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The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society Hardcover – February 14, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: Say good-bye to your beloved Benjamins, because the world is going cashless. So says David Wolman, and in The End of Money, he explores the drastic implications. How is it happening? What's at stake? Why does it matter? Each chapter of this timely and fascinating book focuses on a specific aspect of the coming cashlessness. Its cast of compelling characters includes an end-times fundamentalist who views the growing obsolescence of cash as a sign of the coming rapture; an Icelandic artist whose claim to fame illustrates the complicated relationship between cash and nationalism; an American libertarian and coin-maker convicted on federal charges for the distribution of "Liberty" coins and Ron Paul dollars; and an Indian software engineer (self-billed as "the assassin of cash") whose firm is enabling digital payment methods that are lifting the living standards of thousands of poor New Dehli residents via their cell phones. Raising the stakes with a personal experiment, Wolman goes (almost) a full year without using cash at all. All told, The End of Money offers everything there is to love about popular nonfiction, rendering a complex subject entertaining and easily approachable for a wide audience while proving the ultimate adventurousness inherent in a curiosity about the workings of the world. --Jason Kirk
Kirkus Reviews, 1/15/12
“Alternating between in-depth reporting and personal rumination, Wired contributing editor Wolman tries to figure out what a cashless society would mean and whether it is an idea whose time has come…He has plenty of thoughts about what could replace physical money, but he is wise enough to understand that he cannot imagine all of the unexpected outcomes. An intriguing book on a topic that many readers have always taken for granted: the cash in their purses and wallets.”
“An entertaining and engaging canter through the world of money, both real and electronic.”
“Full of critical thinking about cash and economies.”
“From a history of the invention and rise of physical money to the evolution of paperless alternatives and cross-cultural influences on cash today, this pairs history with insights from a range of individuals who see the option of a 'cashless society' as either a big pro or a big con. Any collection strong in economics and money issues will find this an intriguing survey of what will happen to counterfeiters and others in the coming cashless society.”
“Several policy questions can be asked after reading this brilliant book…Invaluable end-of-chapter notes and bibliography make this study a good starting point for those seeking further research and writings on money.”
“A rallying cry for the anti-cash movement.”
“Fascinating and erudite.”
“Wolman's vision of a future without cash has a serious side, but has gonzo brilliance as well…[The End of Money] takes us on a whistle-stop tour of intriguing monetary phenomena that it would be difficult to learn about elsewhere…Wolman's conversational prose style comes into its own; and many of his interlocutors are, if you'll forgive the pun, priceless…[Wolman’s] book is a lively introduction to this important topic.”
“A fascinating exploration of how we are evolving into a society that relies entirely on plastic and mouse-clicks to buy, sell and save what we need.”
“[A] world-spanning tour…A book that has many intriguing elements…[Wolman] makes many good points about the absurdities of cash…Raise[s] some intriguing questions and present[s] the views and personalities of some very interesting people.”
“[An] engaging new book.”
“[A] fascinating new book.”
“A fascinating must read book.”
The London Guardian (UK), 3/2/12
“Informally tech-hipsterish prose…One of the most illuminating stories here is the increasing use of mobile-phone payment systems in India and elsewhere.”
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The above news item is a testimonial that David’s view points on going cashless is quite spot on.. And while the subject per se is quite drab, but he has added substantial wit and humor to it to keep the reader interested. While generally such books revolve around the financial capitals of the world, his choice of destination Iceland, Hawai makes the discussion very interesting. The reference to the three identities of a nation - airlines, currency and stock exchange was an interesting paradox being brought out. While it is clear that David is a die hard supporter of going cashless, but the way he brings in some support for local community currency was heartening. Yes, it may not go a very long way given the ways commercial boundaries are no longer subservient to geographical boundaries, but definitely the thought is very interesting.
The role of cash in political arena has been totally missed out in this book. I am not sure whether it was a deliberate miss. However, it would have been interesting to postulate the outcome of not having cash on the electoral outcomes. In many countries, the cash factor does cause some swing in the fortunes. So, going cashless would worry the politicians quite much. As regards the Gods who would be bereft of the offerings, I am sure they are already quite sick of it and would actually welcome it. It is the godman who would lose his sleep.
I would highly recommend this book and more so adoption of this. Just that the title should have been “End of Cash” rather than “money”.
In reality, the book is actually quite bland and worthy of neither 1 star nor 5 stars. It doesn't propose any sort of earth shattering, privacy ending changes. It's not a radical thesis trying to persuade you on some point you may fundamentally oppose. It simply reports on the current state of the transition that's taking place. It's not a great book; there are a lot of topics left unexplored or merely touched on briefly. I would have liked it to go deeper. But, it's not a terrible book either; it is quite readable, interesting, and entertaining.
The author makes his point through various stories, some of which are better than others, and at the end of the book, you may be slightly more knowledgable on the subject. This isn't the book you'd reference if you were doing your dissertation on the topic, but it's a book that you could pick up and potentially get interested enough in the topic to go and look for more.
I'm happy to say that this book suffers none of the problems of many other books in the genre. In fact, I'm not even sure this book fits in that genre in the first place.
The End of Money is a very well-written and engaging book comprised of stories -- stories about individuals (characters?) around the world (England, Hawaii, India, Iceland, etc.) who will help you look at money (or cash) in a new light, and understand the role it plays in society, and what role it will play in the coming years.
The chapters on The Counterfeiters and The Loyalists are especially interesting, and I must admit that because I know Dave Birch (well, virtually at least, through Twitter), the chapter on the Missionary was particularly interesting.
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