The former broker spoke to UnHerd about the risks of digital money
Over the last year, there have been nervous murmurings across the internet about the rise of cashless societies. While we may be grateful for the convenience of contactless or one-click payments, underneath something more sinister may be going on.
This is something that Scott, a former derivatives broker and author of the book Cloud Money, firmly believes. He worries about the rapid disappearance of cash, particularly since the pandemic when many businesses gave up on physical currency entirely. Cash use in the UK fell by 50% in 2020, with more than 23.1 million people in the country using virtually no cash in 2021 compared to 5.4 million people in 2018.
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These are extraordinary figures and something that Scott believes deserves more attention. He argues that the convenience is a consequence of an anti-cash agenda being peddled by the private sector:
Cash is real — and not just in the sense that it is physical. It is, in fact, the only money of which an individual (as opposed to a bank) has private control. Digital money is more like poker chips, in that the digital numbers in an account only turn into money when they are cashed at an ATM. Scott asks us to imagine a world where it becomes nearly impossible to cash in:
The introduction of a CBDC (central bank digital currency) — something that Rishi Sunak touted in 2021 — would give ordinary members of the public access to first-layer money in a digital form. It may redress the hold private sector banking has over the whole payment system, but would it be a step in the wrong direction in terms of freedom and privacy? Scott finds the distinction somewhat irrelevant. In his opinion, anyone using digital money has already sacrificed their privacy:
In an interesting recent development, however, it seems that thanks to the cost of living crisis a lot of people are now returning to cash as a means of budgeting more efficiently. A silver lining of sorts.