There is a possible universe in which these arguments against cash would be true. In such a world, politicians and bureaucrats would know and single-mindedly pursue the public interest (that is, what is in the interest of everybody), economists and bureaucrats would perfectly understand the consequences of government policies, clear laws and transparent regulations would never be used for anything else than their well-understood original purposes, and prosecutors would always protect individual rights.

This is from the excellent Econlib Feature Article for October, “In Defense of Cash,” by Pierre Lemieux.

In the piece, Lemieux defends the idea of allowing people to use cash. Such a defense is necessary? Actually, yes. Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff, a man whose thinking I have generally respected, is on a crusade against cash. Ken wrote an excellent piece on Third World Debt for my first edition of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. As far as I can tell from his published work–I haven’t read his book yet–he doesn’t do a cost/benefit analysis of his proposal to limit and possibly end the use of cash. Rather he looks at benefits, many of which are speculative, and virtually ignores costs.

Pierre Lemieux rights the balance.

Two more paragraphs from Lemieux’s piece:

That cash plays a role in making these built-in constraints more effective against abuses of power is a benefit, not a cost. In a free society, one could provide a cogent argument for increasing the face value of the largest-denomination notes. The largest Swiss note, for example, is 1,000 Swiss francs (roughly the same as $1,000 at the September 22, 2016 exchange rate).

Because of all these constraints, the cost of fighting crime is certainly higher in a free society. But for the vast majority of individuals, the benefits of freedom are even higher. Liberty is not a bug–it’s a feature.

Read the whole thing.