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“Paper currency has become a major impediment to the smooth functioning of the global financial system,” he writes.His cause dates to the late nineteen-nineties, when he found that sixty per cent of the value of the country’s currency supply was in hundred-dollar bills—an astonishing proportion, considering how rarely C-notes show up in ordinary life.A million dollars in hundred-dollar bills is easy to tote in a shopping bag, but a million in ten-dollar bills weighs an ungainly two hundred and twenty pounds. Rogoff speculates that eliminating big bills would also be a more effective deterrent to illegal immigration than, say, a border wall, because the wages of undocumented workers are, necessarily, paid in cash.

“Many of the smaller shops started putting signs up on their doors saying ‘We Don’t Accept Cash.’ ” In late summer, I flew to Sweden to see what life is like when no one wants the money in your hand.

By 2014, only a fifth of Swedish retail transactions were being conducted in cash. S., it’s slightly less than half.) Swedish ticket machines for trains and buses usually take only cards; increasingly, cafés and bars and restaurants refuse cash, too.

About half of the country’s bank branches don’t allow withdrawals or deposits in bills.

These are already in limited use in Europe and Japan, and they’ve become the subject of increasing attention in the U. (Paper money is an obstacle, because if interest rates went negative a lot of people would cash out and stuff money into sock drawers—that way, at least, they’d get a zero rate.) Some economists think a quick drop into negative rates during a global economic crisis, like the one in 2008, would have the effect of a defibrillator: there would be a brief jolt, but then the system would get pumping again, and both interest rates and inflation would return to healthy, growth-oriented zones.

As things are, rates can’t drop below zero, but they struggle to climb.

Cash circulation, long on the decline, has plunged since the time of the robbery, from a hundred and six billion Swedish crowns, or kronor, to seventy-seven billion last year.


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