Sentences which were not expected

“I can’t see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore,” says Bjoern Ulvaeus, former member of 1970’s pop group ABBA, and a vocal proponent for a world without cash.

That is from The Washington Post, hat tip to Brad Plumer.  The article is interesting throughout, for instance:

The Swedish Bankers’ Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.

“Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public,” says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.

The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

“If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities,” says Schneider, an expert on underground economies.


That's all swell, but only to the extent that the "shadow economy" or "system D" aren't necessary or essential to the actual functioning of society, or survival of some group of people.

Electronic payments online can be conducted in such a way as to perpetuate a shadow economy without the downsides of violent crime.

Not unless Bitcoin or similar takes off. Paypal, Visa, Banks, etc. all are tapped into by government watchdogs.

I think they have causality wrong.

Criminals steal bank and credit cards now.

Using the term "vocal proponent" for a member of ABBA sounds like a bad cliché.

I was thinking the same thing, except "backup vocal proponent."

I'll await the day when the 3rd world customs officer takes my bitcoins through his mobile phone.

I'm far more afraid of government overreach than I am of violent crime.

They can keep their digital trail.

My limited understanding of violent crime leads me to believe that the overwhelming majority of it does not involve money. Rates of domestic abuse, child abuse, social unrest, etc. seem unlikely to be affected by digital money.


Your understanding is wrong.

Doc Merlin - very informative.

Perhaps but Aggravated assault accounted for 67.5 percent of "Violent Crimes" as defined by the FBI ( no comment on how many of those involved property but since they have a separate category for both property crime and robbery it would seem much of that 67.5 percent are not related to money.

It is unclear whether the assault numbers include domestic violence.


I checked the crime maps in my city for this past month and simple assault/battery was by far the most commonly reported crime. A large portion (I didn't count how many) were marked as domestic.

Being sane, I'm more afraid of violent crime than what libertarians consider 'government overreach' (health and safety/banking regulations).

Unexpected? I'm kind of surprised they haven't pushed harder for this already. Perhaps in other cultures they don't pick their pop stars based on signaling ditz. How 'bout "signaling ditz" for a band name?

This is a band that had a big hit, "Money, Money, Money," so he might have been thinking about banking and macro for a long time.

Replace the Bernank with a triumvirate of ABBA, Rush, and Pink Floyd?!?

And Geithner with George Harrison's corpse? ("Taxman")

I definitely prefer the small risk of violent crime to a world without payment anonymity.

A paperless currency is still currency. Is his argument about the inefficiency of paper money relative to electronic money, the opportunity for crime that cash presents, else or both?

As others have noted, credit and debit card fraud and theft are up. I've never been mugged, but I've have to cancel five credit or debit cards from unauthorized transactions. It's not a gun in my face, but I've never had a gun in my face even when I carried large sums of cash.

A department store's intranet is easier to crack than an armored car.

I'm not terribly afraid of card theft either. I didn't pay directly for the theft, but i pay indirectly through interchange fees on cards.

A more interesting story is how and why people listen to musicians and actors on matters of public policy. The lot is generally filled with high school and college dropouts who majored in Theater or Fine Arts if they went to college. That's a bit of an ad hominem, but one is usually expected to know something about a topic before having an argument. An economist who plays guitar has more cred than a guitarist who talks about economics. How strong is the soap box effect of celebrities? Does anyone really care what George Clooney believes?

Yeah, what do Agnetha and Anni-Frid think of a digital monetary system? They didn't always agree with Bjorn on other stuff. If we're going to consider the economic ideas of musicians let's start with Ted Nugent.

The copper, brass and gunpowder standards. Paul/Nugent '12 !

"An economist who plays guitar has more cred than a guitarist who talks about economics."
"Does anyone really care what George Clooney believes?"

With idiotic "observations" like these, one thing I can tell you is that very few people care what you think.

Sorry, George Clooney.

To be crystal clear, I don't necessarily care what George Clooney thinks, but obviously more than a few people do. More than the number who care what Tyler Cowen thinks on any subject, for example.

I'm not arguing the merit.

I've heard George Clooney speak. I am fairly sure he does not think.

Well pop stars generally learn how to be very good at dealing with the media and with PR, things which the guitar-playing economist, however brilliant he may be, probably isn't very experienced with. I would imagine that the guy from ABBA isn't actually the intellectual driving force behind the movement; he's just the public face.

