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The Curse of Cash

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  212 ratings  ·  37 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of This Time Is Different, "a fascinating and important book" (Ben Bernanke) about phasing out most paper money to fight crime and tax evasion--and to battle financial crises by tapping the power of negative interest rates

The world is drowning in cash--and it's making us poorer and less safe. In The Curse of Cash, Kenneth Rogoff,
Hardcover, 283 pages
Published August 19th 2016 by Princeton University Press (first published July 19th 2016)
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Terence Ward The fact that the author is an economist is part of why this book is not enjoyable. I recommend reading "Debt" by Graeber (an anthropologist) before…moreThe fact that the author is an economist is part of why this book is not enjoyable. I recommend reading "Debt" by Graeber (an anthropologist) before you start this one; then you'll understand how awful this book is.(less)
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3.57  · 
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 ·  212 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Athan Tolis
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ec-and-finance
Back in the days of the Apollo 11, the program ran into a major problem: the biro ball-point pen could not work in the absence of gravity and was useless in space. A bit like what happens if you try to use yours on a wall. Famously, a high-tech solution was devised that solved this problem once and for all. “Space pens” featuring micro-canisters of pressurized gas were designed and fabricated in time for the mission. The gas applied the pressure to the ink and copious notes were duly taken in sp ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book is farcical.

Rogoff's solutions are de facto debt defaults and admissions that the government can not pay it debts. His solution is quite simply a back-door method to debt default by the government and at the expense of individual liberty and privacy.

I did enjoy reading the book, but Rogoff's arguments are spurious and meant to further the interests of government and not the interests of the people whom government actually serves.
Perhaps Rogoff should consider writing a book in praise o
Jan 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
The failed demonetisation experiment in India is enough to show the shallowness of this Harvard economics professor's arguments
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Phasing out cash and the likely implications for its aren’t exactly watercooler talk. Yet, this was the focus of a lot of conversations that I used to have with an ex-colleague, where we imagined several scenarios of an economy operating without cash, how it would function and how it would affect the man-on-the-street in the short and long terms. Thus, The Curse of Cash was one I picked up with much interest and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is a well-thought argument for the removal of cash f
Karel Baloun
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Rogoff effectively proves that large denomination bills only help crime and tax evasion, and that they have no other legitimate utility. He does this with very strong data and analysis, and shows governments allow this explicitly for profit (~0.5% of GDP, in seigniorage, in two distinct ways), and charts a more profitable path for democratic governance. Just this, in 30 pages would have been 5-stars, and the first sections of 100pgs may be worth a read, if you want to be convinced of this pretty ...more
Travis Scher
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Very academic in style, but an important topic to those interested in the future of money and macroeconomic policy. The author does a good job presenting his case, but two arguments for eliminating most paper currency are basically unrelated - first, to reduce crime and tax evasion, and second, to enable effective negative interest rate policy. This left the book feeling a bit disharmonious, but both are arguments are interesting in their own right.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A timely read in light of the chaotic demonetization in India.
Zhi Wei Lee
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good read for those wanting to understand the potential adverse effects of cash usage. The book is not without its critics, but I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in either encouraging greater cashlessness or in defending the use of cash. I've summarised the gist of the insights from the book below, but this may obscure some of the finer nuances and analytical details (e.g. data analysis) - for which reading the book itself would be necessary IMO.

Arguments for phasing out cash
John  Mihelic
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rogoff argues that we should eliminate big bills like US $100 and its big economy equivalents. Doing so will have two benefits.

The first benefit is that most people do not use large bill. These are in the financial system in the gray and black economy where having dense stores of value that are also a medium of exchange facilitates crime like drug dealing and human trafficking. There is profit to the issuing countries of these bills, a seignorage income that would be lost if these bills were pul
Darshan Pala
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Rogoff is a successful economist who has also worked in the federal reserve in the days of the great moderation, however, he presents a very deep foresight into inherent limits the federal reserve has in dealing with recessions. He presents a somewhat convincing case of retiring cash money from the economy in favor of going digital. He does so by citing many plausible explanation, the most serious one being the limits cash puts on a central bank ability to prescribe negative overnight rate. He g ...more
Xavier Shay
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you can accept the idea that a central bank should manage currency, this is a very well written book with a nuanced argument that seems pretty reasonable. Basically phase out the big notes, keep the small ones, while fairly addressing any potential objection you care to come up with. Many 1 star reviews (mostly on Amazon) likely written by people who didn't read it.

