Research and Enterprise Office

Where did the idea of a cashless society come from?

The concept of a "cashless society" is now getting increased attention as countries such as Sweden try to move away from bills and coins whereas in the UK there has been a failed attempt by banks to do without paper cheques. In a Bangor Business School Working Paper, Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo of the Business School; along with Thomas Haigh of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the Haigh Group; and David Stearns of Seattle Pacific University document that  the ‘cashless’ idea actually originated first in the world of business and only later moved into the realm of fiction.

Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo, Professor of Business History and Bank Management explains: “Although we can trace its origins to 19th Century France, modern ideas of a cash free society date to the adoption of the first computers in business.”

“By any account the cashless society envisioned in the 1950s is now closer, but still far from becoming reality. In our research we argue that a cash free economy is a vision driving technological change that will never be realised.”

“The main reason why we engaged in this research was to help inform policy as well as the media because there are very important questions that have yet to be answered, but most of the issues around it are not presented in a balanced way. Instead, mainstream news articles tend to trash cash and talk about how wonderful are digital currencies, mobile payments, contact-less cards, and so forth. Our paper provides context.”

The full paper is available here, and coverage on Bloomberg.com here.

Publication date: 2 April 2012

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