Will a cashless society breed a gunless society? – Free Online Library Essay

Gun owners are undoubtedly one of America’s most heavily
regulated groups. For example, each time that you buy a new firearm there are forms to fill out and records to be made. At the very least
you can always count on confronting the federal government’s form
number 4473 for each new firearm purchased. But, in most cases, there
is also some combination of state and local forms that must be completed
before your newly acquired gun can be taken home. Then again, there are
those among us who live in particularly enlightened communities where,
in addition to requiring that forms be filled out, also demand waiting
periods, permits, references, justification, training courses, and
sometimes I suspect a letter from Mom.



I am told that there are more than 20,000 laws in this country at
all levels of government that are directed at regulating the purchase,
possession, transportation, and use of firearms. That is a lot of laws!
Unfortunately, only a few of these laws have proven to be of any value
in fighting crime. The few laws that have been of any value to society
are characterized by the fact that they are directed at the criminal
misuse of firearms and not at simply making life difficult for the
average law-abiding gun owner. I suspect that if all of the useless
regulations were laid end to end the only thing that they would lead to
is some bureaucrat’s job security.



The point that I am trying to make is that gun owners as a group (I
am including hunters) know what it is like to live under government
control. In addition to existing controls, gun owners are constantly
fighting off the efforts of various elitist groups that have committed
themselves to accelerating the evolutionary process of gun control with
the ultimate goal of bringing about the extinction of that species known
as the Great North American Gun Owner.


Because of their need to constantly be on guard, America’s gun
owners have been able to develop a very sober attitude about excessive
government regulation. They are able to see with greater clarity just
how a creeping bureaucracy smothers individual freedom for the sake of
some mythical greater collective good. I believe that the key to
preserving individual freedom in the future may very well depend on
groups like America’s gun owners. Because as technology advances,
our right to keep and bear arms will no longer be a separate issue, it
will become entwined with our other basic freedoms facing the same
collective assault. It will be up to America’s gun owners to sound
the alarm because we should be among the relatively few groups to
clearly see the danger ahead.



Exactly what does the future hold for America’s gun owners?
Controls and regulations like nothing you have known in the past;
however, everybody will be affected and everything will be involved. It
is a future with the built-in potential for being oppressive far beyond
anything that you could presently imaging. The future may very well
produce an America where no one will be able to hide from the eyes of
technology.



The words in the preceding paragraph are strong, perhaps even
hysterical. I sincerely hope that they are eventually proven to be more
paranoid than prophetic. But, the technologies that I will be
discussing from this point on can easily be perverted so as to totally
smother individual freedom. The future that I am concerned about is one
of several possible futures. Unfortunately, I believe that it is, at
this time, the most likely.



What do the big bankers dream about? They dream of a
“cashless society”, an economy absolutely devoid of currency,
coins and checks. They desire only plastic and the electronic
transfering of funds. To the financial bigwigs of our time, Utopia
would consist of fortunes recorded on tape. From a purely business
point of view it’s not hard to understand why bankers dislike all
of that paper and metal. Checks and cash are cumbersome, expensive, and
very time consuming to process. Checks, in particular, are viewed by
the financial elite as a real pain in the you-know-what, because of the
seemingly unlimited number of errors associated with them. It is easy
to see why bankers have been drooling over the most recent advances in
computer technology and communications. The hardware necessary for a
truly cashless monetary system is nearly here.


Is it really possible for the average citizen to go about his daily
routine without the benefit of dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels
and even pennies? Yes! The speed and capacity needed to process the
hundreds of millions of transactions that take place each day in this
country are just around the corner. To truly understand how rapidly
this technology is advancing, we need to go back a few years.



It was in the early Fifties when the first true electronic
computers were built. State of the art back then usually meant a
machine large enough to fill one or more huge rooms. I understand that
at one university, graduate students were required to shuffle up and
down banks of vacuum tubes pushing shopping carts filled with
replacement tubes. The average citizen and small business man did not
have access to these early machines, only governments and large
corporations could afford to buy time on them. Then came transistors,
integrated circuits and chips among the many other innovations. The
result: in a mere 30 years, you can now go down to your local department
store and for a few hundred dollars, purchase a computer that you can
easily hold in your hands.



