these pennies?
What if efficient taxation reduces the amount of transactions? This happens all the time, and then both the tax man and the entrepreneurs lose.
What if all that unaccounted local cash flow actually lubricates the economy, making better and more efficient use of money, and thus generates larger total taxable flow of money?
The percentage of untaxed cash flow also serves as an indicator of how aligned people are with the government taxation level. If people are willing to make lengthy efforts to avoid taxes repeatedly, then maybe taxes are too high. If they only do it when it's convenient or for local shops, then maybe everything is close to fine.
It's not so black and white whether it's a "huge cost for society" as it's also "beneficial to society". The question is about trade-offs which need to be balanced, not overruled.
Instead of "the most dominant market players are the ones with the best products", we get "the most dominant market players are the ones who have some combined aptitude in product value and tax evasion". That is, some resources are wastefully diverted to tax evasion instead of to making better products.
A smart dude who could have been working towards self driving cars is instead finding ever-cleverer ways to hide money or game the tax code.
1) make taxes impossible to avoid. Problem: tax code is written not by the few tax-evading small businesses, but by the many tax-evading large businesses, who won't be spending less on getting loophole-filled laws written. So this plan won't work.
2) force people to pay less taxes, such that they cost of evading is higher than the cost of paying them.
I think Mitch Hedberg put it best: I give you a dollar, you give me a donut. End of transaction.
What's a consumer's interest in asking for a receipt? Especially when you can get a discount instead?
Because some people need an alibi. Patrice Oneal put it best: https://youtu.be/RrBPmoIAyts?t=100
You incentivize compliance through monetary awards for reporting offenders.
Donut with receipt: $ 1.49
Donut without receipt: $ 1.00
Taxable reward from
gov't for reporting
Nothing about that practically requires a receipt. If I'm denied a refund when I go back with an insect-laden donut, I can make enough ruckus in the shop to get my entertainment value's worth. I don't really need the $0.75 anymore than I need the donut...
This already exists and is in wide use in China. It's quite interesting.
If you go to a restaurant in Shenzhen, for instance, you are issued a stack of scrip whose denomination matches (to the nearest ten, IIRC) your total bill.
Those little paper slips are lottery tickets which award real cash prizes:
Italy fines the customer rather than the shop keeper, or did I misunderstand what you said?
1) Require receipts for all transactions.
2) Offer 10% of recovered cash for anyone you report who doesn't follow #1. Add the penalty on top of any recovery [e.g. Current Fines + 10%]
4) Taiwan-style receipt lottery [ http://www.tealit.com/article_categories.php?section=living&... ]
Cash businesses here do exist. My mechanic only takes cash, and he's a lot cheaper (and, incidentally, better and more honest with his customers) than other mechanics I've dealt with. I wonder how the IRS deals with that. I know that with people who get tips (waiters, hairdressers, etc.) they assume a certain percentage of income from cash tips.
There are two stable equilibrium points in a society, one where most people play by the rules most of the time and one where most people ignore the rules most of the time. It's quite difficult to shift from the latter to the former; it seems to be historically associated with Protestantism, which itself could be seen as a movement to ""clean up"" religion from corruption.
The reason we go back to '2000 year old [not sure if 'misty' or 'mostly', both work in interestingly different ways] fantasy document[s]' is because there are universal truths about the human condition. The value of a statement is not in its newness or its antiquity; it lies in the truth of the thing being said. Brashly rejecting an idea because it is old has the same merit as rejecting an idea because it came from a woman - that is to say, none.
Once you are big enough, it gets easier and you can go full legal, but to start, it's terrible.
Technically true but useless for evaluating the cost/benefit of any specific proposal. If the question is, is it worth pervasive mass surveillance, the answer is no.
Any where, where there are cash transactions this is an issue. In India, apart from salaried people taxed at source almost anybody else rarely if ever pays taxes. Its assumed taxes are only what stupid people pay.
And since they make up for a huge vote bank, any move to introduce reforms for cashless payments are resisted. Plus contribution to political parties happens in cash so politicians themselves don't want it.
This leads to a situation where the tax burden is expected to be endlessly on the salaried middle class and they are expected to pay up unfairly all the time.
Privacy aside, the true reason is people just don't want to pay taxes.
I don't know the details, but plausibly could you argue that India's real problem lies in government inefficiency and/or corruption?
Your are assuming corruption is an phenomenon that is generated in total isolation without other factors contributing to it.
Both government inefficiency and corruption have roots in lack of accountability.