"A more interesting story is how and why people listen to musicians and actors on matters of public policy. "

Well, to be fair, people don't actually listen. But that does not stop the moronic media from brainlessly repeating what they have to say, because it is easier than journalism.

If you want to point out the absurdity of actually listening to certain kinds of dopes, you can start with former Enron advisers.

Well, he fought the Swedish government over his taxes and won, so we can respect him for that.

Before, only the well-connected could rob a bank. Now anyone can fraudulently use a credit card number. Progress!

I bet the folks at Visa would welcome a cash free world.

Visa: "All we want is *some* of all the money in the world."

Is it bad that my first thought is that this would put all the strip clubs out of business? What percentage of the people there do you think have somebody at home that doesn't know they're there? Also, say, the marijuana business.

I can see why law enforcement wants this. Sounds like a pretty sterile world, though.

I seriously doubt it's going to appear as a "Strip Club" entry on your card statement. More likely something vague.

You could purchase gift cards and stick them in the g-string.

"I've heard" my local strippers are particularly fond of Starbucks cards...

Not really, but it does increase the club's take vs cash.

In the end crime will pay more to those able to launder some form of currency into the cashless economy (and control of those accesspoints will become the valuable position in the underworld).

in my hometown strip-clubs are associated with a restaurant to charge you , so when you pay with the credit card your statement says "restaurant" =)

Pretty sure Sweden having less graft than Greece and Italy is something that predates the widespread use of electronic payment.

Agreed. And it has only vague relations to what is going on now (actual policy seems to be bad, rather than just a corruption problem), so it seems biased to try and associate cash specifically with these countries.

Emergent Totalitarianism.

I fear that the nutcases I've met who worried about this may be correct. Fortunately, aside from lingonberries, I don't care much about Sweden.

The nutcases are almost always right about this kind of thing. Its just that they are low status, so no one cares.

Yep, having the government know literally EVERYTHING about our economic lives isn't too scary. That will never be abused.

Totalitarian idiots run northern europe and we want to copy them.

It's a total hellhole up there. Please avoid it like the plague and spread the word amongst your fellow right-wing nutjobs. You're all better suited for locales like Alabama, Mississippi, etc.

Sweden is nice because of their government?

Or maybe because it has a high percentage of Swedes.

It's funny. The biggest thing about being human is not being even something as incredibly close as the chimpanzee. And yet, we can never get our heads around individual versus systemic incentive discussions.

For example, remove cash and people stop robbing banks. Those stats are probably inflated if Swedes make banks "please rob us" zones like we do here. What we need is someone to rob a bank with a box cutter and then fly it into the Pentagon.

Sweden sucks because of its government?

Maybe the high percentage of Swedes running the government has something to do with it.

"It’s a total hellhole up there."

what do you have against ethnic homogeneity? heh heh heh.

" “If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities,” says Schneider, an expert on underground economies."

I see that statement as a bug, not a feature.

Mobs, mafias and cartels. Welcome to libertopia !

If Bjoern Ulvaeus were described as somebody with a banking and law degree who oversaw the finances of two major successes in the music industry (ABBA and Mama Mia), I wonder how people wold react? He may get more credence, but less attention.

“If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities,” says Schneider, an expert on underground economies."

Reverse causation?

Alternatives will arise, in the absence of government backed currency that is tradable for goods or services, particularly those between people that wish the exchange secret.

How will people pay for drugs or prostitutes? Perhaps mackerel cans.

Make both legal and people could just use Credit Cards.

Idk. Digital crime is on the rise andprobably exceeds the drop in bank and other cash robberies.

And I think even law abiding people want to be shadowed from government observation.

Stupid, lower-end criminals get into shootouts with cops at banks, and are dead or arrested, with very few of them living happily ever after.

Savvy, criminals prefer to commit fraud, digital crime and identity theft in a cash-less world. Their risks are lessened but there are still risks for them.

What are the consequences of doing away with legal tender? So like there is no credit card fraud? There is a lot more cash on a credit card than people ever carried in their pockets. But maybe it's a less violent crime.

We should do that here in the USA, but how are the blacks going to make a living if they can't steal?

From Wikipedia: Ulvaeus studied business and law at Lund University.
And Mick Jagger went to the London School of Economics. Not all pop stars are just pop stars.

That must mean that because some football or basketball player went to Harvard or Stanford they're qualified to be POTUS or a supreme court justice. No wonder I get so much deference at Walmart when I'm wearing my Princeton sweatshirt.

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