Switzerland – The First Country To Outlaw A Cashless Society?
As in neighbouring Germany and Austria, cash is still king in Switzerland albeit a much diminished one. But the Swiss will soon have the chance to vote on whether to preserve notes and coins indefinitely.
A Swiss pressure group with libertarian leanings called the Swiss Freedom Movement (FBS) announced it had collected enough signatures (111,000) to trigger a national vote on preserving cash for posterity. If passed, the initiative would require the federal government to ensure that coins and banknotes are always available in sufficient quantities. What’s more, any attempt to replace the Swiss Franc with another currency — quite possibly a reference to a central bank digital currency — would also have to be put to popular vote.
FBS says cash is diminishing in many economies, including Switzerland, as digital payment methods come to the fore, making it easier for the State and central bank to track citizens’ behaviour. The pandemic rapidly intensified preexisting forces, mainly due to unfounded fears that cash could exacerbate the spread of COVID. Those fears were stoked and magnified by mainstream media and seized upon by certain retailers (such as the British supermarket Tesco) to justify encouraging all customers to avoid making cash payments. Even today, with most public health measures (at least of the non-pharmaceutical variety) consigned to the back burner, retailers in some countries continue to reject cash.
The reason for that is that most people in most countries, if properly consulted, would presumably opt not to live in an economy where interest rates were significantly below zero and cash was, by design and law, constantly depreciating, even more so than it is today. They would probably also prefer not to live in a CBDC-based economy, where largely unaccountable central banks would have unprecedented surveillance and control over the population.