It wasn't really about India but about the idea that people somehow inherently dislike paying taxes, rather than feel like they are getting ripped off when paying them. It's a complex issue regardless of the country and culture.
Has a huge cost for the government, yes, but whether or not its a cost to society depends on the marginal benefit of the government having that dollar, vs the marginal benefit of keeping that dollar in public hands.
A corrupt government would be the extreme case of where that dollar is likely best kept from the tax man, but this is far from exclusive to corrupt governments.
These sort of problems run quite deep and have unintended consequences.
If money is not traceable, you also give way accountability. Opening up a door for corruption to happen easily, unchecked and unaccounted for. Rinse - Repeat for some time and you will see there are new problems due to corruption, which breed other new problems and so on..
In Brazil this practice is also pretty common.
The more untrustworthy/incompetent/reckless the government is handling taxpayers' money, the more often one sees this kind of behaviour.
First politics should do something about this!
(when prices go down you have to pay a bigger percentage of your income to serve the same debt)
There are so many privacy benefits to using cash, but one that really resonates with me is the physical nature of it. When you pay for something with cash, you can feel the transaction of money exchanging hands and it can have a psychological effect to prevent frivolous spending. Or at the very least, further reinforce that YES we are spending money!
Also, store clerks, cab drivers, any anyone who accepts tips always love getting cash.
Which is fine!
Here's what you do: allot a certain amount of cash to discretionary expenses each month. You take that money out at the beginning of each month (actually in my case, twice a month) and then use it. And when you run out you're out.
What you've just done is used physical cash to put a hard ceiling on your discretionary spending. This turns what are normally variable expenses into a fixed item in your budget, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to account for.
Once it's in my wallet, it's already spent by my spouse.
I might actually spend as much as 10% of my cash withdrawals myself. I can reliably keep a single $10 bill in there, as the "didn't want to clean you out"-based guilt prevents the very last note in there from being taken.
Of course, now the spouse just takes the debit card from my wallet instead, so I might have to start keeping more cash in there, in case I go to pay for something one day and it's not there.
It definitely formed a different attitude towards cash then I feel I otherwise would have got. The money I have left in my wallet feels like all I have this month, and as the bills disappear I really feel the spending. I feel spending from my bank account much less.
I think the mentality comes from using your bank's website/mint/etc to track your spending. Anything done with a card becomes a specific line item staring you in the face; cash, however, just falls into "miscellaneous".
It makes you MUCH more conscious of how much things cost because you don't want to get to the checkout and be short.
Yeah I remember that situation. I accidentally left my card at home. I didn't have lunch that day and I barely managed to drive home with an almost empty fuel tank.
To me looking at the balance on my phone is far quicker than counting all the damn coins. 1 cent coins are such a huge annoyance that I'd rather throw them into the trash than actually pay with them.
On the minus side, I use contactless ("wave to pay") all the time now, and find I rarely look to see how much I'm spending on small transactions. Even with larger transactions, it doesn't feel like "real money".
Not only that, I can download a monthly spreadsheet of all my transactions, pivot them into a simple table and so on and so forth. Data out the wazoo. £105 a month on tube fares. £235 a month on lunch. £17 on fuel. Knowing where I spent it is as useful if not more so than how much I spent in total.
Then of course there is the free money I get from spending on a card. It all seems like a no brainer. And I never need to go to an ATM. And most the time I just lean my wallet against a card reader and mosey onwards.
I'm not sold.
Changing the range changes what transactions are summarized, and what transactions are shown in detail below the graph. Clicking a graph category further filters and shows the transactions that match, with the graph changing to more specific sub-categories (rent, water, electricity etc if I click housing).
The categories are set automatically, but can be overridden or a transaction can be divided between several, and that remembered for future transactions.
I'm impressed that a bank produced this system!
I download my transactions weekly from my CC company and can easily see I've been spending way too much money eating out the past two months.
The modern world seems to be one in which business, governments, and hackers know exactly what we are doing.
I like to use cash a lot too. And the privacy benefits are true sometimes, but more and more places want your information when you purchase anything. I bought a weed wacker the other day and they wanted my address and phone and email. I never say no, but instead reply with, "555 Fake Street" which is obnoxious, but its like you don't need my damn address to sell me lawn equipment. Amazingly, most people dont understand why anyone would give false information to a random business.
I'm not sure what I would do if I lived in a city where electronic transactions are a requirement for public transport. I guess I would walk as much as possible... or even move to an alternative place.
