Reason Podcast

A Crackdown on Cash and Bitcoin? Curbing Crime vs. Empowering the Surveillance State

Economists Kenneth Rogoff and Lawrence H. White face off over what the impact would be of a ban on cryptocurrency and phaseout of the $100 bill.

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"Governments of the advanced industrial economies should phase out the use of paper money in the form of large-denomination notes and sharply restrict the use of cryptocurrencies."

That was the resolution at a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum on December 3, 2018. Arguing the affirmative was the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Lawrence H. White, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argued against the resolution. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated the debate.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, hosts Oxford-style debates in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event—yes, no, or undecided—and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. In a close finish, White prevailed by convincing five percent of audience members to come over to his side. Rogoff picked up two percent.

Rogoff's book 2016 book The Curse of Cash (2016) argues that the U.S. government should phase out most paper currency. His monthly syndicated column on global economic issues is published in over 50 countries. White, a leading theorist on free banking, is the author most recently of The Clash of Economic Ideas (2012).

Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, opened the program.

Edited by Todd Krainin

Photo Credit: Brett Raney

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Attribution License.

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  1. The government should just plain get out of the currency business altogether.

    Scottish banks survived pretty damned well without any government interference or assistance.

    Every financial panic has been attributable to government intervention, usually leftover from trying to fix a previous panic after it was all over.

    American colonists were forbidden to use English currency, so had to resort to barter (tobacco, lumber, fur, whatever) to trade with England, and used Spanish, French, German, and whatever currency they could get, along with wampum and whatever else Indians used. And somehow, in the days before even mechanical calculators, where travel from north to south took a month at best, where news was stale and unofficial and as fake as could be, somehow those colonists managed to thrive and prosper and grow, all without government currency. If we with computers and smart phones and the internet can’t manage it today, something is wrong.

    1. Governments will never give up their printing machines to bankers.

      1. and will eliminate any threat that attempts to compete.

      2. They already have. People really should try to learn how money is actually created now. It is created when banks make loans.

        1. If govts created money simply by printing it; then there wouldn’t be nearly $22 trillion of govt debt.

          1. Holding down the ‘zero’ key is what I consider “printing.” It wasn’t meant literally.

    2. Tossing in bed? No wonder she told you to go watch TV.

    3. Of course, in those unenlightened times, the money itself had actual metal value value.

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  2. I think the market will crack down on Bitcoin well enough. It doesn’t need a government to do it.

  3. If you want to drive out the illegal immigrants, you have to make it impossible… not hard, impossible.. for them to earn money here. Tracking payroll isn’t enough, because people can (and do) use cash. But if you track all the cash, you can find where the illegals are being paid.

    As a side benefit, you’ll also find some of the prostitutes and most of the drug dealers.

    Sure, you’re living in a surveillance state. But that’s better than having to live and work near brown people who speak a different language, isn’t it?

    1. Sure, you’re living in a surveillance state. But that’s better than having to live and work near brown people who speak a different language, isn’t it?

      Why can’t we have both?

      1. You wanna know why we can’t have nice things? I’ll tell you why we can’t have nice things…

  4. Within the next 2 decades paper money will be outlawed. Every financial transaction will be instantly available to the state.

  5. I do not want everyone to know every financial transaction I do. I often carry $400 just because and I don’t want to carry 20 20s. I would like for something i do to NOT be the government’s business. AND if I sell a car or furniture I want foolproof payment–ie cash.

  6. It wouldn’t go over well here in Taiwan. Many people here get their pay in cash, and buy new cars and real estate with cash. Credit cards are inconvenient because processing transactions slows down the checkout line. Plus privacy.

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    1. But do you accept cash?

  8. What should be outlawed is any form of payment BUT cash.
    Grandma was right; if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.
    No bankruptcies, no student load crisis, no evil bankers with predatory loans, no need for credit bureaus, even lower unemployment because all businesses have to hire real cashiers, not terminals, the joys are boundless.
    Think of the first election after every employee gets full gross pay in cash, then has to go to the next window and pay federal income tax in cash, then pay medicare taxes in cash, then pay social security taxes in cash, then pay state income tax in cash (in most states), then local tax, etc.

    Of course, cash is impractical in the absence of the second amendment – – – – –

    1. Note: student load = student loan
      nothing to do with the number of classes

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