Saturday, September 4, 2010

Money Matters: Part 3

I recently speculated that we may someday witness the end of money, as electronic commerce seems to be increasingly replacing the exchange of physical cash. Within a week of that post, I read this news article announcing that Passport Canada has stopped accepting cash. The article, which features a photograph of Santa Claus trying to purchase a Canadian passport with a $50 bill, reports that Passport Canada has decided to stop accepting Canadian currency as payment for the passports which it issues. The agency apparently wants to reduce the risk of theft by preventing its employees from handling cash. Apparently, screening potential employees so that only honest ones are hired is too much trouble.

If I may digress for a moment, I would also like to point out here that this issue pretty much settles the on-going dispute over Arctic sovereignty between Canada, Russia and sundry less important nations. Everyone knows that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. If he wants to purchase a Canadian passport, he clearly considers himself a Canadian citizen, which makes the North Pole and surrounding territory Canadian soil (or ice, as it were).

Moving toward the other extreme, I came across an editorial article, still more recently, written by a young woman who prefers paying with cash over plastic (credit or debit) cards because it helps her to budget by making her more conscious of her dwindling savings. The author further notes that an increasing number of restaurants are apparently no longer accepting plastic cards because of the built-in transaction fees. It seems even the legendary Bob Dylan refused to allow promoters of a recent show that he gave in California to sell tickets, insisting that all tickets be purchased at the door and that "E-e-e-verybody must pay cash" (to paraphrase one of his better-known lyrical phrases). Of course, this policy does generate a slight risk of a repeat of the tragedy at the infamous 1979 Who concert during which several fans were trampled in the mad rush for seats but, hey, far be it from me to ask Bob Dylan to compromise his principles. Better men than I have tried and failed, I can assure you.

Finally, if that still wasn't "out there" enough, there's the curious story of Mark Boyle, "The Moneyless Man". As incredible as it may seem, Boyle has managed to live without earning or spending a red cent since 2008. He lives in a trailer that was given to him for free, he grows or barters for his food, he uses a solar shower and even makes his own paper. He's written a book about the experience and how he managed it, entitled "The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living" (a title with a delicious double-entendre - er, was that "Freakonomic" living, Mark?) According to Mark, he's never been happier and has no plans to return to a dependency on money. Now, I don't like to question another's motivations but Mark's surname, and his accent in the accompanying YouTube video, suggest that he's of Scottish descent, and we all know about the Scotts' notorious reputation for frugality!

But seriously, I feel nothing but admiration and awe for Boyle, a man who has proven that my idealistic fantasy of a moneyless world could be a reality if only there were more people like him.

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