I'm not sure what I would do if I lived in a city
where electronic transactions are a requirement for
Sure, if by "a world" you mean "a hyper-prosperous nation like the US or the UK"... and if by "unequal as it's ever been" you mean that third-world countries are taking our jobs and becoming much more prosperous, hitting our middle income brackets - the global 2% - harder than anyone else.
If you really mean globally, then inequality is in fact falling.
But sure, yes, the "cashless" ideas going around today are just a way for the government to enforce surveillance and steal away citizens' money with negative interest rates.
Inequality is decreasing between nations as the developing world catches up with the west. But inequality within nations -- even developing nations -- is increasing. It's possible for inequality to increase as the the developing world catches up to the west; in fact, that's exactly what's happening.
So the old geographical distributions are very slowly eroding, but they are being replaced by obscene levels of inequality within individual borders. This trend is exacerbated -- especially in Europe -- by tax evasion and avoidance managed (and practiced) by large fintech companies. So the author's fear that concentrating power in the hands of a few large fintech firms would exacerbate global inequality -- and lessen nation states' ability to combat inequality with policy -- is well-founded in global trends.
edit: Instead of downvoting, go read François Bourguignon's "Inequality and Globalization: How the Rich Get Richer as the Poor Catch Up", which states exactly the thesis outlined above and contains pointers to the data sets used to arrive at these conclusions.
See https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fi... - p35 is particularly relevant in this conversation.
The charts you reference are for wealth, not income. The chart on page 36 suggests about a 1/8 chance for a reduction in pyramid tier and about a 48% chance for an increase in tier. (Now, that's also a blended chart, but I don't see anything particularly dire in that data for North Americans.)
Being born during the middle or late-middle of the 20th century was extremely lucky if you managed to stay out of manufacturing and could put your retirement into funds that came close to matching public markets. A lot of people doubt we'll ever see that kind of economic growth in the first half of the 21st century.
Don't under-estimate the impact of three-four decades of financially comfortable retirement on "living standards".
Ok, one person is a great programmer making good money and another person is not interested in any of that and makes less money. I do not see any inequality here that needs to be combated with policy. One possible result of such policy would be that both will turn out to be less interested.
You cannot turn the losers into winners, but you can certainly alienate the surviving winners and convince them to build their next factory in China instead, or do their next startup from a beach in the Philippines.
Instead of reducing inequality, the outcome will become very biased by profits made in China or the Philippines, and therefore lead to even more inequality. Lather, rinse, repeat.
At the basis, quite a bit of inequality is caused by the fact that some people happen to be smarter. Your policy will obviously not outsmart them. Therefore, if your policy has any effect, it will inevitably be exactly the opposite of what it was meant to be.
Quite a bit is also caused by the undue influence rich people have over the policy-making process, helping them to ensure they remain rich by constructing 'glass ceilings'. Saying "well unless we give in to their demands otherwise they'll take our jobs to China" is simply not a good enough response.
As a middle-income web developer in the UK, I have more in common with a middle-income web developer in Bangalore or Shanghai than I do with a multi-millionaire in London or California.
Why does someone deserve to have a worse life because they weren't born that smart? Why do they deserve to be uncertain how they'll be able to pay medical bills, unable to send their children to great schools, and unable to afford healthy food?
In theory, "meritocracy" only favors the lucky -- for example, those born with a love of programming in the year 1985. In practice, "meritocracy" doesn't exist and never has.
> One possible result of such policy would be that both will turn out to be less interested.
Tax rates on the top 1% or 0.5% of earners could double over-night and those people would still have more than enough money to make their effort worth-while. We are literally talking about people who have more money than the can possibly spend on personal luxuries in their lifetime.
At some point far before the 1% mark, wealth accumulation becomes much more about personal power and legacy than anything else. These people continue working hard for the same reason that tenured professors continue to publish prolifically or retired people work hard on their lawns or hobby projects -- for love of the work, and/or because they literally don't know how not to work.
(Whether or not those people deserve to be taxed heavily is kind-of irrelevant to the fact that your hypothesis about human psychology is wrong.)
> You cannot turn the losers into winners
What is a loser? Most middle class people are of average or above-average intelligence and work hard. The only thing separating these people from e.g. Donald Trump is access to an inheritance or some other means of attaining large amounts of capital.
I'm willing to bet your average middle-class accountant or actuary would much rather (pay someone to) manage a portfolio of investments than crunch someone else's numbers.
Also, FYI, almost all computer programmers in the world -- including skilled ones -- are solidly ouside of 1% territory.
