Author envisions a cash-free world in years to come
Published Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:04PM EDT
What would life be like without money?
In his new book, "The End of Money," author David Wolman tackles that intriguing question for 21st-century citizens.
Wolman was able to answer that question after travelling the world and spending one year avoiding the use of bills and coins in his day-to-day life.
"It really wasn't that hard, up until those handful of occasions when it was totally impossible," Wolman said on Thursday on CTV's Canada AM.
From farmers' markets to shoe shine stalls, Wolman came across environments where only cash would seal a deal, even in today's age of smartphones and online technologies.
Even paying his babysitter became awkward.
"I tried to convince her dad to open a PayPal account, but he said no," Wolman said as he spoke via satellite from Portland, Oregon.
Incidents such as these often mystified Wolman, who had become "outraged" in recent years by the high costs attached to producing coins in the United States.
"A few years ago, I was reading about the lopsided economics of producing coinage, especially pennies and nickels," said Wolman.
"Right now, here in the States it costs more than the value stamped on these things," he said.
That imbalance inspired the contributing editor to "Wired" to write a tongue-and-cheek article for the American publication about living in a world without money.
"The response was thundering," said Wolman.
In the book that followed, Wolman presents an entertaining history of money across the ages.
"The End of Money" also chronicles Wolman's trip around the world to meet figures who are leading the way to a cash-free civilization in the years to come.
In Sweden, for example, the country's public buses will no longer accept cash. Tickets must be prepaid or purchased by commuters with a cellphone text message.
A growing number of Swedish businesses and banks have also stopped accepting cash.
The Royal Canadian Mint is also looking to the future with the MintChip, a new product that could become a digital replacement for coins.
Such evolution seems natural to Wolman, who voices his distaste for traditional currency throughout "The End of Money."
From start to finish, Wolman takes aim at the heavy eco-costs of mining and the pollutants created while producing legal tenders.
Wolman also highlights the health hazards of money.
"Money may be a marvelous technology, enabling life as we know it,'' he writes. "But no grandiose talk will change its microbe-infested reality.''
Wolman also makes the connection between traditional currency and criminal activities over the decades such as counterfeiting, drug trading and terrorism.
"This is analogue technology. Maybe it's time to put it in the grave," Wolman said on Canada AM.
But people living and working in developing countries may not be as eager to see cash go the way of the Dodo just yet.
Wolman noted this reluctance firsthand when he travelled to India to research his book.
"In a place like India they've dug in their heels. They need to use cash every day," said Wolman.
"If I wanted to do anything outside of my hotel room in a developing country I needed cash," he said