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Monday, August 29. 2022
Stockholm and the Cashless Society
Mrs. Bulldog and I got back a month ago from Stockholm. As cities go, it is by far the crunchiest I've ever seen, and where we stayed (Downtown Camper, part of the Skandia chain) really focuses on this kind of crunchy experience. The rooms are excellent, the location perfect (right in the middle near everything) and they offer many amenities which make it a great hotel experience, and then some. Rooms are well-appointed, they have a rooftop bar and spa (which we utilized and I was shocked to see Stockholm has very few rooftop bars of any kind), they offer bikes, skateboards, yoga, tours and a movie night. There is an excellent breakfast, which was a tad on the expensive side, but worth every penny. Staff, much like the Swedes themselves, was happy, helpful and willing to go out of their way to assist with our several issues (such as printing tickets to events or museums which we'd forgotten to print).
Stockholm is also a cashless society (Sweden as a whole is supposed to be, but Stockholm sticks to it with a passion) which is a good and bad thing. Good because it's easy to get around, pay and do what you want. No need to carry cash. One of the justifications for cashless societies is to reduce crime - yet pickpockets are still a huge problem in Stockholm, as they are in any other major tourist city. Crime, in general, is not really in decline but crimes related to cash have fallen.
A very obvious upside to the cashless society is very few beggars in the streets, and no buskers of any kind. I view this as a mixed blessing. For one, I enjoy seeing buskers and some street acts. It's part of the culture of a city. I even watch a few in NYC from time to time. I saw none. In other cities, even New York, I've seen some great street performances and never felt bad tossing a dollar or two their way. Can't do that in Sweden. I did see a Roma on the train with a can shaking for coins and handouts...but nobody has any. That, I believe, is a benefit. While handouts are a source of income for the very poor, it's also a source of forms of grift. In Stockholm, it seems pointless. If you don't register with the government and you're poor, you're pretty much out of luck.
Depending on your willingness to assume governmental intervention is a good or bad thing (I think it's bad), the cashless aspect of this society creates wards of the state. Some may think that's OK. But I know it also increases calls for a known failed concept - the Universal Basic Income. I say failed because while many economists feel welfare is best done as a simple cash payment, like a UBI, once it's in place the call becomes to make it a "living wage". And that is not only impossible to create (because "living wage" is different to everyone), but impossible to fund (as who will fund it? One person I know who calls for it regularly does all they can to hide their money and avoid taxation).
Identifying clear benefits of cashless society is difficult. I'm mixed on the results. I feel the US is cashless enough - I don't carry much, if any, with me and have rarely seen instances where I'd need to. Except perhaps Katz' Deli down on Houston St.
All in all, I'd say I didn't miss not carrying cash, so to that end it was not a problem or a concern. But the one tour guide I had did spend quite a bit of time discussing this (he is a naturalized Swede from Croatia), and his over-the-top love of the concept showed some cracks when it came time to pay him. He is part of a group which offers free tours, and the guides make a living from tips. Without cash, he said he was not prone to crime. On the other hand, he admitted he could lose up to 20% of his potential income - so he was willing to accept dollars or euros. He just said "I hate getting it." He carries a credit card swiper with him, which is how I paid. Of course, it failed the first two swipes, so nothing is perfect.
Posted by Bulldog in Travelogues and Travel Ideas at 14:16 | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (0)
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You make it sound so innocuous. Cashless society is far more invidious than this. It means we can no longer offer value to our fellow citizens, but instead must petition government to bestow payment upon someone for something they've offered to us. It makes us supplicants to the system instead of drivers of productivity.
It means that my account in Canada - my ability to purchase anything - could be taken away on government's whim. And it was taken away, at least until government decided that I wasn't a serious dissident. But I was given a distinct message - don't contribute to those we don't like.
A cashless society is a captive society - a society of serfs. "Convenience" is how they sell it. "No problem if you follow all government rules and suggestions." Well, what if government are jerks?
Well said, but it's too bad that personal pain was the inspiration.
This is one of those 'Thee, not me' issues - the loudest advocates in favor will become the loudest complainers when it bites them unexpectedly. My answer to them is generally, 'You First'.
I have to admit that I share many of the same concerns. Big Data will know every payment processed, the technology has to be up and operating perfectly every time, hacking and diversion will never happen, right?
Dense urban areas like Bulldog's NJ/NYC and Sweden are one thing, much of the vast US is altogether another story as to feasibility of cashless systems.
I give cash in fairly substantial sums to some families who I know are barely scraping by as hard times affect their lives. They can spend it as they most need it, and nobody questions their cashless apps, it allows them some dignity as well as enabling them to be as frugal as possible trading only in cash.
Privacy, wide acceptance, and tangible money still has its place.
Cashless sounds great - until the card systems go down - and, they will.
