I’ve got a new favourite phrase! “Post-functional cash”. Love it.
When I went to the Future of Money dinner at Method the other day, one of the images that stuck with me was this. Post-functional cash.
This is something that I’ve written about before, but didn’t have a crystallised concept for so discovering “Post-functional cash” was perfect! Once cash has begun to vanish from polite society, people will need a substitute for special cases. Just like the Chinese “hell money” or the money pinned on a bride at a Greek wedding, there is cash does not serves to function as a circulating medium of exchange or a (very poor) store of value. This cash has “ceremonial” functions in society and these will survive the transition to virtual money down to the retail and individual level.
Not all of the ceremonial functions of cash will be replaced by post-functional £cash. One of our software engineers is Chinese and when we were talking about WeChat, she told me that her peers already use messaging services like that and mobile payments to send the good luck money that they used to give in red envelopes. So clearly some ceremonial functions do not need to retain a mundane foothold.
Since I was in Las Vegas drafting the original text for this blog post, at the Electronic Transactions Association’s Transact14, it would be prudish of me not to refer to the two most obvious examples of ceremonial money: casino chips (which are used for functional purposes specific to the application when money would work as well) and the Federal Reserve banknotes that I understand persons of low moral tone tuck into dancers’ clothes. Just as you buy casino chips when you walk into the casino, I don’t see why you couldn’t buy post-functional cash when you walk into a pole-dancing club. In which case I don’t think it should be made out of paper. Some kind of washable polymer might be a better choice. This may well be why the Bank of England has decided to start issuing plastic banknotes in 2016. I will ask when I next visit.