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The End of Money (Slate)

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“Money is a confidence game, a mass delusion that only works because we’ve all been had together,” writes Farhad Manjoo. This theory is elaborated on in journalist David Wolman’s provocative new book, The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers—and the Coming Cashless Society, Even Wolman’s title contains a trick, explains Manjoo. Note how it conflates money and cash, two concepts that, to economists, are very different things. Money is any tradable store of value; it can exist in your pocket or on a bank statement, in dollars or Euros or, if you’re in prison, in cigarettes. Cash is only the physical instantiation of money, and, as Wolman points out and as everyone in the Western world knows, it is on its way out. Or is it? Despite his sympathy for Wolman’s premise, Manjoo concludes: “If you don’t believe your money’s going to be useful when you need it most, it’s worthless. That’s why it seems likely that we’ll never completely get rid of cash. Even if we hardly ever use paper money, there’s some simple part of you that needs it to exist, just in case, so that all of your digital transactions feel “real.” It sounds silly. It is silly. But then, what part of money isn’t?”