Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Cashless society?

A New Premise is centered on a cashless society in the not too distant future.   Not just cashless but credit and debit cardless.  Can we envision that?   In the novel the change is forced upon the citizens of the United States and in particular the Pacific Northwest where the story is centered.   Abrupt change is often wrenching and difficult particularly when any  element of choice has been removed.

It wasn't that many years ago that many people paid by either cash or cheque.  Either was acceptable.  Then there came an interim period where cheques were still accepted but not preferred.  Many people had the experience of a waiting line-up behind them while the manager was called from the other end of the store to authorize a cheque.  Two kinds of identification had to be shown, including picture i.d.
The clerk had to write your drivers' license number on the back of the cheque.   The whole thing became an embarrassment.  It wasn't too many years later that some businesses began refusing to take cheques and by this time most people had switched to debit or credit cards.


A key factor in this transition seems to be the passage of time--years as opposed to weeks or months.
Another  is that people believed or convinced themselves that it was their choice to change.   Avoiding embarrassment or hassles can be a powerful motivator.   This might compare to the change in attitudes towards smoking.   Thirty years ago half the population smoked whenever and wherever they pleased and for a reasonable price.  Over the past ten years, restrictions have been placed on where an individual can smoke and government taxes have raised the price (and their profit) considerably.  Smokers huddle outside in the rain, not even allowed under the shelter of the roof overhang, but rather at least three meters away according to some municipal by-laws.   In this example, there has not just been the passage of time but also some cogent medical evidence.

In the novel the state also had price and wage controls as the Reconstitutionalist Government attempted to maintain control over the population and the economy for the benefit of the few, but that's another issue.   Today, the current economic situation, particularly in Europe, has led to rumblings of restrictions on the movement of currencies and capital.  Some people might feel almost as helpless as the characters in the novel.

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