Among the many changes that COVID-19 has ushered in as we slowly emerge into the “new normal” is a big shift away from using cash for normal transactions. The rationale is that dirty money can literally be dirty and possibly carry the virus on it for some period of time. We’re already seeing an increasing number of bars and restaurants either “encouraging” the use of plastic to make payments or refusing to accept cash entirely as they reopen. Plenty of people have chosen to do this voluntarily as remote ordering and delivery became far more popular during the lockdown.
But this shift in spending habits may be coming at an unexpected price. As Peter Roff explains at Townhall, we may have taken for granted the anonymity that cash purchases provide on a daily basis. Credit and debit card transactions leave a virtual paper trail for individuals, businesses and organizations. And all of that data is available not only to the government, but also anyone who wants to purchase it or, in some cases, hacks it. And once all of your spending habits are available for inspection, let the deplatforming begin!
Americans should be concerned about the potential for the government, for banks, and for payments companies to infringe on their freedoms by preventing them from making legal purchases, barring them from platforms, or using their transaction history against them.
This may be one of the reasons cash continues to be the most frequent payment instrument. It’s used in 30 percent of all transactions and more than half of transactions under $10. Those numbers are likely to drop as more and more vendors are adopting cashless transaction policies. Some retailers, sports stadiums, restaurants, and other businesses now refuse to accept cash – and the number of them who do not is growing at an alarming rate.
This all impacts consumer freedom of choice. Even absent the pressure from the government, payment providers like PayPal have unilaterally closed the accounts of organizations because of complaints about their political leanings.
As Roff goes on to explain, it’s not just PayPal that is shutting down people’s access to online transactions based on their political speech. Square, Stripe, and Apple Pay forbid their services to be used to purchase firearms. We’re also reminded of Operation Choke Point, the Obama Administration’s program intended to pressure banks to not do business with companies engaging in perfectly legal but “problematic” activities such as payday lenders and firearms dealers.
But as I mentioned at the top, it’s not just the government looking over your shoulder that you need to be worried about. Big Data collects all sorts of information about your spending habits and they sell it off to whoever can afford it. They are also susceptible to hacking, as has already been seen in the past. It’s not hard to imagine activist groups getting their hands on lists of people who join the NRA, donate to Christian conservative causes or subscribe to conservative publications. At that point, the doxxing and deplatforming can begin in earnest.
Roff also points out that these types of tracking practices are already in use in China, where cash is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Purchases are monitored and can be applied to your “Social Credit” score, impacting where and how you are able to travel, shop or do most anything else. A glimpse at that sort of dystopian future playing out in real-time should be enough to give anyone pause. Is that the sort of America we’re going to be living in from now on? If that’s the game, I’m not sure I want to keep playing.
Of course, there may not be any reason to worry about any of this. At least according to the New York Post, the world is probably going to end next week anyway. Those crafty Mayans may have been right all along.
Have a great day!