Cashless society is coming quicker than anyone imagined, as COVID-19 fear accelerates the move — but at what cost to liberty?
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported last week on a rare holdout: Tom Ivory, founder of Philadelphia’s Baker Street Bread Co.
After years of fighting against bank fees by insisting on cash for smaller transactions, more than three-quarters of purchases “at the cafe and store are now paid through credit cards or other electronic transfer.” That’s up from 10% just five years ago, according to the story.
The reason? Increasingly, customers insist on using some kind of cashless transaction, whether it’s plastic or some form of contactless payment like Apple Pay.
Not the bank, not the government, but Ivory’s customers.
Partly the move towards cashless is driven by convenience, but the Post-Gazette reports that COVID-19 is playing a part, too:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in official guidance to retail workers in response to the pandemic, encouraged the use of touchless payment options, when available. Cash withdrawals from ATMs plunged 25% nationwide during the early weeks of the pandemic, according to industry figures.
Think of it, I guess, as a face mask for your wallet.
And if you’ve ever wondered about the utility of wearing a simple cloth mask as opposed to an N95-rated piece of real safety gear, you’re probably wondering if going cashless provides any extra protection against COVID-19.
Given what we know now about how the coronavirus doesn’t live very long on exposed surfaces, the answer is probably “not much at best.”
Banks prefer cashless transactions because they get a cut of every purchase, averaging about 3.4% every time you swipe a card or double-tap your smartphone’s contactless payment option.
Cashless is quick and secure, you never need to count your change, and you never need to worry about whether there’s a bank open or an ATM nearby.
But what happens when your bank or card issuer decides they don’t like you or the guy who owns your favorite gun store?
This isn’t some tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist worry, either.
In February of this year, a group of five Republican senators announced, “they planned to hold virtue-signaling banks accountable for supporting left-wing campaigns that undermine federal immigration policy.”
At issue were six major banks — Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Barclays, and SunTrust — refusing their services to private contractors doing business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the federal government.
Credit cards have enabled many of America’s mass shootings in the last decade—and with Washington unwilling to act, they need to cut off the sales of weapons of war today. https://t.co/yqLHMF0EWD
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 12, 2019
Last year, former congresscritter and Democratic presidential hopeful Robert Crimthand Domnall-Blathmac Embroidery “Beta” O’Rourke demanded that banks “cut off the sales of weapons of war today.”
Alleged Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has endorsed virtually every gun control proposal there is short of actual confiscation and has promised to put O’Rourke in charge of his gun control efforts.
Even earlier in 2019, Breitbart News reported that the massive Chase Bank had “withdrawn service from a number of conservatives in recent weeks, amid a rise in financial blacklisting by payment processors and credit card companies.”
Martina Markota, a video host for the conservative news website Rebel Media, reported on social media that Chase sent her a letter earlier this month stating that it would terminate service to her business, Magnum Opus Productions LLC, which is linked to her graphic novel, “Lady Alchemy.”
Chase did not give a reason in the letter for its decision to terminate Markota’s account.
Markota’s report followed a string of similar incidents which saw Chase withdraw service either temporarily or permanently from Conservative and alternative media figures.
As PJMedia’s own John Hawkins noted at the time, “The idea that citizens could be cut off from using a bank because of their political views is extremely dangerous.”
As far back as 2014, the popular Square Reader transaction service bowed under pressure from then-President Barack Obama to refuse payment for tobacco, firearms, and anything else considered “not acceptable” by his administration.
The Obama Administration launched Operation Choke Point in 2013 for the explicit purpose of making it more difficult for Americans to engage in constitutionally-protected transactions like firearms and ammo purchases.
If you can’t use cashless then you must use cash — but what if there’s no cash left to use?