"Almost 80% of the US currency supply is in $100 bills."
"showing that 1 in 20 adults carries around a $100 bill is not quite the
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not entirely clear that we needed a book-length treatise on this topic, but certainly this book is the definitive statement of both the social ills caused by the circulation of large amounts of large-denomination cash (notably, the facilitation of various crimes and associated money laundering) , but also the way cash represents a very serious part of the Lower-bound constraint on monetary policy, I.e. The ability to set negative interest rates during financial downturns.

(Of course, in a sense t
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This has been the only book that I strongly agree with half of the content and disagree with the rest.

The book in general talked about 2 opinions, one serving the other. First, the author proposed to reduce the supply of cash, or paper money to be specific. Accordingly, individuals and companies will be forced to hold the majority of the assets in electronic banking accounts. Therefore, the country can easily apply a negative interest rate to stimulate when a recession is foreseeable.

I strongl
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Rogoff's position here is basically that cash enables a whole range of illicit activity, and constrains monetary policy. He spends roughly equal time on each and maybe shouldn't, as the first issue feels like it gets a cursory treatment and the latter being a very deep dive into the mechanics of Federal Reserve policymaking, the history of negative interest rates, etc.

I am not an economist -- maybe this book (though it is not presented that way) is calibrated to work in economic circles. Maybe
Fabio krauss stabel
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author has a interesting points on how a cashless society would work. But he is a huge ideologue. He proposes full control of money by governments via banning cash. His main points are : if you're not money laundering or evading taxes, it shouldn't affect you. The fact that then negative interest rates become easy to implement is seen as a positive thing.

He also fails to mention how cashless societies make financial ostracism something extremely easy to do. Check what Julian Assange or Snowd
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This book presents a strong challenge to my belief that cash is worth keeping. However, the book epitomizes the adage, "If you don't have a good reason, you better have many." At times, Rogoff throws every possible argument at readers just to see what sticks. IMO, it would be better to present a more concise set and offer possible counterarguments.
About half of his argument relies on the difficulties of monetary policy at the effective lower bound, and how a cash-minimal society would obliterate
Terence Ward
Dec 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
The author has served on the board of the Federal Reserve, and since his ideas were universally ignored there, he wrote a book about them instead. It's easy to tell he is an economist, because he quickly presumes the myth of barter — deftly debunked in David Graeber's magnum opus "Debt" — is real. That red flag early on should be enough to warn off the educated, at least.

