Cash first!

Here are the best paragraphs from a piece by Neil Swidey in the Boston Sunday Globe magazine encouraging You The Consumer to pay with cash instead of credit or debit cards.  He’s taking aim at an argument that friends of the financial industry use to encourage even more widespread use of electronic payment methods: the notion that since criminal enterprises operate more or less on a cash-only basis, less folding money means less crime. He writes:

Harvard economists Larry Summers and Ken Rogoff have even called for the elimination of big bills like the US $100 and 500-euro notes, to reduce crime. Rogoff wrote a book to make his case, calling it The Curse of Cash.

But as Bloomberg columnist Elaine Ou persuasively countered, “the crime-fighting case against cash is overstated.” She cited a risk assessment by the British government that found the big banks and major accounting and law firms posed a much higher risk of facilitating the movement of dirty money than did cash, something the Panama Papers tax shelter scandal made abundantly clear. “If we’re going to cite unlawful transactions as a rationale for banning cash,” she wrote, “it only makes sense to ban banks and accounting firms first.”