The power of texting

By JEFF INGLIS  |  March 2, 2012

DAVID WOLMAN I remember somewhere you said, Robert, that a lot of this economic activity is about flying under the radar of government. My thinking on that right away is, 'Well yes — except that most of it is conducted with the currency issued by the government.' So, in that sense, are the actors in the shadow markets of the world given a leg up by sovereign currencies in physical form versus electronic form? Or are they eager to see new, alternative ways to transact, whether it's with alternative currencies or whether it's trading in airtime minutes — which you write a bunch about, and which I touched on some in my book? I think you're absolutely right, this issue of commerce conducted under the radar and unreported, that will persist whether or not we finally put cash in the grave. But I find much more tantalizing the question of who might be helped once we put cash in the grave. It may be that the poor and the innovators who are involved in these shadow markets could do really well if they're, for example, moving faster to mobile payments than necessarily having to store and secure a little lockbox of their earnings there at the umbrella market.

It almost reminds me of these clowns who say get the federal government off my Medicare, in that they're not totally separate from the government in that they are using the government-issued currency. It's quite at a distance, it's true — they're not reporting, they're not paying taxes — but they're still —

RN They're patronizing the sovereign currency, exactly.

DW Exactly. And they all depend on it. I don't say that in a kill-the-Fed conspiracy theorist sense of it, but it's thought-provoking at least.

RN You brought up something interesting, which I actually didn't think about for the future. One of the biggest problems that the transnational merchants who are involved in the informal economy face is dealing with the devilish exchange rates, and the way in which a falling dollar and rising yuan can kill trade in a third country that's using the dollar and yuan to convert its sovereign currency into dollars, and then convert dollars into yuan to buy things from China and ship them back home. If there were something that kept its value and could be universally exchanged, such as mobile-phone credit or frequent-flier miles or something like that, that would definitely benefit the folks in the underground because they are definitely looking for ways they don't lose out on exchange rates.

<< first  ...< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |   next >...  last >>

2 of 11 (results 11)
Related: Authors tote their wares to area bookstores, Authors strut their stuff, Fall Books Preview: Getting booked, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Harvard Book Store, Harvard Book Store, david wolman,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PORTLAND VS. HER PEOPLE  |  March 19, 2014
    This city, which all agree is lucky to have so many options, has leaders who do not behave as if they have any choice at all. To the frustration of the citzenry, the City Council and the Planning Board often run off with the first partner who asks for a dance.
    Two bills before the Maine legislature seek to pry lessons from the hard time FairPoint has had taking over the former Verizon landline operations in Maine since 2009.
  •   BEYOND POLITICS  |  March 06, 2014
    Today’s US media environment might well seem extremely gay-friendly.
  •   THE ONLINE CHEF  |  February 27, 2014
    It turns out that home-cooked scallops are crazy-easy, super-delicious, and far cheaper than if you get them when you’re dining out.
  •   RISE OF THE E-CURRENCIES  |  February 12, 2014
    Plus: Is Rhode Island ready for Bitcoin? Two perspectives

 See all articles by: JEFF INGLIS