Up until recently, anyone who opposed a totally cashless society in Sweden was either elderly or considered to be behind the times. However, this is no longer the case.
As ordinary citizens become more fully aware of the implications of having and maintaining a cash-free payment system, people of all ages and walks of life are warning that cash is not a relic of the past, but a necessity to a vital democratic system. In fact, a recent survey shows that seven out of ten Swedes now feel that it would be a good idea to continue to allow cash payments for the foreseeable future.
Surprisingly, it is Swedish bankers and mainstream politicians who are sounding the alarm about the rapidly declining use of cash. Stefan Ingves, the governor of Sweden’s Central Bank, recently noted that the country should seriously consider forcing banks to provide their customers with cash, something that the overwhelming majority of banks in the country have stopped doing long ago. He also noted the importance of securing public control over the payments system.
The governor’s statement makes the very valid point that, in the event of war and/or political instability, Swedes who are unable or no longer accustomed to using cash would have no way to pay for housing, fuel and other basic necessities. At the same time, a Swedish parliamentary commission has just started conducting a major review of the potential negative consequences of a fully cash-free economy and is expected to release a report of their findings later on in the year.
The recent attention to the problems that are inherent in a cash-free society are causing Swedes who are normally complacent about their government and its operations to take note of the fact that their system may be heading for turbulent times ahead. As former Swedish MEP Christian Engström recently reported, the Swedes had nice, reliable, stable governments for well over a century. Given this fact, they are not accustomed to opposing government positions or questioning government recommendations. However, there is no guarantee that the government of any nation, including Sweden, will remain stable and friendly towards its population for the long-term future.
Even more importantly, having a stable, people-friendly government does not mean that malicious third parties cannot wreak havoc on a society that relies solely on computer-based forms of payment. As Kontantupproret, a well-known advocacy group against the elimination of cash, accurately points out, Russian President Vladimir Putin would only need to invade Sweden’s largest island and turn off the payment system to virtually destroy the entire country. An even more likely scenario is that unscrupulous hackers and cyber-criminals could gain access to the country’s payment system and steal a great deal of financial and personal information from it, hack it and take Swedes’ hard-earned cash with a few clicks of a button or even shut it down and demand a huge ransom payment to turn it back on,
Naturally, it remains to be seen what will happen to Sweden’s nearly cash-free society in the near future. While many are becoming increasingly aware of the downsides of completely banning cash, others trust Swedish banks and businesses that are still vocally supporting a fully cash-free system in which no store, vendor or government entity would accept coins or bills as legal tender.
Even so, the lessons that Swedes are beginning to learn about the implications of their cash-free economy are not just for a single country alone. Those who are intent on promoting a society were cash payments are looked down on and/or restricted would do well to listen to the concerns raised by Sweden’s Central Bank and other, reputable organizations and individuals. While there are certainly advantages of allowing individuals to pay for items via credit card, online payment systems, mobile payment systems, etc., relying on these forms of payment alone are extremely dangerous.
Hackers, a hostile government or even a large natural disaster could completely destroy an entire nation’s financial infrastructure if individuals do not have cash on hand to weather such an event and/or are not permitted to use cash by either the government or businesses selling vial items such as food, water and clothing.
~ Liberty Planet