Bundesbank Defies Elites: Warns That "Plans To Abolish, Criminalize Cash Out Of Line With Freedom"

With everyone from ivory tower academics to sin-street hookers proclaiming the need for and benefits of a "war on cash" to save the world from criminals and tax-evaders (oh yeah and to stop NIRP-driven savers from hording cash and crushing central planners' dreams), it is perhaps shocking that Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele warned at an event this week that the attempt to abolish and criminalize cash is out of line with freedom. He said that citizens should continue to decide how and in what form they want to use their money.

While Kyle Bass warned that

"I think this is where the academics are kind of clashing with the practitioners. I think on paper negative rates make a lot of sense if you're running academic models, but in reality they make no sense. Having seven or eight trillion dollars of debt trading at negative rates, having thirty year JGB's trading at fifty basis points is absolutely ludicrous. This experiment that's going on we all know will end poorly at some point in time, I just don't know when that time is."


"I think that one of the fears that they have is a run on cash. If they told you and I that they're going to tax your deposits by a hundred basis points, well it's better to put it in a safe or under your mattress. And that's why you see a resurgence in gold. The more they move to negative rates, the more gold is gonna take off because there's no carrying cost."

Perhaps Buba's Thiele is more concerned about the longer-term social unrest that a war on cash will unleash - as opposed to the short-term monetary planners' "whatever it takes"-ism of today. As Martin Armstrong summarizes, Thiele’s main arguments were:

Every citizen has the right, with his money to proceed as he wants. If action is taken at this point in the right to freedom of the citizen, it must be well-grounded. And so the question arises: How does a cash limit restrict crime in other countries? Thiele said he was not aware of any support where a cash limit, such as Italy or France, prevents crime. Crime should be correspondingly lower than in countries with no upper limit on cash, but that is simply not the case.


The arguments that are made against cash and cash payments, are unconvincing, Thiele said. He went on to argue that cash protects the privacy of the population. That benefit is not a reason to twist into a benefit for criminal ignoring the majority of honest citizens. The right to informational self-determination and respect for private life is a valuable asset which should not be watered down or abandoned. “Cash is coined liberty” – this modified Dostoevsky quote has not lost any of its validity.

It is clear that Schaeuble (abolish EUR500 note), Draghi (ECB consider cash withdrawal limits), academics (abolish cash to save the people) and Japan (fingerprints as currency) - among many others - have an establishment enemy who prizes freedom over repression (perhaps ironic that this is from zee Germans then).

This is an odd position for 'the establishment' to be taking, as Charles Hugh-Smith recently explained,

Why are governments suddenly so keen to ban physical cash?

 The answer appears to be that the banks and government authorities are anticipating bail-ins, steeply negative interest rates and hefty fees on cash, and they want to close any opening regular depositors might have to escape these forms of officially sanctioned theft. The escape mechanism from bail-ins and fees on cash deposits is physical cash, and hence the sudden flurry of calls to eliminate cash as a relic of a bygone age — that is, an age when commoners had some way to safeguard their money from bail-ins and bankers’ control. 

Forcing Those With Cash To Spend or Gamble Their Cash

Negative interest rates (and fees on cash, which are equivalently punitive to savers) raise another question: why are governments suddenly obsessed with forcing owners of cash to either spend it or gamble it in the financial-market casinos?

The conventional answer voiced by Mr. Buiter is that recession and credit contraction result from households and enterprises hoarding cash instead of spending it. The solution to recession is thus to force all those stingy cash hoarders to spend their money.

There are three enormous flaws in this thinking.

One is that households and businesses have cash to hoard. The reality is the bottom 90 percent of households have less income now than they did fifteen years ago, which means their spending has declined not from hoarding but from declining income.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century

While corporate America has basked in the glory of sharply rising profits, small business has not prospered in the same fashion. Indeed, by some measures, small business has been in a six-year recession.

The bottom 90 percent has less income and faces higher living expenses, so only the top slice of households has any substantial cash. This top slice may see few safe opportunities to invest their savings, so they choose to keep their savings in cash rather than gamble it in a rigged casino (i.e., the stock market).

The second flaw is that hoarding cash is the only rational, prudent response in an era of financial repression and economic insecurity. What central banks are demanding — that we spend every penny of our earnings rather than save some for investments we control or emergencies — is counter to our best interests.