> but you can certainly alienate the surviving winners and convince them to build their next factory in China
So your argument for not redistributing some percentage of the wealth of billionaires is that they're petty assholes who will take their ball and go home? But isn't that what losers do? ;-)
As a matter of fact, globalization and national autonomy aren't inconsistent. Tax havens aren't a fact of life, they are an engineered reality created by lawyers and lobbyists.
They are not after the 1%, never have, and never will. They are after you and me, my friend. So, gear up for a good fight, because I am giving them zilch. I'd rather flush my money down the toilet.
> So your argument for not redistributing some percentage of the wealth of billionaires is that they're petty assholes who will take their ball and go home?
Yes, and that is why the factories have been rebuilt in China over the last 25 years. It is not going to get any better in the future. I don't know what they will be doing next, but it will certainly not include "redistributing some percentage of their wealth". Why would they? But then again, who cares? I don't want their money. I have my own.
In order to outsmart them, you will have to be smarter, but if you could, you would be one of them. ;-)
Oh right. Those bastards trying to close corporate tax loopholes are totally doing so because they hate me and all the money I'm not saving due to those loopholes...
> In order to outsmart them, you will have to be smarter
NO! It's really not that damn complicated. And there are even plenty of extant policy proposals for eliminating or greatly reducing tax avoidance schemes.
Public policy, most of the time, isn't rocket science. See e.g. https://www.oecd.org/ctp/BEPSActionPlan.pdf
There's a difference between globalization of unskilled labor, globalization of skilled labor, and tax avoidance. The first and second are, to varying extent, unavoidable and probably net beneficial to the bulk of humanity. The last is not unavoidable and is also decidedly unbeneficial for most of humanity.
(There's also a difference between off-shoring for the purpose of true cost reduction nand off-shoring for the purpsoe of tax avoidance. The former is far more common than the latter, although a decent amount of FDI is about tax/tariff avoidance.)
> but if you could, you would be one of them
Of course I would. But I'm not delusional and wasn't born into either connections or cash. So I do what I can to boost my odds, but I also cooperate whenever the opportunity arises.
And, if I ever do "make it", I'm sure as hell not going to become one of those "got mine, fuck you" types.
> At some point far before the 1% [from context, presumably income] mark, wealth accumulation becomes much more about personal power and legacy than anything else.
False, IMO. 99th percentile income is about $400K gross per year (for household income). Two 40-year olds raising children, making $400K between them are technically "top 1% income", but are quite far from granting buildings to their alma mater and building monuments to themselves. They are more likely worried about college tuition, retirement savings, and healthcare than they are about whether the plaque on the front of their building should be silver or bronze.
No, the government doesn't do this, the shareholders do this (this includes the CEO). It's a huge red herring that delays automation from happening. Even China nowadays invests heavily into automation.
>At the basis, quite a bit of inequality is caused by the fact that some people happen to be smarter
Everytime I hear the word "talented", "bright" or "smart" on HN I don't even know what it's supposed to even mean anymore.
Somehow you deserve to be called a genius because mommy got you a contract with IBM and you decided to buy off an OS from some random guy for $50,000 and then made it run on IBM's computers.
There was also that guy who screwed over his cofounder with some social network.
Yeah sure they are now two of the richest humans on this planet but I don't think their success can be attributed to their "talent" alone. They very likely are not capable of pulling it off a second time.
The bubble is about to burst and they're trying to release pressure to make it last a bit longer.
All gold is IMO is a hedge against inflation by tying your monetary policy to the rate at which you can dig some shit out of the ground. Not remotely sane IMO.
It would be like basing the value of the dollar on corn. At least corn would have some real value though (fuel, food, etc.).
I am mostly using cash if I have the possibility to, which is kind of annoying sometimes since in Sweden (where I live) there are many "cashless" shops. Even in normal grocery stores checkouts it's like 50/50.
I've never visited a country that has as strong opposition to cash as in Sweden. One time I walked into a boutique trying to purchase a cellphone and the salesmen there were happy to help. Unfortunately they told me that they didn't accept cash and then I just said "then there's no deal". The look on their faces was kind of fun, even if it sucked that I had to redo the whole process.
I haven't encountered a single grocery store that refuses cash and only accepts electronic/card payments yet. Was this a chain supermarket?
Also when all the money is in the banks, governments have much more freedom to apply higher tax levels or just take the money.
