A spirited argument to move beyond a cherished American institution, the physical dollar, into a digital payment future.

The Abolition of Cash

AMERICA'S $660 BILLION BURDEN

An intriguing, balanced study of a future cashless society.

Warwick’s (Ending Cash: The Public Benefits of Federal Electronic Currency, 1998) book centers on the premise that a cashless society could significantly increase efficiency, cut costs, and reduce crime. Despite his belief that abolishing cash has “profound advantages,” Warwick is careful to balance his own bias against the reality that some consumers still love cash. His goal is not only to convince Americans of the benefits of cashlessness, but to prompt government officials to advocate replacement currencies in the form of digital funds. The author recognizes that such a sea change would require a considerable transformation; after all, he reports that cash “still accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s payment transactions.” But Warwick points to the wide acceptance of online payments, debit cards, prepaid cards, and EFT in general as harbingers of a cashless society. Perhaps most compelling are the astounding statistics Warwick cites in support of eliminating cash; for example, he writes, “some $40 billion in cash is stolen from businesses in the United States each year.” His calculations—which include such line items as “Cash Handling,” the “Underground Economy,” and cash-related crimes—suggest that the annual costs for using cash amount to $660 billion—$1.8 billion a day. To counterbalance his own argument, Warwick objectively addresses some of the real fears consumers have about online security and privacy as well as the stumbles of such digital currencies as Bitcoin. In fact, his discussion of Bitcoin’s deficiencies is among the more informed and revealing on the subject. Nevertheless, Warwick claims that “conditions in the United States, aside from public misperceptions about digital risks, are ripe for cashlessness.” While he admits “talk of abolition of cash is politically unwelcome,” Warwick passionately lobbies for its acceptance. With his book’s extensive documentation (over 550 footnotes), sharp presentation, and solid reasoning, readers might have a hard time disagreeing.

A spirited argument to move beyond a cherished American institution, the physical dollar, into a digital payment future.

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5147-0571-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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