You’ve heard all of the COVID-19 conspiracy stories. I don’t need to relate them here. But there is a conspiracy you may not have heard of. The conspiracy to get rid of money.
Once we traded things, deciding their relative values. Then we traded precious metals for goods. We melted metals and formed them into coins. The metals became more valuable than the coins so we switched to cheaper metals. Quarters, instead of silver, are made of copper and nickel. Nickels are mostly copper, not nickel. Pennies are now mostly zinc, not copper. We developed paper money, symbolic of those metals – cheaper yet. US dollars used to be “silver certificates” and promised that the US held silver equal to its value to guarantee it. Then we made the dollar wholly symbolic, with the US government’s trustworthiness the only guarantee of its value.
Banks started making it harder to go inside. Cash came only from ATMs – once you could get $5 bills from them, then only twenties. Bills became harder to find. I rarely see a ten any more. The banks wanted you to use plastic cards instead of money. It cost them more to handle actual cash than virtual transactions. Then the virtual transactions became more virtual, with phone apps. And if they could charge you a service fee for doing it the way that was cheaper for them, so much the better.
Gas stations put card readers outside and didn’t want you to come in and use money any more. Just swipe a plastic card. The pandemic came and my neighborhood grocery store no longer accepted money. Soon the only place I could still use cash was the hospital cafeteria. Then they wanted me to use exact change, saying there was a coin shortage. And now, the one cashier who still took real money quietly told me that, starting tomorrow, I would no longer be able to use cash. I could use a phone app, a payroll deduction, or a credit/debit card. Is the money in my pocket about to become obsolete?
Time was, when someone opened a store, they would frame their first dollar. How soon will it be that storekeepers frame their last dollar? As U. Utah Phillips (The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest) wondered aloud 50 years ago about a child wondering what a train is after they disappeared, I now wonder if my son’s child will one day ask, “Daddy, what’s money?”