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Cash money and credit cards on a table

No money, no problems? German cash limit is just another surveillance tool

The German federal government, currently made up of a troubled Grand Coalition, has recently floated the idea of setting up an upper limit on cash usage. A limit of 5,000 euros on cash transactions is being discussed.

Supposedly, the aim is to fight illegal money transactions, first and foremost terror financing and money laundering. A recent study commissioned by the government blames Germany’s 100 billion money laundering market for big-scale financing of illicit activities. An EU-wide cash limit is favoured by the governing social democrats, while a national lid might pose as a back-up option.

Germany’s finance state secretary was very keen to rebut the idea that Berlin aims at doing away with cash payments altogether. Not very convincingly, I’m afraid. Closer to the truth: Germany might have finally succumbed to the pressure to join the war on cash.


Next-level surveillance politics

What’s really behind the move? Surveillance and control, of course. When every money transaction is registered digitally, there is little left to a free society.

I am not the sternest believer in conspiracy theories, but working in parliamentary politics and being able to witness all those “political coincidences” at first hand made me realise just how massive the influence of big players in the background really is. And maybe not every single member of the German government believes in the “cash cap”, but apparently they are under enough pressure to join the global surveillance alliance (one should assume that especially for the subsidiarity-driven German conservatives a cash limit of any kind is out of the question).

Take the terrorism argument, for example. With the West’s own creation ISIS agonising the world, terror financing is the perfect justification for about everything. The inconvenient truth: There are cash payment limitations in place in France and Belgium. Still, horrendous attacks were planned and executed from those two countries.

Lawmakers and governments are obliged to present proof when they argue certain measures are necessary to fight modern-day terrorism. To date, no such evidence has been brought forward as regards data retention laws or passenger name records (PNR). But they all have one thing in common: They serve as exquisite surveillance tools.


Limiting cash is derailing

Sure, limitations on cash payments might curb money laundering to a degree and help fighting (legal and illegal) tax fraud. But don’t take it out on my cash money!

The fact that we find ourselves in a poisonous web of ruinous patent boxes and “Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich”-deals that bleed our tax systems dry is the sole responsibility of the very same national governments that now call for cash limits. In a dangerous race to the bottom, they (amongst the “Tax Avoidance All Stars” are the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Malta, …) have installed tax regimes to accommodate giant multinational companies.

The international body responsible for finding solutions for tax erosion and worldwide profit shifting practices, OECD’s BEPS project, is paralysed by counteracting political interests.

Summing up: The cash cap is yet another pseudo-solution to a homemade problem intended to serve as something entirely different. Ah, I love politics.

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