Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

It Will Soon Be 1984…

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This is a new presentation and translation of a 1979 satirical article called “It Will Soon Be 1984….” The article, published by Ingemar Ståhl in a leading Swedish daily, proposed that a full specification of every transaction in the Swedish economy, including the identities of the buyer and the seller, be registered electronically in a new national transaction registration system run by the tax authorities. In this way cash would be taken out of circulation. The benefits of a cashless economy are many. First of all, tax evasion and black markets will be prevented. Socially irresponsible consumption patterns and criminal activities such as the use of drugs and illicit distilling can easily be curtailed. The move to a cashless economy will be rapid as most of the payments and surveillance technologies are already in place. The year 1984 is already too late for this plan according to Ståhl. His plan preceded by several decades the present discussion about the “curse of cash” inspired by Kenneth Rogoff and the movement towards a cashless society. A main source of inspiration for Ståhl was probably Knut Wicksell’s model of a cashless economy.