1) if the payment will be honored ( legal pot growers / legal sex workers / donations to wikileaks have this problem
2) the payment will be possible ( is the bank systems functioning )
3) how much of a cut the third-party will take from the transaction (visa, mastercard, but also app stories 30% cut)
4) who gets to know what was purchased (your bank shares information with the government)
5) who gets to know who made the purchase
6) who can access money: minors can't have bank accounts/etc, does someone have access to a banking system at all - lots of people can only cash checks through pay-day lenders
Also, if someone can break sha256, not only is bitcoin screwed, but so is the Internet as we know it and every secure institution period. The overnight "instant and complete" breakage of fundamental assumptions about security would destroy everything. So interestingly, if you could break sha256, you could probably break into almost any financial institution and steal their money as well.
The security of a blockchain is in its popularity. As long as the code is open (and I'll admit, I am not a fan of how bitcoin mixes the default interface (BitcoinQt) and the default implementation (BitcoinCore) together so much) and there is investment in the market, there will be strong financial pressure to consistently and diligently analyze and track the source code for weaknesses.
Bitcoin at 3B has at least a dozen security firms that have looked into its crypto. If you had another crypto that broke a trillion you would have thousands of companies constantly safeguarding and testing the crypto of the currency in the same way Google offers ludicrously high bounties for anyone who can break Android/Chrome/ium security.
I don't necessarily blame Ethereum for this, although they did have a hand in following the banks' rules and essentially writing software for them, but this would've probably happened even without Ethereum agreeing to do it. Maybe the banks would've forked Ethereum's technology and then they could've done whatever to it, or they could've written their own tech from scratch.
That will eventually be fixed, and once we are back to normalcy where transactions aren't limited by block size, you can regularly get - even on feeless transactions - multiple confirms in seconds. Your transaction won't be finalized until it enters the block, but once you have a half dozen or more confirms the probability of failure of that transaction entering is extremely low - well below 1% at that point, insofar as I have never seen it happen myself and don't know anybody who has had a multi-confirm transaction miss acceptance.
The self-checkout technology will never improve as long as that assumption remains. If you can't trust the customer to not steal a pack of gum, you can't trust the customer to not steal an entire beef tenderloin.
The professional cashier does not need to keep every damned item on a giant scale after scanning it, because they are an agent of the store, and presumably trustworthy enough to notice and stop shoplifters and scammers. And they usually don't have to halt the entire checkout process and wait for a manager to come by and restart it whenever anything even mildly out of the ordinary happens, such as using a coupon.
You can't improve the technology when the premises are wrong. And the premise is that you can turn a grocery store into a glorified vending machine.
Remember, the store is more interested in protecting its operating margins than in providing more convenience for the customer. If the technology does not allow a store exec to believe that it can stop a $30 steak from walking out the door unpaid, it will never be installed.
- The current biggest problem that bitcoin faces is one of scale - and there's no clear solution in sight. Why on earth would you want every little transaction on the blockchain? If I buy a stick of gum, that doesn't need to be on public record for eternity. It is impractical and unwieldy.
- Centralized systems are always more efficient than decentralized ones, and systems naturally tend toward centralization. Bitcoin falls down under centralization, which we are also currently witnessing with the hash power tied up by a few largely unknown Chinese operators.
There are proposed solutions like pseudo-centralization with LN where bitcoin just becomes a settlement layer for off-chain contracts - and the details behind LN are still so primitive it is not clear it will actually solve any real problems.
What you are talking about in practice for something at scale is a centralized blockchain of some sort, which is really just a distributed, immutable database, with some sort of trusted signing authority. What exact advantage does that give aside from potentially non-reversible transactions, which are a clear non-starter for most consumer purchases? There are already services that offer true non-reversibility for special cases where this is desired.
There has so far been no viable application for blockchain technology as a replacement for cash except black/grey market purchases.
Further, even with a total secure system, there will always be the pressure of the governments to control it.
Of course there is monetary policy too. Negative interest rates try to force spending to correct bad government policies which usually are the cause of depressed spending. Then combine this with the idea that printing digital currency is as simply as flicking a switch which would rapidly devalue currency in people's accounts.
Simply put, its another attack on privacy and the freedom it entails
To me, the main danger of our time is totalitarian governments overreaching in reaction to changes in threat-actor models, and hence most of my primary concerns revolve around the particular issues that touch upon this point. There are two main issues I have with the push to the cashless society.
