Here’s a black woman on your cash, now stop using cash.

Harriet Tubman To Appear on $20 Bill.


The supremacy of physical cash is by no means clear . . . In fact because of its prevalence in the modern monetary system, it would be dangerously destabilizing to regard electronic money as somehow “inferior” to physical cash. Five dollars in e-money must be equal to five dollar bills. Anything less would undermine the electronic money that is used for the vast majority of transactions and makes up almost all liquid savings. So provided that the bank still permits money to be withdrawn in electronic form, refusing to allow physical cash withdrawal cannot break the law.

This is where identity politics always gets you: to the last place power resided but never to the place where it resides. Putting a black woman on the $20 bill at the same  time cash is being placed on suppression watch is The Last Psychiatrists’ “Roanoke” principle in action. Power is fleeting. Race/gender politics is the smokescreen it leaves behind so you can’t follow it.

  1. Handle said:

    I think it’s even worse than that in a way. Harriet Tubman is all you’ll see.

    The real pressure these days (see, e.g. Lawrence Summers’ latest essay on the subject) is being applied to the $100 and €500: the bills of choice for domestic and international organized crime. You’ll see plenty of smaller notes worldwide in the more ordinary black and grey markets, but the big syndicates and cartels go for the big bills and are the biggest hoarders and launderers of them.

    On the other hand, lots of small transactions are carried out in cash with twenties. Craigslist is much more cash than paypal (that’s eBay), and even the government tells its own employees to keep plenty of small bills of cash on hand in case of emergencies, which is still good advice. Soon I’ll be staring at a bunch of Tubmans in my go-bag. Maybe I should just hoard Jacksons now, or will they immediately become like some kind of new confederate flag symbol or swastika? “The Fed ordered all those shredded and pulped a decade ago and I haven’t seen one in years. Where did you get it? Why do you have it?”

    At any rate, one interesting thing about the transition from a cash to electronic exchange economy is its underrated role in reducing certain kinds of crime. In fact, while I’m sure there’s got to be a literature on it somewhere, I’ve never come across any report of any criminological study of the issue. Politicians and police are taking all kinds of credit for The Great Pacficiation from approx. 1990 to 2015. But technology makes a big difference. Auto thefts declined for a while when automakers introduced new anti-theft features, at least until organized gangs got a hold of those universal ‘skeleton key’ radio transmitters.

    So, what happened to muggings when people stopped carrying lots of cash around? Maybe the number stayed on trend and the target switched to smartphones, but is that still true with the new security features?

    What about homeless bums, squeegee men, or pan handlers? How many people when accosted for cash these days can honestly answer, “Sorry, don’t have any one me?” Would that deter begging? What about the folks that try to camp out on the sidewalk on a blanket selling random knock-off junk? And does it lower temptation and opportunity to respond to sudden unexpected criminal solicitation of drugs of prostitution or something, thereby suppressing that activity too?

    And maybe the less-cashed future will encourage even your ordinary streetwalkers and bums to carry around cheap little digital-transaction enabling devices, so that all these activities are once again incentivized. Obviously criminals don’t want digital ‘paper trails’ (as it were), but maybe there will be want to circumvent that problem. That raises the disturbing question of whether, once we’re all carrying some X-coin Bluetooth thingamabob, whether we’ll see a rebound in the rates of these illicit activities.


    • Good point, re: small bills. They will be tolerated, “for emergency purposes,” so that’s where the identity politics are being applied.

      I agree about the possible benefits of a cashless society regarding criminal activity and pan handlers (though more the latter than the former, since I don’t begrudge money laundering in an age of high taxes). But, yes, I admit to a certain kind of one-eyed prophecy when it comes to electronic money; it’s not that I have a problem with money existing only on a server, it’s that I don’t trust the people who control the server. Which is why bitcoin is so important.

      At any rate . . . are you going to reignite your blog? I know it’s time consuming, but I don’t even see you in comment threads very often. Your wisdom is missed.


  2. Will S. said:

    How many people when accosted for cash these days can honestly answer, “Sorry, don’t have any one me?” Would that deter begging?

    Probably not; doubtless some will say, “No prob; I take Bitcoin.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Way off topic (sorry), but do you still have a copy of The Lure of the Void (now that Dark Matter has disappeared offline)? If so, would massively appreciate access to it.


    • Yep, I still have it. Will put it up here in .pdf and .docx form.


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