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Re: <nettime> Preparing for the War on Cash
Ariston Theotocopulos on Mon, 22 Aug 2016 23:19:35 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Preparing for the War on Cash


On Sat, Aug 20, 2016 at 12:14 PM, Brett Scott wrote:

>    Hi Nettime, I've just published a big article on The War on Cash and
>    the rise of the digital payments panopticon. If you want the original
>    article with links, you can find it here
>    [1]http://thelongandshort.org/society/war-on-cash

Thanks for this, this war is happening here too. Though another way of
looking at it is that cash really does have a problem.

As David Graeber noted in 'Debt', cash appeared relatively recently in
historical terms. The first coins are associated with an era of
violence at the beginning of the iron age--after all gold coins are
perfect for paying soldiers.

The existing alternative to an electronic bank network for cashless
payment is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is extreme cash, driven by the idea that
what is wrong with money is that it isn't portable enough and that it
shouldn't be based on debt. But this portability is destructive, the
value of Bitcoin is that it is only really useful for antisocial
activities--and this isn't going to change, being able to sell guns
anonymously is a feature not a bug. Plus, the ability of banks to make
money appear through debt as if by magic, wherever there is profit to
be made, is a power of our existing monetary system that Bitcoin will
never match.

There are other ways of organising an economy that don't involve the
extremes of anonymous cash or digitally traceable debit cards. Graeber
points out that cash was actually a rarity in medieval society, most
transactions being covered by credit, with tally sticks being one of
the more interesting ways of doing this. A tally stick was a piece of
wood, notched to the value of the transaction, then split down the
middle, the two halves being a perfectly untamperable record of
credit. These records were simply thrown in a fire when the debt was
satisfied or exchanged for something else.

So this is another way of doing things differently to cash or banking.
We can have a digital record of credit that is practically as secure
cryptographically as tally sticks, but which is as private as
required, and verifiable by third parties as necessary. The point
being that credit arrangements, like a tab at the bar or an account at
the greengrocers, require a personal relationship. The problem is
keeping track of them all, but this is a problem we can solve. Credit
is suited to a local circular complementary economy based on trust,
but utterly unsuited to buying guns over the internet.

Watching builders at work, sometimes paying each other in rolls of
cash, but more often just remembering how much is owed and settling up
occasionally--or never, since obligations are often paid back in kind
or passed on to another person in a circle of 'mates'--this is how an
economy could work, but at a community scale. It can work by taking
the engine of the economy, the creation of credit/money, away from
banks and putting it into circles of real people who can then keep
their surpluses local.

By all means pay for your Starbucks coffee with Apple Pay, and buy
your drugs with Bitcoin, but lets find something better than cash for
everything else.

-- 
Ariston

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