Tom's Reviews > The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society

The End of Money by David Wolman
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M_50x66
's review
Mar 08, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, science, futurism, economics
Read from March 06 to 08, 2012

As shop-worn as the trope is, I wish that The End of Money had a question mark at the end of its title, at least in spirit. In fact, the title belies one of the central difficulties of the project Wolman endorses: what the book is about is the end of cash, as in physical bills and coins, not the end of money, as in a medium of exchange. That the topics are confused in the book's title speaks to how deeply entrenched cash is in societies throughout the world, and the intense difficulty of dislodging it completely.

The book takes the form of a travelogue, which doesn't add a lot to the book; while Wolman speaks with some interesting people, he doesn't really suss out any major differences in the countries he visits to validate the expense account. The major observation he makes on this front is that, in some cases, less-developed countries can adopt technology faster than fully-industrialized countries--for example, the cell phone. This is an observation that has been made before, and I wasn't convinced it justified the leaps being made.

Finally, Wolman does not exactly give the pro-cash camp a lot of credit. The first chapter opens with him speaking to an apocalyptic evangelical Christian, who worries that a cashless society represents the "Mark of the Beast" from Revelation. Which, okay. It isn't until the final chapter that he brings up the very legitimate questions of privacy, data security, and payment integrity, and then those concerns are blown off with "it's mostly criminals who care about people not knowing how they spend their money," and "we'll figure it out," respectively. Neither of these responses is likely to satisfy somebody raising these questions.

One wonders whether this book would have been better at a third of the length and released as a Kindle Single. As it is, the topic deserves a more comprehensive treatment.
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message 1: by Bakari (new) - added it

Bakari Yeah, I'm on chapter 4 of the book, and you seem describe just where I see the book heading. It's a big disappointment, especially for such entertaining writing. "The Web of Debt," by Ellen Brown is a much better book on the subject, though it's pretty dry reading.


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