How liberty is eroded under the cover of providing 'safety'

Cash is one of the alleged banes of society that has long been in the sights of statist control-freaks everywhere.  The debate over cash has recently received fresh input from none other than that paradise of socialism, Sweden. As reported in 'The Local', „Robberies raise prospect of retail cash ban“.

In it we learn that Sweden has something called the 'Work Environment Authority', one of the countless bureaucracies that tend to spring up in the modern-day State and then perpetuate themselves by constantly inventing new regulations.

 

Per the report in 'the Local':

 

“The head of the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) has raised the prospect of a ban on cash in Sweden's retail stores to help tackle the growing problem of robbery. The authority's director-general Mikael Sjöberg refused to rule out the drastic measure in an interview on Wednesday. "You can't rule anything out, it just depends on how risky the situation is. We have very extensive possibilities to explore," Sjöberg told trade union publication Handelsnytt.  The authority is set to conduct an inspection of 3,000 small stores across Sweden to chart opportunities aimed at improving the working environment. "It is not acceptable that people go to work in fear and concerned that they could be subject to a robbery, which does actually happen in this sector," Mikael Sjöberg said.  The Work Environment Authority has previously pushed through cash bans on buses in Sweden after a spate of hold-ups. Robberies against retailers accounted for 9 percent of all robbery cases reported in Sweden in 2007, according to statistics from the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå). From just under 400 cases per annum in 1987, the number of cases had more than doubled by 2007 after a peak in 2005.“

 

We don't want to give them any ideas, but one might naively ask, why not forbid cars on account of the prevalence of road accidents? A poster named Molly on the EeeUser-forum has put together a number of arguments forwarded by Swedish politicians and bureaucrats in the past in support of banning cash.

While we could not independently verify this list of statements, it certainly rings true, and in part mimics the spurious arguments heard elsewhere before (Molly's own comments in italics):

 

Marie Löök, Policy Officer at the financial sector union of Sweden, has this to say:"It's 'Game Over' for cash"! "2 out of 3 Swedish crowns are circulating in the 'shadow economy'." "Folks using cash usually have something to hide, you don't pay prostitutes with a credit card."

Carin Götblad, Police Commissioner of Stockholm County: "Cash is the lifeblood in the veins of criminality."

Martine Syrjänen-Stålberg of the Swedish Work Environment Association: "A cashless society is a less criminal society." "It will improve the tax morale." (and this I find most insulting): "And wouldn't cashless shopping be much better for senior citizens since they tend to loose their purses/wallets?"

Considering these arguments, which law-abiding citizen could possibly be against a cashless society? As they say: if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear … Amen!

 

We have news for Sweden's bureaucrats: without the so-called 'shadow economy' you'd probably soon have no more economy, period. We're not quite sure if politicians are generally aware of this, but most of the highly taxed welfare/warfare states have an enormous 'gray', or 'shadow' economy, i.e. a large part of economic activity takes place outside of the purview of the bureaucratic red tape and onerous taxation that marks 'official' business activity.

Without this shadow economy, the population's living standards would suffer a large setback and incomes would shrink across the economy due to the inevitable knock-on effects. This means that if governments were in fact to succeed in strangling the gray economy, government revenues would likely collapse as well (income from consumption taxes like VAT and sales taxes would crater right away, and other types of tax revenue streams would follow as the economy weakened).

Furthermore, the assumption that citizens should not have a right to financial privacy (which cash helps to provide) just because there are criminals for whom cash happens to be useful too (we wonder why there is so much violent crime in the socialist paradise by the way?) is wrong a priori.

Note here that there is another important function that cash provides, besides financial privacy – it allows people to remove themselves from the banking system. After all, deposits held at banks are definitely not 100% reserved. The modern day fractionally reserved banks are basically de facto bankrupt all the time (this is to say, they could most definitely not back all depositor claims at short notice).  While there are government guarantees on deposits nearly everywhere (a misguided policy that furthers unnecessary risk taking on the part of both depositors and banks), such guarantees can become worthless in case the government becomes insolvent too.

In addition, these guarantees are usually limited. Eliminating cash would remove people's right to take physical possession of their property – the savings or cash holdings that the banks are supposed to warehouse for them. Fear not though – no government can really eliminate cash anyway, even though many would probably like to do so. The reason is that the shadow economy would then simply move toward using the cash issued by a foreign nation, or would move to a gold payment system.

Of course all these avenues could, and likely would,  be declared illegal as well, but e.g. not even the death penalty was enough to enforce Diocletian's price control edicts in the third century, so we can already state that this won't work either. The main point remains though that statists everywhere are always eager to attempt to misuse a perceived threat to safety to further roll back individual liberty.

Such attempts by the bureaucratic nanny state to encroach upon the rights of allegedly free people should always be resisted – because it is exactly as Benjamin Franklin has famously said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. “

 


 
 

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One Response to “Sweden discusses ‘cash ban’”

  • gerg:

    it is strange that outlawing cash of all things would be the solution to a spate of robberies. isn’t that letting the bad guys win?

    in the good old days shareholders in US banks were jointly and severally liable for bank debts. this tended to sharpen the mind of the underwriting department.

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