Rogoff's notion is that paper currency is a bad thing. He spends half the book sowing fear about criminals and terrorists, but
Viewpoints Radio
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: viewpoints_radio
For generations, cash was the way Americans paid for things. But in the age of debit cards, credit cards, and virtual payments like Venmo or Bitcoin, cash is becoming less and less necessary for most of us. This week on Viewpoints Radio explore why that is, and who is still using cash in this new economy. Listen now:
Steven C.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author provides many compelling points to eliminate cash... specifically the large denominations. I wasn’t intriguing reading this book and the arguments provided. However I felt the author drifted from the topic many times and I became disinterested. It felt more like a required textbook at times.
Dwijendra Kashyap
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not sure why big bills need not be in circulation? Cash is curse for humanity now, as it is used more as black money than as means of exchange, particularly big denominations. Logically explained, data intensive good effort. Must read for all citizens who know the meaning of curse.
Ben Ewing
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
A supremely interesting idea (that we should kill off cash, or at least large bills), but I found myself skimming.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
I note that this book generates a wide dispersion in star allocation! In part this is probably because there is a wide range of beliefs about money, some rational, some more or less superstitious. It's certainly not the kind of book most of us would read for pleasure.
The subject matter surprised me. I had studies a fair bit of monetary economics and, as Rogoff points out, cash or currency was largely treated as a side-line of the big issues. The book convinced me that this is a mistake, mostly.
Manoj Gubbala
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very informative book. Talks about the truths of cash and the role it plays in our current society. Makes you realize that big note cash is useless and is mostly used only to pay for illegal activities like drugs, human trafficking, and paying illegal immigrants. Rogoff makes his point that if we abolish cash, except for small notes, our economy would greatly benefit since it would reduce the trades of the black market by a significant amount.
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this revolutionary new book, Rogoff carefully delineates how we can transition to a cashless (or nothing greater than $20 bills) society. His plan to wean our society off of big bills is exceptionally detailed and carefully presented. His explains the concepts in a lucid, meticulous way – addressing every practical and philosophical concern with the transition convincingly (loss of liberty, plans for those that have limited access to credit, etc). His deep knowledge on the subject warrants pi ...more
Warren Mcpherson
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: people-at-work
The book argues that paper cash should be phased out. It doesn't seem to make the case on merit but interestingly shows how the government may move in that direction for its own reasons.
The main argument is that cash primarily is used to support criminal activity and tax evasion. While criminals certainly do use cash, the assertion that non-criminals do not hold much of the cash outstanding rests on survey data. The obvious likelihood such data would systematically under-represent reality is not
A provocative book which advocates eliminating cash in the form of paper bills, and replacing it entirely with electronic currency -- debit cards and the like.

Rogoff makes multiple arguments in favor of his point, which can almost lead to the point of absurdity (paper cash as a disease vector!) but his most convincing one is how paper currency facilitates crime - money laundering, bribes, tax evasion, purchase of illegal goods, etc.

Dovetailing into this argument is a more technical discussion
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book toys with a revolutionary idea that has so far been limited to sporadic economic papers and journals. As we speak, India a country of 1.2 billion claims to have been one of the first such partial experiments in this direction (why partial – we will come on to this later).
Kenneth Rogoff first espoused this idea around 20 years ago in his paper. Over the period of years, he seems to have gained much deeper insight in the penetration of cash in the system while serving as Chief Economist
Dan Graser
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
While I understand the need for a provocative title, a more accurate name for this volume would be closer to, "Phasing out large cash notes (above $10) as a means to combat their use in crime in tax evasion while simultaneously opening possibilities towards negative interest policy measures as means for macroeconomic stability beyond the Zero Bound." Rogoff is a very informed, provocative, and passionate about his argument and he definitely makes the case for weening ourselves off of large notes ...more
Jeremy Clark
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book operates on two levels. It is both positive: what the effects of removing physical cash from circulation would be; and normative: we should remove cash. I disagree with the normative argument but I find it a convincing and valuable enumeration of what would result from the removal of cash, particularly in terms of crime, tax evasion, and monetary policy (negative interest rates). I am convinced we will see a policy push for this eventually, whether we welcome it or not. It veers into B ...more
Nancy Seamons
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting concept about how cash encourages money laundering, drug running, and several other unlawful acts. A provocative way to solve some of the world's biggest problems.
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Doing away high-denomination currency 1 1 Jan 01, 2017 01:16PM  
Doing away high-denomination currency 1 1 Jan 01, 2017 01:16PM  
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Kenneth Saul "Ken" Rogoff is an American economist and chess Grandmaster. He is the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
“certainly influence the future course of cryptocurrencies, which we take up in chapter 14; governments everywhere are facing the question of how to balance regulation with fostering innovation in this space. Nevertheless, one should have little doubt that governments have all the tools necessary to prevent any alternative transaction media from deeply infiltrating the legal economy on a sustained basis, thereby greatly undermining their value relative to the present-day status of cash.” 0 likes
“Security is constantly evolving. Some Federal Reserve officials have talked about using a variant of the blockchain methodology pioneered by the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to create payment platforms that have built-in security due to its distributed public ledger verification process. We” 0 likes
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