The astonishing thing is that some of these compact contemporary
machines, now available to anyone, offer a calculating capacity and rate
of speed that exceeds the monster machines of 30 years ago. The speed at
which this technology is advancing has also accelerated greatly. So
much so, that the state of the art computer that you buy today will
undoubtedly be made obsolete by some other company’s offering
within a year or two.



The keys to making a cashless society work are capacity and speed.
Today’s typical computer is capable of approximately seven million
mathematical operations a second and the most advanced machines are even
faster. However, before a cashless monetary system can be imposed on
society, the speed at which computers work will have to reach the level
of the current world record holder, the human brain. The human brain
races along at about one billion operations a second. But, experts in
the field are confident that computers will not only be able to match
the speed of the human brain, they will in time surpass it. How long
will it take to reach the magic billion mark? Ten years or less! This
is the time frame; ten years and the few technical barriers left will be
gone. However, all of the other elements needed for this brave new
world exist now. Some of these elements will soon be deployed while
others have been around for years.



The question now is, how will this cashless system work on the
individual level? In the future when you go into a store to purchase a
copy of Guns & Ammo, exactly how will you pay for it? You won’t
have any cash; instead you will hand the clerk (if there is a clerk)
your “smartcard” and the transaction will be completed in a
matter of seconds. What is a smartcard? A smartcard is something like
a credit card except that it has a permanent memory that contains vital
financial and personal information about you. The secret of this card is
a small computer chip embedded within it. When the card is inserted
into a terminal, it tells the terminal who you are by providing your
bank account number from its electronic memory. This smartcard will
also provide the information needed to identify you and this allows the
merchant’s terminal access to your account. If everything checks
out okay, you are who you say you are and your account has sufficient
funds, the amount needed to cover your purchase will be deducted from
your account and credited to the merchant’s account.



Actually, my simple explanation grossly understates the potential
of this smartcard system. By increasing its memory, it can not only
function as a checkbook but also as a credit card, a savings passbook,
security clearance card, drivers license and so on. There is really no
limit.



The smartcard is not some futuristic vision; it exists and is in
use today. The army is experimenting with an early version of this
plastic and silicon marvel. What the army has done is replace the
familiar G.I. identification card with the smartcard in a few cases. If
the army likes the card, a soldier’s ability to lose himself in the
military’s notorious bureaucracy will become a thing of the past.



Perhaps the thing that will be the most impressive part of the
smartcard system is the security. The card will contain, in its
permanent memory, some information about some physical characteristic
unique to you. A good example would be a fingerprint, although I doubt
if fingerprints would be used in this case. Several possible methods of
identifying the legitimate owner of a card have been proposed. I will
discuss just one of those methods; it is the one that fascinates me the
most, although I do not know if it will become the standard means of
identification. That method is the “retina scan.”



The retina is the light sensing tissue at the back of the eye. It
can be viewed optically and used to identify people in much the same way
as a fingerprint. Each person would have his unique retina pattern
recorded in his smartcard’s memory and also at his bank. Every
terminal would have a retina scanner as one of its basic components.
This identification system would work this way. You hand a merchant
your card, he then inserts it into a terminal. You are then asked to
look directly at a small lens (this lens would probably appear like a
button on the terminal). This lens is the retina scanner and it will
read your retina in a fraction of a second. Now if the retina pattern
that the scanner reads is the same as the one in your card and also
identical to the one in the account that has been called up, fine, you
are in. However, if these three retina scans do not match up perfectly,
your card will be rejected and the police notified that an illegal
transaction has been attempted. This system seems to be nearly
foolproof. I cannot see how your typical credit card thief can beat it.