A War on Cash Is a War on Capital

This leads to the third flaw: capital — which begins its life as savings — is the foundation of capitalism. If you attack savings as a scourge, you are attacking capitalism and upward mobility, for only those who save capital can invest it to build wealth. By attacking cash, the central banks and governments are attacking capital and upward mobility.

Those who already own the majority of productive assets are able to borrow essentially unlimited sums at near-zero interest rates, which they can use to buy more productive assets. Everyone else — the bottom 99.5 percent — is reduced to consumer-serfdom: you are not supposed to accumulate productive capital, you are supposed to spend every penny you earn on interest payments, goods, and services.

This inversion of capitalism dooms an economy to all the ills we are experiencing in abundance: rising income inequality, reduced opportunities for entrepreneurship, rising debt burdens, and a short-term perspective that voids the longer-term planning required to build sustainable productivity and wealth.

Physical Cash: Only $1.36 Trillion

According to the Federal Reserve, total outstanding physical cash amounts to $1.36 trillion.

Given that a substantial amount of this cash is held overseas, physical cash is a tiny part of the domestic economy and the nation’s total assets. For context: the US economy is $17.5 trillion, total financial assets of households and nonprofit organizations total $68 trillion, base money is around $4 trillion, and total money (currency in circulation and demand deposits) is over $10 trillion (source).

Given the relatively modest quantity of physical cash, claims that eliminating it will boost the economy ring hollow.

Following the principle of cui bono — to whose benefit? — let’s ask: What are the benefits of eliminating physical cash to banks and the government?

Benefits To Banks and the Government of Eliminating Physical Cash

The benefits to banks and governments by eliminating cash are self-evident:

  1.  Every financial transaction can be taxed.
  2.  Every financial transaction can be charged a fee.
  3.  Bank runs are eliminated.

In fractional reserve systems such as ours, banks are only required to hold a fraction of their assets in cash. Thus a bank might only have 1 percent of its assets in cash. If customers fear the bank might be insolvent, they crowd the bank and demand their deposits in physical cash. The bank quickly runs out of physical cash and closes its doors, further fueling a panic.

The federal government began insuring deposits after the Great Depression triggered the collapse of hundreds of banks, and that guarantee limited bank runs, as depositors no longer needed to fear a bank closing would mean their money on deposit was lost.

But since people could conceivably sense a disturbance in the Financial Force and decide to turn digital cash into physical cash as a precaution, eliminating physical cash also eliminates the possibility of bank runs, as there will be no form of cash that isn’t controlled by banks.

So, when the dust has settled who ultimately benefits by this war on cash, government and the central banks, pure and simple.

*  *  *

Full Speech below (via Der Tagesspiegel): (Google Translate)

"Dear Mr. President, dear Mr. Fahrenschon, ladies and gentlemen, for your invitation, I would like to thank first of all warmly. I am happy to talk to you about the future of cash today.

The debate on the future of the cash is being superimposed on the subject letterbox companies, Panama, tax havens or tax justice. Here are many open questions with which has to deal with the policy and will employ.

So Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has taken only two days ago in Berlin this position. For some time, however, we have a discussion about the cash.Here, various motifs overlap. Some, it is necessary to decrease transactions with criminal backgrounds, others want to push back the black economy or impede tax evasion. Some scientists have still further formulated reaching goals. They demand equal completely abolish the cash. Thus central banks should be allowed to impose negative interest rates for all. A Dodge in cash was then not possible.

Against this background, is currently being discussed the possible abolition of 500 euro banknotes in the euro system and simultaneously demanded by the Treasury to introduce a limit of 5000 euros for cash payments in Germany.

Ladies and gentlemen, when the money to which it in the cash discussion, in the discussion is about the abolition of the 500 euro banknote or near the upper limit for cash payments, it's not about the money of banks, savings banks or cooperative banks, it's about the money of the citizen.

Every citizen has the right with his money to proceed as he wants. If action is taken at this point in the right to freedom of the citizen, it must be well-grounded. And so the question arises: How does a cash limit restricted crime in other countries? I am not aware that. In countries with a cash limit, such as Italy or France, the crime would be correspondingly lower than in countries with no upper limit

"Any currency thrives on trust"

Ladies and gentlemen, each currency thrives on confidence. You all know how difficult it is to achieve confidence. But you also know that it's faster to lose acquired confidence. The same is true in politics. Again, it is not easy to earn trust. Trust can also be lost quickly.

