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The Curse of Cash


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Table of Contents

Preface ix Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview 1 PART I: The Dark Side of Paper Currency: Tax and Regulatory Evasion, Crime, and Security Issues Chapter 2: The Early Development of Coins and Paper Currency 15 Chapter 3: Size and Composition of Global Currency Supplies, and the Share Held Abroad 31 Chapter 4: Holdings of Currency in the Domestic, Legal, Tax-Paying Economy 48 Chapter 5: Currency Demand in the Underground Economy 58 Chapter 6: Seigniorage 80 Chapter 7: A Plan for Phasing Out Most Paper Currency 92 PART II: Negative Interest Rates Chapter 8: The Cost of the Zero Bound Constraint 119 Chapter 9: Higher Inflation Targets, Nominal GDP, Escape Clauses, and Fiscal Policy 147 Chapter 10: Other Paths to Negative Interest Rates 158 Chapter 11: Other Possible Downsides to Negative Nominal Policy Rates 175 Chapter 12: Negative Interest Rates as a Violation of Trust and a Step Away from Rule-Based Systems 182 PART III: International Dimensions and Digital Currencies Chapter 13: International Dimensions to Phasing Out Paper Currency 199 Chapter 14: Digital Currencies and Gold 208 Final Thoughts 217 Acknowledgments 221 Appendix 225 Notes 233 References 257 Index 273

About the Author

Kenneth S. Rogoff, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (Princeton).


Winner of the 2017 PROSE Award in Economics, Association of American Publishers Selected for Canada's Financial Post Best Personal Finance and Economics Books of 2016 One of Financial Times ( Best Economics Books of 2016 One of Bloomberg's Best Books of 2016 Longlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2016 "In a brilliant and lucid new book, The Curse of Cash, the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff gives a fascinating and thorough account of the argument against cash."--John Lanchester, New York Times Magazine "An excellent book on the history and the origins of cash, which also goes into much depth on the issue of cash constraining monetary policy."--Jon Hartley, "The great accomplishment of his book is that his arguments are convincing... It's clear and coherent, and even if you disagree with him in the end, chances are you'll think a little bit differently about something of which most of us give no thought whatsoever."--Bethany McLean, Washington Post "[A] fascinating economic manifesto... [The Curse of Cash] is an absorbing exploration of the uses, and misuses, of currency, and its intractability in controlling modern economies."--Publishers Weekly "Economist Rogoff, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, offers a detailed case for eliminating paper money... For both the elimination of paper money and the employment of negative interest rates to combat deflationary recessions, Rogoff painstakingly presents both the advantages and the drawbacks... Provocative."--Library Journal "In a witty new book, The Curse of Cash, economist Kenneth Rogoff argues the human race would be better off without paper money. He's onto something."--Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe "[The Curse of Cash] makes the case for encouraging the U.S. government to drastically scale back on $100 bills in circulation. The book ... offers a thought-provoking theory for phasing out paper money, not eliminating it."--Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press "Meticulously written, [The Curse of Cash] covers everything needed for such a monetary reform. But the book is not excessively polemical. Rogoff details almost all the arguments against tinkering with paper currency, then labors to refute or defuse them."--Peter Garber, Finance & Development "Rogoff is always worth listening to... Where Rogoff is on very solid ground is when he says the process of weaning us further off cash should begin with the abolition of high-denomination notes."--David Smith, Sunday Times "Rogoff makes a compelling case for the crime-fighting power of his idea."--David Nicklaus, St. Louis Post Dispatch "[Rogoff] understands that getting rid of cash ... is not exactly an easy sell. So Rogoff builds the case against cash, loading up on all the things wrong with paper money... Rogoff's case against cash is so cogently argued that it's hard to believe that we haven't already gotten rid of paper bills and coins--or at least larger bills."--Mark Gimein, "An illuminating, provocative and fact-packed work that does make you wonder why on earth we allow so much cash to slosh around. It also exposes some well-worn pub truths as urban myths."--Patrick Hosking, The Times "Ken Rogoff, the Harvard economist, who argues in [his] new book that we should start to phase out cash is, for me, on the money."--Ben Chu, Independent "This book is a rare bird indeed: accessible, absorbing and often deadpan funny."--Brian Bethune, Maclean's "The idea is not as crazy as it may sound. In a recent book, The Curse of Cash, Rogoff, says boring old paper (or plastic, in our case) bank notes are a major barrier to monetary policy--changing interest rates--fulfilling its potential. The book ... is a fascinating contribution to the debate about what might be done to help get many wealthy countries out of an economic funk."--Clancy Yeates, Sydney Morning Herald "[The Curse of Cash] is a fascinating contribution to the debate about what might be done to help get many wealthy countries out of an economic funk."--Clancy Yeates, Sydney Morning Herald "Lively and clearly written."--Geoffrey Wood, Central Banking Journal "Recommended for readers who seek a greater understanding of negative interest rates and the possibility of eliminating cash."--Choice "You may not have any in your wallet, but $100 bills make up an astonishing 80 percent of the U.S. currency in circulation. In his new book, The Curse of Cash, Kenneth Rogoff ... proposes a plan to phase out most paper currency in the United States and other economically advanced nations, keeping only low-denomination notes to create what he terms a 'less-cash' society."--MIT Technology Review "Like a chess player playing many opponents simultaneously, Rogoff views 'the curse of cash' through several prisms, and offers a compelling rationale of the merits of a 'less cash' economy."--Venky Vembu, The Hindu "The Curse of Cash is a well-argued book and Rogoff is a good economist."--Pierre Lemieux, Regulation,

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