1. Lack of anonymity. Cash serves as a mostly anonymous medium of exchange, which encourages the free flow thereof. That being said though, one of the primary reasons you might want anonymity is from government overreach. For example, there is evidence that in the increasing surveillance panopticon, the gov wants to know what you are reading and purchasing for reading. If you use a cc to buy a book at a bookstore, that is easily tracked back to you and could in the future be used to put you on $list. While cash isn't perfectly anonymous, it ups the level of effort to find out (pulling cctv recording to correlate purchase to person).
The lack of anonymity has been my primary disagreement with Max Keiser regarding bitcoin as well. To me, I can very easily see a currency upset on the horizon which is then used to push cashless on the society as a new currency model.
2. Revocation of access/control of assets. In a similar vein to police forces using confiscation as a budgetary padding tool, I can far too easily see the same being applied to cashless currencies. More than that though, is the ability to access the option at all in the first place. As an example for this, I give you the national bank blacklist database. For some people, suddenly being blacklisted by banks can create all kinds of problems, because much of our society relies on banking functions. I fear the same type of blacklist with little oversight could be applied to a cashless currency, to the point that, lets say you were a dissident, suddenly you lose all your money and can't open a new account. If everything is cashless, how do you buy bread?
The article itself touches on the surface of these matters, but I think there needs to be a much deeper and deliberative discussion about the potential dangers, and benefits, of the push towards a cashless society.
1. The unbanked already exist in a world that expects them to be banked. Almost all jobs in America are paid in checks or direct deposit. Checks are useless to people without bank accounts. They then have to spend time and money getting the check turned into cash at a check cashing place, like Amscot.
So moving to electronic banking would actually HELP these people. If you really rely on cash, then you are at a disadvantage since most jobs dont pay in cash.
Yes, there are real obstacles in the way of these people getting bank accounts. Education, time, documentation, etc. But everyday someone continues to remain unbanked, they are inconveniencing themselves in many ways.
2. Cash is already dead to a lot of people (in 1st world countries), so surveillance is already possible. Governments, banks, and payment processors ALREADY have access to this information for a large number of people. If this is a large concern, the author should be tackling the fact that this is on-going, not that it might happen in the future.
But it does seem true that killing cash will open up new demographics to the same surveillance.
3. Bankruptcy is not a tool used by very poor people. Its often used by middle class and upper class people who deal with the finance world. I think this article has a very poor understanding of what "poor" means, even in a 1st world context.
4. This whole article is based off of bad solutions. Keeping cash around so that some people will be saved by withdrawing their money in the next financial crisis is NOT the solution to financial crises. Better regulation, management, and transparency is.
Thing is, since no system is perfect, and no system stays the same, you need to have a small, yet stable % of grey area to let the population compensate and adapt.
My problem is that I usually do things online and plus I'm always feel much more secure knowing my Amex would be fully protected vs cash. Day to day I'm not worried I'll get robbed, but in the off chance I'm somewhere where I might I'm much happier carrying no cash and just my Amex.
Seems like the opposite should be true. Who cares about losing the amount of cash a normal person carries in their wallet to a mugger? If you get mugged often enough for it to have a real effect on your finances, then maybe you should move.
Conversely, if the only thing in your wallet is some plastic that will probably be cancelled within half an hour of the mugger fleeing, then he has two separate motivations to kill you; 1. how dare you not give him easy cash for his quick junkie fix, 2. if you're dead, the card will go uncancelled for longer.
And convenient electronic payments doesn't in anyway empower users?
Also, if people are unbanked and below the poverty line I would expect they would be more concerned with getting by than "Orwellian levels of surveillance."
Maybe you did not understand the article? It did not argue about convenience but about peoples control over their wealth.
> Also, if people are unbanked and below the poverty
> line I would expect they would be more concerned with
> getting by than "Orwellian levels of surveillance."
In many cases this is a big problem as it allows the Orwellian government to have larger control over people.
A lot of these comments mention that cash gives the government less control, however try visiting India or China or Greece and ask people the real reason they use cash. It's to evade taxes and launder money! Same with cash tipping in the US. So in some ways electronic is better to help catch the cheaters, but if it's not transparent it could pose a problem if the wrong people get in charge.
Assuming the government have the right to tax us for everything all the time and that you are not a free man but just a number. This past year I have seen one new tax introduced at regional level and seen at least one other rise by a significant margin (close to 50%). I don't see a like change in the earnings of my colleagues. Maybe we should all try harder to evade the govt, at least a little.
Have you read the linked article, because most of the things you mention are not related to the point discussed in the article. Yes, there are good reasons for electronic transactions, of course there are.
