In The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers—and the Coming Cashless Society (Da Capo), Wired reporter David Wolman offers breezy profiles of various figures on the frontiers of our world’s complicated relationship with physical money.
One chapter stars libertarian metal “round” manufacturer Bernard von NotHaus, who uses that term instead of coin as a defense against federal counterfeiting charges (which he nevertheless faces). While Von NotHaus is an idealist, Wolman wants to eliminate physical money for the sake of efficiency. He therefore does not give enough attention to the biggest reasons we will miss cash. No matter how good our crypto, it’s hard to match the untraceability and anonymity of bills and coins. A world with cash is a more private world, and most of us are willing to tolerate the costs of printing, moving, and guarding money tokens for that reason. Wolman would rather our overseers had better means to track us, an attitude that makes many mistrust electronic money. —Brian Doherty