Trust in politics is reciprocal. Citizens should trust in the policy, but the state should also trust its citizens. Because criminal acts can not only be done with cash, but also non-cash means, every citizen should not be placed under general suspicion. The state should it start from the right loyalty of its citizens.However, should be carried out criminal activities, these crimes should be prosecuted and the perpetrators brought to justice.

The "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" has raised the question in this context, "if soon cellphones are banned?" After all, this ultimately facilitated criminals their crimes , This has but to my knowledge no one called - for good reason.


Queue 2016 before the Bundesbank in Frankfurt for 5 Euro coin on their date of issue, on 14 April PHOTO: IMAGO / STPP

Before I get to the uses of cash, I would like to explain the difference between cash and cashless payments, or a credit to an account you first: 
Cash is monetary base. It is the only legal tender and goods and services can thus train are directly paid to train. That is, a good or a service can be directly acquired and immediately.

"A discussion that concerns all Germans"

Cashless payment: The balance of a citizen in an account established an entitlement of the citizen against his bank. However, this claim for payment may be subject to limitations. This was observed, for example, last summer in Greece or three years ago in Cyprus.

In this respect there are also legally a clear distinction between cash and account balances. Therefore, the discussion of the cash is also not virtual, but a real discussion that should all German citizens and concerns.

Let me begin with some comments on the Bundesbank, making for cash and cashless payments, and a few points of the essential tasks of cash.

1. Uses of Cash

I want to begin with some statistics:

For the introduction of the euro currency on 1 January 2002 were € 220 billion in circulation. Three years later, the end of 2004, there were already 500 billion and the end of 2014 the circulation was of euro banknotes almost 1.1 trillion euros.

Of this, the Bundesbank has issued about 550 billion euros. Converted to the population of Germany thus accounts for more than 6700 euros to every German citizen. But a look into the home wallet or savings-pig shows: This sum will not find in most cases there. This is because the lion's share of the light emitted by the Bundesbank cash - about 70 percent - has flown abroad, either as part of the international varieties trade, by cash taken foreign workers or simply through tourism.

Used only 30 percent of total banknotes in circulation in Germany ; We estimate two-thirds of them than hoarded. As to the scale of hoarding exist of large uncertainties, as people hate to give information about how much cash they keep. Other surveys, usually can only lower limits for the hoarded determine.

"Since the Lehman crisis, the demand for cash has increased"

Although we do not know the exact percentage or the exact amount of hoarded cash, but it is clear: the store of value function is an important use for cash. For many people, the principle is: "Cash is king". This applies especially in uncertain times, where people want to keep physically tangible money a central bank, rather than to have claims on a commercial bank. Reminder:. During the Lehman crisis in October 2008, the demand for currency has risen significantly in Germany

The domestic transaction balances, which accounts for only about 10 percent of the emitted cash, plays an important role for the German economy. While hoarded, lost or building under foreign cash rarely or no longer or takes a long latency period the way to-back with the Bundesbank, is fed by the low absolute level of transaction balances the entire German cash cycle.

2. Cash in the international perspective

in some other countries are non-cash means of payment used much more frequently than in Germany. While cash for approximately 80 percent of all transactions will be used at point of sale in Germany, the cash share in the UK, the Netherlands and the United States is approximately 50 percent. Even in the Scandinavian countries accept cashless payment instruments a much higher priority than it does in German-land.

Although the adoption of cashless payment means increases, the outstanding amount of cash continues to grow in major currency areas. This concerns not only the euro, its circulation has grown in the last ten years from 500 billion euros to more than 1,000 billion euros. Similarly, the value of those denominated in British pound banknotes has tripled in the past 20 years and now stands at 60 billion pounds. The US dollar circulation has in these 20 years, more than tripled and now stands at more than 1,300 billion dollars.

In the euro system accounts for approximately 50 percent in terms of value to the denomination 100, 200 and 500 euros. In dollar area accounts for nearly 80 percent on the 100 dollar bill.

For the growth of banknotes in circulation, including at international level, especially the function of cash is responsible as a store of value. Based on this strong demand, the cash will play an important role as a store of value to-future.

