Reconcepting US monetary design.


Chinese Retail

Retail in Asia is at a completely other level than here in the USA and in China it’s particularly intense. The interesting thing about China (and in this photo taken in Shanghai on West Nanjing Road) is that virtually all wealth is new money – and when I say “new” I mean in the past 15-20 years new.  There is really no such thing in China as “old money” because there just was not any wealth in the society outside of a handful of folks.  As such, the new money Chinese have tended to flaunt their wealth.

I was at a presentation in Hong Kong where the regional director of LVMH was giving an amazing presentation about this subject and he said the bulk of billionaires in China are in their forties and the overwhelming amount of millionaires in China are in their thirties.  The retail scene in China reflects this too.  When it’s nice in China, it’s really nice.  There is a downside to this as well, and the Chinese are somewhat developing a reputation for being perhaps a bit too brand conscience and there are some side effects with this (which perhaps I’ll get into on a future post), but for now, this photo paints a bit of the picture of the scene in retail – and this is but one corner on West Nanjing Road – you should see the rest of it.

Criminalization of Cash?

Just a thought… Could cash ever become criminal?  I read an article this a few days ago and it’s not a ludicrous question.

Money has dramatically changed in my lifetime.  Many of us keep some cash in our pockets but most of our money is “out there” in some form or another in a digital world.  Do you really even know how it all works or how it is tracked? Sure you get a statement each month but so what – Bernie Madoff’s clients had statements and Jon Corzine said he didn’t lose a billion and a half bucks – he can’t find it.

In 2010 Italy banned cash transactions over 5000 euros in the name of austerity.

In 2011 Italy lowered that to 1000 euros.

In 2012 Spain banned cash payments in excess of 200 euros.

On another side, big exchanges of money such as purchasing a home or payroll are handled by direct bank to bank transfers and direct deposits.  Even micro payments are now handled digitally with things such as Square.  Paypal is now commonplace – I remember not too long ago when even this was weird – even people who used it sometimes wondered how your email could tie to your credit card or bank then magically money would move.

The next widely accepted step even beyond Square is surely is payment via cell phone – go to the store, bump your phone, payment happens, digits move.  This is all convenient but who would have an interest in being able to track every single financial transaction in your life?  Who out there would like to control this?  The answer of course is governments.   People are sovereign beings – that is they are responsible for their own governance at the individual level.  More often than not the one thing in the way of individual sovereignty is government.  Governments want to look at the world as a collective and their objectives are to try to manage overall society.  This is fine until it becomes more important than the individual where it becomes OK to steal from one individual to give to another without the consent of the first.

This doesn’t square well if you are an individual, especially if you are an individual who has the gall to believe that you are first and foremost in charge of your own governance. So what does the everlasting discussion between individual and government have to do with cash?  Given that our governments are led by people who create more problems than they solve (then campaign to get re-elected to solve the problems they created….) and need you cooperation in order to accomplish whatever it is they want to accomplish, it’s not out of the question that one day cash transactions would be illegal because cash (cold hard cash) is the last tool that allows the individual his/her own sovereignty.

Individuals are going to have to start strategizing for a future reality.  What do you do?  Where do you live? Passports?  Proxies?  It’s already started – thanks to overbearing laws, regulations, and outright theft by governments, people are looking at the world and looking for intelligent ways to deal with this.  Even back in 2009 Tim Ferris had a blog post on “How to Become Jason Bourne” and there are many sites on how to manage a world where government is too big for it’s britches.

In a world where everything is online and going online and where everything is tracked down to the I.P. address and beyond in order to discern patterns, is it that ridiculous of a premise to say that one day money will not be outlawed by cash money would be?  What would happen if that happens?  Could it evolve a private currency among like-minded individuals on a local level (your immediate community)?  Would there possibly be a private form of currency between individuals on a national or international level?  A million things I never thought would happen in my lifetime have happened just in the past five years and boldly – who can say what solutions will present themselves to sovereign individuals down the road.

Governments the world over print money and we throw around the terms millions, billions, and trillions now almost interchangeably – people become numb to it and corruption happens right in front of your eyes.  Taxpayers are bailing out governments who in turn bail out taxpayers who in turn pay taxes to send back to governments who then bailout companies and on and on.  For example, American taxpayers bail out the bankrupt FHA which in turn set rules on lending to the same taxpayers that just bailed it out.  What is happening from Greece to Italy to Spain, to Portugal to Germany to the USA and a host of countries in between is the lenders and the borrowers have become the same people.

That can’t last – at some point the volleyball hits the sand and when governments go into existential crises they do (and will do) whatever they have to in the name of self preservation.  So in an age when you don’t actually need cash to pay for something,  the last step a government can take in completely having control over an individual is to criminalize cash (in the name of convenience, obscurity, or some other innocuous stated purpose).  Fiat currencies are losing the faith of the holder and at some point we’re going to have to actually make fiat currency solid again.  And even though we might not “need” hard cash, a world without that tool of exchange would not be good.

Here’s a scene from the future if cash is criminalized  – Let’s say you’re a “problem” citizen who still thinks individual rights hold substantial weight –  On Monday you have money in the bank and on Tuesday with the push of a far away button you don’t.