All the old science fiction writers such as Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell and Frederik Pohl, used to describe a future society in which the general populace purchased their needs and wishes with something described as “Universal Credits”.
I guess the idea was when you worked, you were compensated into this sort of federal global account that you could access by your unique id. Of course the first course of action that was taken when one became a societal outlaw or misfit was to freeze their “Universal Credits”. Such miscreants were then forced to buy things through various channels. Legitimate businesses would tend to question and treat cash purchasing customers as highly suspicious. Alternatively, nefarious underground sources overcharged and under delivered but didn’t ask questions. The bottom line though was that the use of cash warranted distrust.
Today, debit/credit cards and now the even more ubiquitous ApplePay from ones iPhone pretty much replicate the function of universal credits; so much so that many folks don’t carry any cash at all. For several years now whenever I made a cash transaction I’d mutter “Cash and two picture ID’s.” Some cashiers would sort of get it while others would look inquisitively and say “What?” At any rate, my little jab at the system was pretty much my own inside joke until about a month ago. You see, an envelope came in the mail from State Street Bank. Inside was a notice that starting November 1st, a picture id would be required for cash deposits to a bank account. I said to myself… “Yep! I was right. Cash is now officially suspect.” But just to inquire about the logic behind this decision I went to a branch, registered a complaint and asked the teller what was the reasoning behind this idiotic new policy. He fumbled a bit and then basicly said that this was to help identify folks who made large cash deposits to accounts as potential criminals.
And so here we are. My prediction has come true. Be careful where you pull out that wad of hundred dollar bills. Paying with cash could put you under surveillance; maybe even get you jailed. Worse than that is the class issue that lies beneath. Cash is for the class known as “the underprivileged.” Will being economically underprivileged become a crime in itself? Time will tell.