The Deutsche Bundesbank has been assigned by law to the care order for cash and cashless payments. We perceive this order. The money spent by the Bundesbank was not distributed by helicopter over the population, but the demand of citizens and businesses has meant that the amount of cash is growing at about 6 percent, and in the meantime 1.1 trillion euros were spent on bills.

The Bundesbank considers in this context, the position that consumers and businesses will decide to what extent they use cash. So you will not affect the payment behavior of consumers and does not endorse the use of payment means. The former, as well as the future role of cash, be determined solely by the development of the demand for cash.

3. Internet and Smartphone change payments

Although the cash in Germany has a prominent position, there are significant developments affecting the payment behavior of people. In particular, the Internet and the smartphone provide innovations in payments.

Until a few years ago, the choice was limited to payment instruments at the cash on cash, Girocard and credit card. In recent years, however, new technological possibilities have opened up in the process of digitalization and emerged new requirements for payment instruments. The Internet in particular this is an important driver for changing habits and demands of consumers have been.

Nowadays, it is of course to be able to purchase goods and services online from almost anywhere in the world 24 hours a day. Seven out of ten consumers in Germany between 14 and 69 years of age to buy now also on the Internet.About one tenth of the retail turnover in Germany already takes place in e-commerce . Changes in purchasing behavior automatically affect the payment behavior since the Cash for internet orders is not very suitable. However, Internet orders can be settled in cash - very classic COD.


Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele (2013) is a member of the FDP. PHOTO: PICTURE ALLIANCE / DPA


The smartphone changed communication, consumption patterns and consequently also the payment habits. Many users look daily several dozen times on their smartphone. But if already let people their cell phones almost never out of sight, of course, is close to the idea to use the smartphone as a digital wallet to pay.

"Many people have subjective security concerns"

In Germany, however, the reality is currently still largely different: It is true that mobile and contactless payment methods, for example with the normal credit card and Girocard, always known, but they are still rarely used. This has shown our study of payment behavior, because so far only a few transactions were conducted by respondents with contactless payment card or smartphone.Nevertheless, especially the young population is open to mobile and contactless payment methods. The currently low use has various causes.Although the one to accept more and more single-dealer contactless payments, coverage is contactless payments but not yet possible. On the other hand, many people see no need or have perceived safety concerns about the new payment method. In addition, many people appreciate cash precisely because it helps them to control their spending better.

In the meantime, consumers tend to use the phone as the bill and the coin to pay at the checkout, some time will elapse. Our study of payment behavior showed: The United-consumers in Germany are reluctant when it comes to new Zah-development instruments. Almost two thirds of respondents indicated that they want to stay in their familiar cash.

Providers of new payment instruments are therefore major challenges. It is not enough to develop a new modern payment instrument and bring it to market. A vendor must convince to take up the new instrument in its portfolio of accepted payment instruments, as well as the consumer to use the new instrument that distributors. You see here confronted with the classic chicken or the egg. This is probably one of the reasons why large technology and Internet companies are increasingly trying to gain a foothold in payments, because often they already have a broad base of users.

For consumers need a new instrument an additional benefit over existing payment instruments or the cash offer , Especially in a highly developed and efficient payments market like Germany, this is a not to be underestimated challenge. New payment methods must intuitively be used anywhere and price competitive. You must also be sure and give the customer a subjective sense of security.

So you see, consumers can choose from a growing range of payment instruments: So you can access to notes and coins, because you want to hide the purchase of Christmas presents in front of the spouse. And also the pocket money for the children will be made ??by cash or standing order. The credit card is used to check into a hotel and pay. And in the evening will be settled with the smartphone via internet payment procedures of online shopping.

So everyone has a wealth of alternatives to choose his or her needs and the purchasing situation be correspondingly personally favortite payment instrument. And only if we banknotes and coins remain, the citizens have a real choice.

4. Restriction of free cash transactions

Despite the importance of cash in payment transactions the cash is currently on many sides under attack. From the abolition of the 500 euro banknote on cash limits up to the abolition of the entire cash-rich proposals. The claims are well founded, among other things, that it is only in a world without cash is possible in the present monetary situation, significantly lowering interest rates below zero.

