Americans are fond of cash, as the Federal Reserve’s data shows. Indeed, consumers in the US have a tendency to choose cash over any other payment method particularly when making gifts, buying groceries and for expenditures linked to entertainment or transportation.
To date, the US government has not adopted any specific anti-cash policies, although some states have in particular sectors. There have been numerous anti-cash campaigns in the past couple of years, largely driven by credit and debit card operators like Visa and MasterCard. Visa, for example, carried out “The Visa Cashless Challenge” in 2017 while MasterCard organized a “cashless journey” campaign. MasterCard’s CEO Ajay Banga has also made it no secret that his goal is to completely oust cash as a payment method, considering it “the real competitor for the company”.
Director of the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation, Norbert Michel, wrote a piece in the Cato Journal looking into payments and the lobbying efforts behind them. Generally speaking, it is quite clear that efforts to influence policy are mainly driven by business and political motives of specific industries. Yet, none look at the needs and desires of consumers nor the risks of offering too much freedom to governments and private enterprises to control monetary functions. “If history is any guide, groups that want to preserve consumer choice in forms of payment should waste no time redirecting federal efforts toward solving real economic problems and directly stemming criminal activity. Otherwise, the long-term trend of central banks taking over monetary functions from private markets will surely continue,” states Michel in his piece. “There is no need to criminalize cash itself to prosecute someone engaged in criminal activity, or to ignore law-abiding citizens’ right to personal and financial privacy.”
The time is right for consumer rights groups and citizens to speak out and ensure that the evolution of payments follow its natural course, whichever direction that may be – and not be imposed by freedom-restricting policies or industry lobbies.
To read Norbert Michel's full article, please click here.