When I first heard of David Wolman's The End of Money:
Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming
Cashless Society, I was skeptical. Dismissed it as a
geek fantasy I might expect from a Wired Contributing Editor (which Wolman is).
If people have faith in anything, it's the green stuff. But
Wolman travelled the globe in search of the authorities and
characters who reveal what a cashless future might be like.
And he upped the ante on his belief by going a year without
coin or bills.
Still, as a reader who knows a smidge about money (including
a "Money and Capital Markets" course in grad school), I knew
any resolving narrative about a cashless future was sure to
descend into financial arcana likely to engage only the most
stubborn of readers.
I was wrong!
The End of Money is
not economic tedium--or its frequent cousin--an agenda-laden
screed. Au contraire, Wolman engages us with colorful
character portraits showing different aspects of our monetary
lives and where we're headed. Each chapter has a theme and a
character type we meet.
Thus, Chapter 1, "The Missionary," introduces Glenn Guest,
pastor at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Danielsville, Georgia.
Pastor Guest likes the hard-money, 1800s stance of a Ron Paul.
Any notion of quitting cash for digits and plastic smacks of
the Number of the Beast and related signs of the Apocalypse.
Chapter 3, "The Counterfeiters," introduces characters (and a
nation: Ever wonder how pariah North Korea gets by?) using
hi-tech to speed along the collapse of our coin and bill
currencies. (Typical of how Wolman delves into monetary
history, we learn Sir Isaac Newton, remembered as the
physicist who sat under an apple tree, once took a job as head
of the Royal Mint of England. He caught and convicted a bill
forger, subsequently hung, drawn, and quartered.)
Perhaps the most uplifting chapter is Chapter 7, "The
Revolutionaries." A revolution is afoot in places of
traditional squalor like Kenya and the slums of India. Cash it
turns out punishes the poor, who can't afford bank accounts to
save money. But "leapfrog" cellphone technology changes that.
Saving is now as simple as a text message. This third-world
financial revolution outpaces our own!
Am I convinced of Wolman's cashless future? Let me answer
this way: I read The End of
Money on an e-reader. I now read more e-books than
paper books. Not that many years ago, I didn't see this for my
future. We should enjoy Wolman's scenario for the heads-up it
The End of Money by
David Wolman, Da Capo Press/Perseus, Philadelphia, 2012, 228
pp., ISBNs: 978-0-306-81883-7 (hardcover) &
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection, The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
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