Cashless Society (just like paperless society) is a recent construct. But money or medium of exchange is very ancient. In other words, money circulation is as ancient as civilization itself, even in those societies where “paper” was a curiosity. We can easily trace 3000 – 4000 years back.
In the week following (8th to 16th November 2016) when 500/1000 notes ceased to be a legal tender ( i.e. will not be accepted by anyone except Reserve Bank of India that issued it) we in India are part of a remarkable experiment.
India has been a shining beacon of democracy in spite of many shortcomings and flaws. But future historians will not withheld their praise for last sixty years when such a country like India.
I find it interesting to ask a question as how a cashless society and democratic type of governance will interact.
There is no text written by any Indian (leave Indian media altogether) in democratic times on this theme of technology and democracy for the simple reason that we are too much beholden to technology. We have, as a society, contributed very little to the seminal aspects of the technological world, including information technology on which we have to reply so much for the cashless society. At the cost of being labeled imperialist, I remain with the side of truth and declare that all the seminal aspects of the modern world were conceptualized, deployed and exploited by WEM (White European Male).
One such WEM wrote a book in 1833 – a Frenchman Alex de Tocqueville, an aristocrat whose family’s many necks had their fatal shaving at guillotine during the French revolution. Monsieur Tocqueville traveled in the United states for nine months and wrote Democracy in America where he shared some insight which may be interesting for politicians, policy makers and citizens now in India where we have been told that a march towards cashless society has started.
- In a democracy, the greatest threat a ruling elite faces is not from war or revolt but from the threat to comfort of the citizens
- In a democracy, the greatest inequalities remain in full view ( the ratio between the salaries of CEO and a common employee) and is tolerated but slightest inequality becomes intolerable (marginal difference of bonuses between employees).
- In a democracy, life tends to become trivial and flat where there is much movement but little change and the consciousness of being alive draws its sap from sensation and shock. Hence in a democracy, writers and producers and sellers of written words, spoken words, art, news, social conversations always gravitate towards materialism.
The final fate of democracy hangs on the balance of being shocked and being in comfort for the citizenry, so argues Tocqueville in an aristocratic prose.
Today, in Indian democracy we have the shock as well as our comfort being under threat.
There will be a limiting time which no one can accurately predict when this balance between shock and comfort will be disturbed.
In an aristocratic society, such danger does not exist. Since except a very small elite, no one knows what comfort or a stable life is, no one misses that.