As central planners the world over grapple with the effective “lower bound” that’s imposed by the existence of physical banknotes, there’s been no shortage of calls for a ban on cash.
Put simply, if you eliminate physical currency, you also eliminate the idea of a floor for depo rates.
After all, if people can’t withdraw paper money and stash it under the mattress, then interest rates can be as negative as the government wants them to be in order to “encourage” consumption. If, for instance, you’re being charged 10% for saving your money, then by God you will probably spend that money rather than see the bank collect a double-digit fee just for holding on to your paycheck.
In the absence of physical cash, there’s no way for depositors to avoid that rather unpalatable outcome unless the public starts buying hard assets like commodities with their debit cards. If you think that sounds far-fetched, just consider the fact that everyone from Citi’s Willem Buiter to economist Ken Rogoff to the German Council Of Economic Experts’ Peter Bofinger have now floated the idea.
“With today’s technical possibilities, coins and notes are in fact an anachronism,” Bofinger told Spiegel back in May.
Now, in what should be a wake up call to the world, Bank of Ireland has banned branch withdrawals of less than €700.
Here’s The Irish Times explaining that tellers will still assist the “elderly” if they have trouble using automated methods of obtaining cash: