A conversation with Brett Scott about the war on cash

Brett Scott is an author and the creator of ‘Altered States of Monetary Consciousness’, exploring emergent forms of finance, alternative currencies and economic activism.

The more long-term the economic argument becomes, the harder it is to imagine.

Tarn: Obviously a lot of people are very panicked right now when it comes to the economy and we’re seeing several countries slipping into a recession. Is this the right time to be talking about systemic change when it comes to finance systems?

During COVID we’ve seen many more places stop accepting cash and the implications of this go way beyond hygiene.

Tarn: The thing is for a long time the status-quo has carried with it some kind of moral high ground. It’s seen as good to work hard, earn a living, pay your taxes, pay your rent or mortgage. Collectively speaking these things are indicators of moral worthiness, so people might not ask more fundamental questions like “why am I working my whole life to pay into a system which actually doesn’t have the structures in place to support me if I get sick, or become unemployed?” So what should we be focusing on now?

The banking sector and the digital tech sector both specialise in information systems, so they have a natural synergy.

The big story of the last decade is the fusion of the banking sector with the digital technology sector. You can’t digitalise the oil industry, whereas the banking sector and the digital tech sector both specialise in information systems, so they have a natural synergy. This is why we’ve seen tech companies like Amazon and Uber start their own financial services, where it’s getting banks to interlock with it. They gobble up all the data and create huge AI systems, which I think we have reason to be concerned about.

Money will carry on working whether you believe in it or not because there are legal systems and network effects that underpin it.

Brett: I often hear this argument in many circles — New Economy circles, Crypto circles — this idea that monetary systems and financial systems are built on collective belief systems and they only exist because everyone believes in them. To some extent it’s true, but money will carry on working whether you believe in it or not because there are legal systems and network effects that underpin it. I could stand up and say “hey everyone this is a construct!” but it will be meaningless because the network is so strong that any individual doesn’t have the power to break it. If you don’t use it then you’ll be excluded from accessing the things you need for your survival.

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Tarn Rodgers Johns

I am a Berlin-based writer, editor and creator exploring how to create a thriving, just future worth living for. www.tarnrodgersjohns.com