Also one would save time, for example in the supermarket when customers no longer dig at checkout according cent coins. And finally argue the cash opponents to be able to push back the said measures moonlighting, money laundering, tax evasion, drugs and other crime and terrorism. 
When embarking on a substantive discussion on the alleged disadvantages of cash, there is little Sound. The argument of the fight against undeclared work, tax evasion, money laundering or crime can not be upheld. On the one hand the actors could have recourse to foreign currencies - provided that the cash will not be abolished worldwide - or use alternative means of exchange. On the other hand it must be not necessarily to cash on black money.

The French economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that globally 5.8 billion euros are not declared to private wealth - think of the current discussion of shell companies in Panama - and be on accounts in various tax havens.

"Cash payments protect the privacy of the population"

The argument that cash hampers payments because'll dug at the checkout for small change, can be invalidated. According to the first payment behavior study by Deutsche Bundesbank from 2008 see nearly 90 percent of the population cash to as a quick and convenient means of payment. Certainly may take longer cash in individual cases.

The same is also true for credit cards, such as when the PIN is entered incorrectly, connectivity problems, or the terminal does not accept the card. 
Finally, one must not also waive banknotes and coins, so that monetary policy acts. The current low level of interest rates is a symptom of deeper causes - is due - at its core a weak growth. This growth weakness to be overcome. A cash abolition goes past this problem. 
The arguments that are made ??against cash and cash payments, are unconvincing. But what specifically speaks for wanting to continue to pay with notes and coins? Quite a lot - and these reasons are often neglected.

On the one hand protect the privacy of cash of the population. That benefit them less righteous people, is not a reason to leave are still glass the honest citizens. The right to informational self-determination and respect for private life is a valuable asset which should not be watered down or abandoned. "Cash is coined liberty" - this modified Dostoevsky quote has not lost any of its validity.

Furthermore, allowing a good cash control spending - on many households also rely, just the less wealthy. Cash can also be used without technical infrastructure and therefore serves as a popular means of payment between individuals and as a loss solution for cashless payments. Finally, is in particularly high demand in emergency and crisis cash - be it as a means of payment, for example if the technical infrastructure is destroyed in the event of natural disasters, as well as a store of value. Especially for the 500 euro banknote is particularly true, as we have seen in the sharp rise in demand in the wake of the Lehman crisis in 2008.

There are many good reasons to continue to use cash. Nevertheless, the efforts to introduce cash limits or abolish the 500 euro banknote, become quite concrete. But the question is: How effective are these measures?


Carl-Ludwig Thiele holds on 09.11.2014 a new 10-euro banknote high. PHOTO: ARNE DEDERT / DPA

The renowned economist Friedrich Schneider of Linz University, who analyzed intensively the field of economy, expressed skepticism. The prohibition of large denominations or high cash transactions have at most minimal effects on moonlighting or crime. This is an apparent solution.

What is missing in this regard so far, is a scientific, comprehensive evaluation of the actions that have already been implemented in other countries. Whether the envisaged the introduction of a cash limit targets are achieved, therefore, is completely unclear. Thus criminals could evade eg on alternatives like the cyber currency Bitcoin or use high Banknotendenominationen other countries.

The Governing Council has not yet decided on the issue of abolition of the 500 euro banknote until now. The resulting consequences are being investigated professionally. Should there be a majority in the Governing Council provide for the abolition of the 500 euro banknotes, as would bank-note of other nominal additional costs to be procured.

5. Conclusion

Has Cash Against this background, therefore, still have a future? I am certain. If it really should come to ceilings or the abolition of the 500 euro banknote, it must be noted: Cash is still a lot and often used for everyday purchases, even if the alternatives are numerous.

Cash is a popular store of value in times of uncertainty. Cash has several features that are important to people: it is fast, simple and convenient in use; It offers privacy; It is available without any technical aid, allowing eg also children's access to economic life. With cash also can directly train are paid to train, that is, neither the seller nor the buyer of goods has to pay in advance.

For these many reasons, the euro is firmly established as the cash in the population and represents confidence in the common currency.

The Bundesbank has a concern contract for cash and cashless payment transactions and payment systems. In the exercise of that responsibility, she watches out for the future role of cash Discussion and rated the arguments neutral and to macroeconomic criteria. Fatal, if the current discussion about the abolition of the 500 euro banknote or cash limits would create the impression in the population, it would be withdrawn gradually, the cash would. One has to bear in mind this: The freedom often dies piecemeal ".