Should — And Could — Our Country Move Away From Paper Money?

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Economist Kenneth Rogoff says it’s time to be done with paper money and what he calls “The Curse of Cash.”

Harvard University Professor Kenneth Rogoff wants the nation to be done with paper money. (Pictures of Money/Flickr)
Harvard University Professor Kenneth Rogoff wants the nation to be done with paper money. (Pictures of Money/Flickr via Source:

Cash may feel a little old-fashioned these days, but there sure is a lot of it out there. Trillions of dollars in paper money. Economist Kenneth Rogoff says it’s time to get rid of it. Almost all of it. Everything bigger than a ten dollar bill. Cash is for criminals these days, he says. Drug dealers and terrorists and tax dodgers. Plus, he wants negative interest rates as a tool in the next recession. And he doesn’t want you to be able to hide out in cash. This hour On Point, the call for an end to cash. — Tom Ashbrook


Kenneth Rogoff, professor of public policy and professor of economics at Harvard University. Former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Author of "The Curse of Cash." (@krogoff)

Rainey Reitman, director of activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (@RaineyReitman)

David Wolman, contributing editor at WIRED Magazine. Author of "The End of Money." (@davidwolman)

From Tom's Reading List:

Boston Globe: The Case Against Cash — "The world is awash in paper currency, with major-country central banks pumping out hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth each year, mainly in large denomination notes such as the $100 bill. The $100 bill accounts for almost 80 percent of the United States’ stunning $4,200 per capita cash supply. ... All this cash is facilitating growth mainly in the underground economy, not the legal one. I am not advocating a cashless society, which will be neither feasible nor desirable anytime soon. But a less-cash society would be a fairer and safer place."

Wall Street Journal: The Sinister Side Of Cash — "When I tell people that I have been doing research on why the government should drastically scale back the circulation of cash—paper currency—the most common initial reaction is bewilderment. Why should anyone care about such a mundane topic? But paper currency lies at the heart of some of today’s most intractable public-finance and monetary problems."

Bloomberg: This Harvard Economist Is Trying To Kill Cash — "Rogoff also contends that suppressing cash would make it easier for the Federal Reserve and other central banks to boost economic growth by pushing interest rates into negative territory. That's the strange world where you pay to keep money in the bank and get paid to borrow it. The theory is that negative rates will induce people to save less and spend more, which will revive growth. Savers won't tolerate negative interest rates on their savings as long as cash is an alternative. Why not simply withdraw stacks of $100 bills and keep the cash in a mattress or a safe?"

Read An Excerpt From Kenneth Rogoff's "The Curse Of Cash"

Editor's Note: The image atop the post is courtesy Creative Commons. Source:

This program aired on September 12, 2016.


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