We're all responsible for our own actions.
That said, I like having and using cash - it gives me a greater sense and overview of how much I spend and I find it convenient in general.
They're probably more immediately concerned with getting by, by they're more affected by surveillance than someone with more resources. The primary use of commercial surveillance is to enable better price discrimination, and being poor means they're easier trapped in local maxima designed to extract any surplus they do have.
Cash can be made useless centrally just as easily (if not easier because of its central nature) and there have been instances of this in the past in cash-only societies.
Only for very large amounts, at least in Europe, the central bank insures your money from its own reserves in case of bank failure up to a certain amount, AFAIK typically in the hundreds of thousands of €/local equivalent.
As an example, in the UK personal deposits of a failed bank are guaranteed by the Bank of England up to £75,000.
The Bank of England can always cover the amount, since they can simply print money as needed.
> Another motivation would be if you are concerned about having your assets frozen.
I'm with you on that one.
Most monetary economists would disagree. The zero bound on interest rates exists on cash, not bank deposits. From a central location, one can interrupt electronic funds transfers to and from certain persons or looking like this or that. You can't prohibit Iran from holding dollars in cash, though. To do so means threatening the systemic value of the currency. Cash forces an all-or-nothing constraint on the powers that be.
If we had a totally cashless society, you would see a level of white collar financial and banking crime that would make 2008 seem like a picnic.
Anyone who is not convinced that the banking elite are the top criminals needs to watch this very recent documentary:
Criminals use it after all! Even the banking elite!
The risks of it and the potential for misuse are so many, that all advantages of electronic money are not worth to go in this direction. We are in a situation today, where privacy is one of the greatest assets we have and should preserve. When we loose it, we very likely loose our freedom and essential democracy. Instead we might get a "democracy" that is controlled by opinion-formers and big corporations that make money with our privacy.
But, I disagree with one of the authors' other claims: "Cash has its uses for small transactions – a chocolate bar, a newspaper, a pint of milk – which, in the UK, are still uneconomic to process by other means. It will always be the fastest and most direct form of payment there is."
This is not necessarily so. Think about another example: let's say I order something online, and the store gives me free shipping. Free! For sending me a physical item! How can they possibly come out ahead on that? Simple: because we have a sophisticated infrastructure for sending physical goods to many different places, and the marginal cost of one more item on all of those vehicles - and there are likely to be at least three or four, including several processing centers - is actually rather small.
What if, instead, I want that item as soon as possible? Very expensive. Because my item is no longer a marginal-add to a sophisticated system. It is now closer to a one-off, and I have to pay for the service.
So what does this have to do with cash? Everything. Cash is a physical item that must be stored, transferred from businesses to banks, then counted at banks, stored and redistributed. Doing this is expensive. There are many small businesses in NYC that do not accept cash, and I have assumed the reason is that completely eliminating this cost - handling, storing and transferring cash - is easier and cheaper for them. We have always considered handling cash just a part of running a business, but it is not necessarily so. In the future, handling cash may be more like overnight-express, rather than free-ground-shipping.
Transport for London, who run the public transport in London, are encouraging people to use contactless debit/credit cards rather than their own stored-value card system or cash.
In Denmark I've had the man selling sausages from a wagon on the street ask me to pay by card. I guess he didn't want to bother going to the bank, or carry all the cash around.
Well almost, since it was what did it for me. I started withdrawing larger amounts, 500 or 1000 Euros, each time, after ending up with no cash too often.
And I didn't feel the need to use another payment method since. YMMV (obviously).
- "We already live in a world that is, as far as the distribution of wealth is concerned, about as unequal as it gets. It may even be as unequal as it’s ever been." -- I keep seeing this kind of statement all over. It seems really, really hard to believe, presuming that "ever" includes antique or even more recent feudal societies, but perhaps there is something to it -- perhaps it might be true under some measure of inequality?!
- "Today more than 6 billion people have a mobile phone" -- similarly, I really don't see how this could be true, as it seems to imply something close to 100% market penetration worldwide for most age groups.
I can see how there might be 6 billion mobile phones (or phone numbers?) active, but 6 billion distinct people?!
Until recently the sticker price had to be the credit card price, but all in all it appears merchants don't prefer cash despite the option of discounting it.
The author doesn't know what financial inclusion means. In fact financial inclusion has seen a boon thanks to cashless payments like m-pesa in Kenya. Thanks to not having to lug around cash and maintain expensive bank branches and offices, some of the poorest countries have made great strides in furthering financial inclusion.
