Australian lawmakers are set to outlaw the use of cash in transactions exceeding the value of AUD$10,000, which equates to around $6,900.
Cash Not Accepted
A Treasury draft legislation outlined the proposed limit. Per the document, which can be found at the below link, lawmakers suggested that preventing consumers from using cash in transactions exceeding the aforementioned sum could “send a strong signal to the community that it is not acceptable to avoid tax and other obligations by paying with cash.”
It was added that this proposed legislation is a direct recommendation from Australia’s Black Economy Taskforce.
Should the legislation be approved, it is set to come into effect by January 1st, 2020 — less than six months away. Per the legislature, those found in violation of this (honestly Orwellian) rule may be subject to up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of $25,200.
— AML Sanctions (@AMLsanctions) July 26, 2019
What’s weird is that this isn’t the first case of a large country setting a cash transaction limit in place. Crypto analyst Rand recently noted that more stringent restrictions exist in nations like Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, and Greece.
But there’s a silver lining here: the Australian government made it clear that they don’t plan to extend this ban in the crypto space. Regulators wrote that by banning certain digital assets could hamper the industry:
“Digital currency is a new and developing area in the Australian economy. Unlike physical currency, it does not have a firmly established regulatory framework or industry structure. This makes it difficult to apply the cash payment limit in a way that would not largely prevent the use of digital currency in Australia or significantly stifle innovation in the sector.”
What’s Wrong With a Cashless Society
Still, the bill isn’t all fine and dandy. This could be seen as Australia’s first step towards a cashless society, one where central bank digital currencies and other government-controlled payment mechanisms are the norm. But there’s an issue with this: privacy.
You can already see privacy issues in early-stage cashless societies, namely China. In some regions and through certain applications, debtors are put on full blast, lambasted in public for failing to pay back their creditors. And soon, every step one takes, each transaction one makes, and the words one says online will constitute their “social score”. Those found not to be complying with the party line will be punished, severely.
Andreas Antonopoulos, a long-time Bitcoin educator, has likened this form of indirect censorship to a violation of free speech.
The Greek-British author and coder often claims that money is a language, and that making certain transactions illegal or cutting people out of infrastructure is a growing issue in today’s society. As Rob Paone, a cryptocurrency personality and founder of Proof of Talent, recently wrote on Twitter: “going cashless means a financial surveillance state.”
What’s wrong with surveillance? Governments with access to everything can theoretically protect citizens from criminals. But, as crypto researcher Hasu and Three Arrows Capital’s Su Zhu wrote in an extensive post on digital cash, “The specters of terrorism and organized crime are often cited [for the need for survillence]. But this makes the naive assumption that governments itself can never become evil.”
The duo writes that cashless societies are less, not more, susceptible to tyranny, overreach, and authoritarian policies that can end up forcing society into a corner. Just look to North Korea as a perfect case in point.
A surveillance state or surveillance world is exactly where Bitcoin shines. As BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes wrote in a blog post published to the company blog, the “censored, centralized, and top-down” digital monies of the future pale in comparison to Bitcoin in a number of respects. “Bitcoin runs via a network of voluntary, independent, and self-interested actors, who neither demand nor require any favours or permissions; a few basis points in transaction fees is literally all they want from anyone,” he wrote, drawing clear lines between decentralized and centralized crypto assets.
The former banker went on to note that when, not if, cash is abolished, meaning the death of traditional financial privacy, Bitcoin should see adoption due to the “moral and even psychological” need for the ability to keep information to oneself.