Recently, several large cities had their EBT cards nonfunctional for, at a minimum, 3 or more hours. The people who depend on them were starting to go nuts. The thing is, for many of the more frugal shoppers, it can be quite a distance to less expensive groceries (or, for those using formula, being able to find it). To have the system down means either they hang around and hope, or go home and come back later - for a total of twice the cost of travel. Many depend on friends/family to assist them with transport.
Hang on, it WILL get worse.
It's for this reason that I always keep a stash of money around. 20s and smaller bills.
Yep! it's CHINA'S "Social Credit System" and nothing less. END OF FREEDOM (unless you're 100% off-grid). And, NO, that's not hyperbole.
I'm sorry if I wasn't as severe as you like. There are many things I don't like about the cashless society (I didn't outright scream "IT IS EVIL" but I did say the US is cashless enough. We are. There is a need for cash, or at least an anonymous system of transaction such as that which crypto can provide. Before you go on a rant about crypto, I've already done quite a bit of transacting in crypto in both personal and business life. It is a thing now.)
But I agree, cashless leads to all kinds of problems, and there are many people who post about this, most commonly at Cafe Hayek.
I really just wanted to comment on what I saw and experienced. I found it comfortable enough, but noticed all kinds of small issues with the non-cash culture. None are really big enough to spend time discussing and someone is likely to say "You're picking nits." To some, it is picking nits.
But on the other hand, the Swedes (indeed, many Scandinavian and/or smaller nations) have a close and comfortable relationship with their governments. They are more trusting of them. Should they be? I'd say no.
Remember, I began the post by saying "they are a crunchy nation" because they are. The government basically takes its leads from social cues - and Greta Thunberg is BIG there. REALLY big. To a very disturbing point. Maybe not her personally (though she's certainly a 'star'), but her views are noticeable everywhere.
So I'm sorry I didn't condemn cashless enough. Thing is, as I discussed with friends of mine, they all found it "enjoyable" when they've traveled in cashless regions. "Ease of use" is big with them.
I found it more annoying.
Cash from tourists. Passports. iPhones. Credit cards. Lots to take. Lots you can do with it, too.
I was dragged kicking and screaming into conspiracy theory. I knew as every red blooded American knew that our government would never misuse the Patriot Act and the FISA court. I love my country and my government. But that was then and now with the terrible heavy handed misuse of power during covid and the multiple lost count treasons and crimes of our FBI I know that any and all of our laws will be misused and the more powerful and secret/hidden the law allows it's use the more likely they are to use it against us. Do NOT accept a cashless society. Do NOT ever again trust your government and it's elected and appointed leaders.
How was the concert? I have forgot which band were gonna see there.
A credit card for a cup of coffee? Or a beer at a cafe?
Or to tip people who give you a hand. Can't give them a cc. Not to mention using a credit card for hookers, booze, and blow. Semi-kidding, but it's the principle.
Cashless is about government control. People love cash.
The best part of a cashless society is how no one can buy anything if the power or data network is down. You know, like after a hurricane, tornado, ice storm, flood.
Then throw in that the government by accident or malevolence can render you penniless at a moment's notice.
Like many things, a cashless society is great until something disruptive happens. Then, not so much.
If things go cashless, there will be a physical currency of something that arises to fill the niche need, keep some of that on hand.
So what happens to the improvident who can't qualify for a credit card? Easy, they buy debit or gift cards, so Big Money can take a slice out of every purchase they make. Forever. You will own nothing, and you will be happy.
In Europe credit cards are far less common than in the US, but everyone has an ATM card for their bank account which is universally accepted by payment terminals across the continent.
Interesting discussion of the pros and cons of cashless, but you have missed the most important con. In the cashless world, you give a report to the government of absolutely every nickel you spend. No problem there until the day they decide that you are someone they want to target. (James O'Keefe? Sharyl Attkisson? Roger Stone?). In a world where the FBI has become the personal Gestapo of Joe Biden, anonymity in financial transactions is an absolute necessity.
NOT EVEN THAT. If you fail to sufficiently praise the totalitarian overlording government...that will be enough to cut off your purchasing/traveling power. Mao's Cultural Revolution...(((new))) version.
Oh no. As I mentioned on an earlier post, I'm sorry I wasn't more critical.
I just didn't feel it was worthwhile to do a deep dive into the cons. Besides, on this page it's more preaching to the choir.
I did say I feel the US is "cashless enough" and I do believe this.
We have ease of use if we want it, we have anonymity (to a large extent) if we want it. It's about choice, in my view. Cashless removes that choice and adds costs.
As I recently joked with my church's retired Deacon, "I always bought my porn (just Playboy) with cash."
Cash is untraceable. Cashless is always traceable. I didn't fool God, but I fooled the government.
Congratulations! Publishing this added 250 points to your social credit score!
Call me old-fashioned, but I still pay cash for a lot of purchases. I think a cashless society is just one more step to the human ant hill.