People want to eliminate €500, not €5. But even if they eliminated all cash I doubt there would be a catastrophe of the type the article claims; people will use different implementations of the same technologies to find privacy and convenience. In fact wives married to alcoholics in Africa often prefer to store their money in cashless wallets and saving groups, because it is easier to hide from their husbands who might find the cash under the mattress.
 Zcash: https://z.cash/
Centralized money has been the means for sucking profit out of local economies since about 1300. Rising income inequality has been an 800 year process. I thought I knew how the world worked, but Rushkoff changed my world view.
Was a bit surprised to see The Guardian echo certain viewpoints heretofore only heard from preppers.
The average person is not a financial expert and so there are very lucrative opportunities for those who know the system well to make a lot of money at the expense of those who do not. Payday loan companies and high interest credit cards come to mind as extreme examples, but every time you put money in a savings account at your bank they are making a lot more on it than they are paying you in interest, and every time you use an on-line payment service or swipe your card in a store you're giving a significant cut to the payment services involved, not the person you thought you were paying. This is before we even get into the privacy implications and so on.
The average person is also not a technical expert and so there are analogous opportunities to take advantage of them, but we are becoming so dependent on technology that if anything the opportunities here are even more one-sided and certainly much greater in number. Day-to-day functionality and communications increasingly rely on isolated, closed ecosystems, run by commercial operators that have every incentive to lock people in and then exploit them, yet which are typically not subject to regulation as essential public services the way that traditional phone and mail systems typically have been. The "war on general purpose computing" is well underway, again with even basic things like the software you can run on your own devices locked up through a combination of proprietary repositories or app stores, cloud integrations, DRM and similar technologies, and legalised anticompetitive behaviour thanks to ever-increasing distortions of IP laws.
Much of this comes down to the same recurring themes with new technologies: as well as providing useful new capabilities, they can also become a threat to privacy, to ownership, and ultimately to the freedom of smaller businesses or private individuals to create and use technologies and data as they wish rather than as the controlling mega-businesses and governments dictate.
This does not seem healthy to me at all. However, since most of it is predicated on the average user of these technologies not understanding the full implications and often not having any meaningful choice apart from giving up on a technology altogether anyway, there is only so much the little guy can do.
We should fear a cashless world, but we should fear more the kind of world that cashless transactions exemplify.
Cashless society would essentially turn the world into one giant PayPal.
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Choke_Point
2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy
> And [the Beast] causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Like most of Revelations, I think this needs to be interpreted in the context that it was written. Jews during the time of Nero saw Nero as the "the Beast". From what I understand, these "marks on the hand" were a plan by the Romans to control Jewish citizens in much the same way that modern governments try to control slum populations. I doubt the author foresaw contactless credit cards and Apple pay, though I admit that the authors of both the article and of Revelations were worried about similar consequences.
How else would you describe 21st century RFID using 1st century vocabulary? Revelation was written 2,000 years ago, and is supposed to be about things in its future, after all.
Why did it need to use 1st Century vocabulary?
I am a practising Christian, and in my heart, I suspect Jesus would say something like "don't worry about how you pay for physical stuff".
So whether it be a government sponsored currency, perhaps a world currency, to stop bad behavior and bad actors; or a public blockchain (Anarcho-capitalism). We as a society are now faced with a moral decision centered around privacy and how much of it should be entrusted to governments. Notice how the thesis of cryptocurrencies is trust-less systems, because people / governments are assumed to be nefarious by default. That is a big nuance being ignored. Ultimately (IMO) this is an issue of morality. One which benefits from reading history, analogy, literary examples or anything for that matter. We are seeing a tug of war between citizenry and governments in the financial and cryptographic realms. This is relevant.
The financial system and notions of a cashless society foster a growing anti-government sentiment. It is obvious in this and other threads; a strong pushback against government, which all relate back to the Books mentioned. It is difficult to ignore the religious or moral contexts of this topic.
Especially peculiar when Bitcoin has already established a cult following, complete with a pseudo-church which evangelizes. Not to mention it was created by a supposedly anti-government (Satoshi) person "yet to be revealed". Is playful conjecture not fair discussion? You can clearly see companies are racing to research cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and what same may argue as anti-government measures.
So, I think a real world subject -- is subject -- to everything of the real world. Like the written Words of The Bible and anything else that exists for good interpretation. When 2+ Billion people identify as Christian, and they (potentially) push back against cashless societies, it will become exceptionally relevant.
These Books are relevant both historically and today.