"A rum thing, cash; its cover blown, its probity knackered, it now only excites suspicion or pity, depending on the sum. Deposit the dodgiest cheque (“Luca Weasolio Enterprises (Cocaine) Ltd”) and no questions asked; unpeel a fat roll of banknotes and there will be whispered conversations, messages passed to dyspeptic men in Compliance Divisions, black marks raised. Conversely, go into a supermarket and pay for your small order with cash, and not black marks, but eyebrows will be raised. Cash means you have no cards; no cards mean you have no credit; no credit means that you are on the margins, on the busk, a criminal, a bogus asylum-seeker, an underclass hoodlum, on drugs, a ticking bomb about to burst into tattoos and erupt at the checkout counter in a flurry of lager, swear words and screaming children.

There was once and advert which claimed that the American Express Card said “more about you than cash ever can”, and so it does. Cash says nothing except “Here is the money”, and we don’t like that. Curiously obsessed with provenance, we find anonymity distressing. There is no added value to cash. All you can do with it is pay. Soon it will be confined to liminal transactions with hookers, crooks, and Latvian navvies on the lump. The wedge of fifties is now a mark of failure, not just anonymous but, however big, finite. With a black AmEx, nobody can tell how much you have left. Cash cannot bullshit. Cash tells no lies. And so we no longer trust it, and so it must go."

Michael Bywater - Lost Worlds, What Have We Lost and Where Did It Go (2004)

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