Me too. I get $500 at a time out of an ATM and when it get's below $200 in my wallet I get another $500. Also going back for some 60 years I keep a few $100 bills folded and tucked away in my wallet.
Something else I do intentionally is I have four accounts with ATM access. So I can walk up to an ATM and get the max $500 on each and I can do it again the next day. Just in case things go fubar.
Cashless is great! Of course, after a year of accepting my payments, and providing me with confirmations, Medicare has suddenly decided that I have not applied after all. Reapplying is the ONLY possible remedy.
Now tell me that this could not happen to my financial accounts.
LOL, it's a fairly common term for long-haired hippie freaks now.
If you're an environmentalist of the leftist persuasion, you're "crunchy".
Another term I've learned from my kids is "Wookie" - it's for the long-haired unwashed concert goers who think they are recreating the image/look of the 60s. They look like Chewbacca from Star Wars. Hence, "Wookie" or "Wook".
They tend to be crunchy, as well.
Thanks for discussing your experience with Sweden’s cash situation. Preventing pickpockets (thieves and robbers)? Poor excuse for penalizing the law abiding person in the street, IMO. I commute to Tokyo regularly and we just don’t have panhandlers and pickpockets in the large cities or even out where I live (beach town). Crime is usually dealt with, and people know and expect it. Compared to the US, we carry large sums of cash on us daily. Many people still keep large sums at home, and car dealers, for example, are prepared to accept cash for new car purchases. Many places (restaurants, a large grocery chain store I use, and others) simply don’t take plastic and pass the savings on to the customer. It is easy to forget about the cost of using plastic. On the other hand, we do use plastic (specific debit-able cards or credit cards) when it is convenient for us, such as for train fares. Yes, the government wants us to use more plastic, but tradition is slow to die here, fortunately.
As others have said, the problems lie one or two levels deeper, below the surface.
“Sorry sir your Apple Pay was declined, due to your ESG score dropping below the threshold — but we can put your groceries back on the shelves, have a good day!”
As I suspected, most people may have misunderstood the nature of the post.
I do not support cashless. I was commenting on my experience.
I did not strongly condemn it, I guess that's my problem with the commenters.
I won't, though. Because the Swedes love it, for the most part. It's their country, it's their choice.
I would not want it here, and while I can list the myriad problems of cashless societies, I have no need to. I knew the commenters would fill in the blanks, and they did.
But I'm sorry if I wasn't "condemning" them hard enough. Their country - it's a beautiful one - and I recommend visiting. You won't change your views. But small countries do have a capability of "engaging" forms of socialism. I'm not saying they are right to do so or that there are benefits. The only benefit is a bunch of people there get to make others do what they want without question. That's always wrong.
Smaller countries, however, do have closer relationships with their governments. In my post on Iceland I made some points about why socialism may "work" for them to a degree. It will break down over time. In the meantime, they will love it for a lot of silly social reasons that seem 'hip' and 'cool' and want to be like, and think like, everyone else.
Thanks for the post. BTW, what does "crunchy " mean? I only understand the word in relationship to food or snow.
Interesting story. My wife and I were in a large discount liquor store in another state yesterday to stock up on bargains. While we were there, a rather scruffy guy walks in wanting to buy something. He has a phone with Apple pay and no ID. Clerk says, "We don't take Apple pay, just cash and credit cards." Guy starts getting huffy. "Is this store policy? Can I talk to someone in authority? Etc." That goes on for for a while, getting into it with the clerk and the floor manager. Finally, the manager suggests that the guy take a hike. He leaves, but hangs around the parking lot pestering patrons until the manager goes out there to move him along.
Not directly relevant to your post, but I think how ridiculous the guy looked waving his cell phone around like it was some sort of magic talisman. You can probably guess that I am a cash guy.
I explained "crunchy" a bit further up. But basically, think granola eating long hairs. LOL
As I was a granola eating long hair in my youth, it's an unfair label. I certainly wasn't "crunchy" in my youth. But I did fit the look, at least.
It's really more about attitude. Save the squirrels, the trees, the leafy things and the world, because we all know we're worse now than 100 years ago (not really, but lots of them believe this).
Also, your story is great. Lots of this is going to go on as payment systems battle it out.
Unless the government takes over and says "this is the payment system of choice" then you wind up having to cover a lot of different methods of payment and transactions. In a market system, that can get very expensive. Even if one is chosen, it can get expensive (can you say monopoly?).
This is why "cashless" at best can only be crypto. There are methods of cross-payment between cryptos. Right now the 'gas fees' are rather prohibitive, but they exist. Over time these 'gas fees' will decline and the cross platform work will become easier. That's why IF you are a crypto follower like I am, it's good to oppose central bank CBDCs (central bank decentralized currencies) as fatal to privacy and true decentralization. The whole goal is - like cashless societies today - to track you when the Central Banks run things.