By Jon Matonis
Sunday, February 24, 2013
The Anonymity Fantasy
gets off on the wrong foot by claiming to know what we all "deserve" or
"what we all want." As a reader, this is aggravating on multiple
levels, but the pretentious fun doesn't stop there as we later learn
that anonymous cash does not equal freedom and that "clinging to cash"
I could be cynical here, but I really don't think
it's about perfidiously advancing a thesis to promote his new book. I
think David actually believes all of this despite what history teaches
Let's not kid ourselves, because the end of money, as we know
it, really means the beginning of the transactional surveillance State,
which makes this a serious debate about the boundaries of State power
and the dignity of an individual.
Unfortunately, the real world extends beyond Wolman's polite corner of Oregon.
are activists and dissidents in hostile regions paying for Internet
blogs, food supplies, and safe harbor. There are payments being made to
border guards on a daily basis to flee a murderous government somewhere.
There are women selling baskets and blankets at street markets to feed
their hungry families. There are cancer patients buying weed from a
friend if their state doesn't accommodate medical marijuana. And even
before and after the Third Reich, persecuted peoples have always needed a
way to protect and transfer what little remained of their wealth.
persistent war on cash has more to do with moralistic society than it
does with civil society as Wolman claims. With ultimate tracking
capabilities, how does Wolman decide when a government's "right" becomes
a wrong? Does he defend the victimless crime laws against online
gambling and consensual sex for money between adults? Does he defend
confiscation of private sector wealth when a socialistic regime runs out
of funds? Does he defend an orchestrated payments blockade against whistleblower site Wikileaks? Does he defend brutal government law enforcement measures in Syria and Gaddafi's Libya?
Anonymity and civil society do mix --- it is omnipotent violent government and civil society that do not mix.
is thinking like a technologist when he promotes the cashless utopia
and, as a technologist, he's probably correct because paper cash is
inefficient, problematic, and dirty. But it's mostly inefficient and
problematic for the overzealous regulators and tax collecting apparatus.
happens to be a very short-sighted and unintellectual argument.
Selective breeding for certain 'preferred' traits is a vastly more
efficient method and so is the training-from-birth selection criteria
employed by totalitarian states that place athletes in the modern Olympics. I doubt Wolman would want to live in those efficient societies --- cashless or not.
it's a good thing that Wolman partially credits consultant David Birch
with his un-semantic argument about the differences between anonymity
and privacy, because that way he doesn't have to shoulder the sole blame
for such an untenable supposition.
user-defined privacy, sits on a sliding scale that is defined by the
individual. One person's idea of privacy may be anonymity from all and
another person's idea of sufficient privacy may be privacy from
aggressive marketing companies and governments but perhaps not from banks.
The point being that it is the prerogative of the individual, not book
authors or digital money consultants, to determine where one sits on
that personal sliding scale.
Cash is not the enemy of the
poor. Nor are the poor hurt by anonymity --- they are the ones who
desire it the most. If that were not the case, we would see the
informal, unlicensed economy
shrinking rather than expanding. It's only the global repressionists
who cannot accept human nature without moralizing that promote the end
of anonymous cash.
As Web anthropologist Stowe Boyd proclaims, anonymous cash equals freedom and we should rejoice in that.