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During my recent trip to Las Vegas I met (as usual at this time of the year) with some friends from the industry. Also as usual for Europeans, one of the topics of our discussion was Greece and its financial debacle.  During that discussion an idea has occurred to me – an idea, which apparently has already been jokingly discussed by some financial gurus with regards to Italy.

The idea is simple: forbid use of cash. Completely.

In case of Italy apparently it was discussed if transactions in cash should be allowed only up to certain limit, say 500 EUR. I think though that in order to kill corruption, or at least hinder it greatly, we should get rid of cash altogether. Install only government approved terminals using high-tech encryption, GPS and ID technology. Use only high security cards with owner’s data on them (whoever is allowed to use those for payment should be stored on the card, even if those are two people). Maybe even add fingerprints and retina scans to it. We add them to passports, why not to payment cards?

That way, when each payment is electronic, everything can be traced and transferred where it would belong, including debt payment. Of course tourists would have to buy cards registered to them – that could be done in banks or kiosks with automatic passport scans. Technology makes such things possible today. No cash – no over the counter payments, no shoddy deals…

There are few bonuses from this: one, Greek electronic industry would profit immensely from this change. Two, no cash means less maintenance (no ATM to fill, less collections etc). Three, Mexico and some other countries with huge drugs problem could solve it or limit it – it is still very difficult to buy drugs with credit (or any other) card. Four, terrorists would have problems as well with all sorts of purchases.

I wonder why no one ever thought about it? Or maybe someone did – then if yes, why no one ever tried it? Maybe powers that be are themselves afraid? Or maybe there are arguments against it? I wonder what those are…