As for personal transactions at home, no need to worry. You can
still have your garage sale or pay off your football bet by using your
phone. Laws will be enacted requiring all phones sold to be equipped
with terminals or you will be able to use a public terminal much like a
pay phone. It is even possible that televisions will be outfitted so
that you can conduct business via cable.



Originally the smartcard concept was developed for credit card
companies as a way of combating the considerable fraud problem that they
face. Because it is nearly impossible to forge such a card and useless
to steal one, you can expect to have one or more of these wonders in
your wallet in the not too distant future.



When the smartcard system, or a similar system is deployed, it will
obviously tell anyone or any government agency with access to the
bank’s new super-fast computers exactly where you are spending your
electronic money. A large part of your right to privacy will be gone.
But, in most cases, no one should know exactly what it is you are
buying. Right? Unfortunately, this probably will not be the case. The
Universal Product Code (another labor saving and efficient idea) will be
able to tell the computers what products you are buying.



The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a system of product
identification and control that has been in use for several years. It is
used primarily at supermarkets now and undoubtedly you have seen its
most prominent feature. This prominent feature is the code itself and
can be found on nearly every packaged product in the supermarket. If
you are not sure exactly what it is that I am talking about then look at
the cover of this magazine. You will find a small white rectangle with
many vertical lines of varying widths on it along with a few numbers.
When this coded information is passed over a holographic laser scanner,
at some store’s checkout counter, it will tell the store’s
computer that this is a copy of Guns ; Ammo magazine. The code will
also reveal the exact issue purchased and call up the most recent price
from the computer’s memory.



I know of at least one supermarket chain that has gone over to the
UPC system. Each store in the chain is able to produce a constant flow
of information about which products are selling as well as keeping
extremely accurate records concerning the store’s receipts. The
data produced by each store is also channeled to the computers at the
chain’s central offices and as a result it has been possible to
know exactly how to restock each store the following day. The only bit
of information missing in the UPC system is who is buying the product.
But, add the smartcard to the UPC setup and it becomes technically
possible to know who is buying what.



Let’s not forget about other systems that are also in
operation. There is what’s known as “direct deposit.”
This is an arrangement that has your employer sending your wages
directly to the bank. You never see a paycheck. In addition you can
have “automatic bill paying” along with the direct deposit.
This service can automatically pay some of your bills for you. No cash,
no checks, everything is done with cool computer efficiency.



Oil companies are now experimenting with totally automated gas
stations. When you drive up to one of their new computerized pumps, you
simply insert a credit card into the appropriate slot. If the card
checks out okay, you then are free to fill up. No expensive human
attendant is needed.



One recent development that makes me a bit uneasy concerns law
enforcement. In San Jose, California the police department has
outfitted its patrol cars with computer terminals. If you should be so
unfortunate as to be pulled over in this Northern California city, the
police officer will be able to feed your license number as well as other
bits of information about you into his terminal. The computers at city
hall will respond and tell the officer if you’re wanted for
anything or if you are driving a stolen car and so on.



What makes me uneasy is the fact that with the proper hookups,
computers around the world can talk to each other. Should this
situation develop, it could result in you standing with your legs apart
and your arms outstretched on the roof of your car while the officer
sits in his vehicle reviewing your life history. The potential for
abuse in this application of technology is considerable.



There is one interesting bit of information about the preceding
example that may be of significance. It certainly adds to my uneasiness
about this particular example. The current police chief of San Jose was
one of only a couple of police chiefs to actively campaign in favor of
California’s Proposition 15 in the 1982 elections. Nearly every
other police chief in California went publicly on record against the
notorious anti-gun Proposition 15.



If you are a gun owner in Illinois you are undoubtedly familiar
with the Firearms Owner’s Identification card (FOI card). Illinois
requires that all persons wishing to own or purchase a firearm or
ammunition to first obtain one of these cards from the state’s
Department of Law Enforcement in Springfield. The purpose of the card
is to make it more difficult for the criminal element to obtain guns
through legal channels. As you can well imagine there are many
thousands of FOI card holders in Illinois, and keeping track of them all
would be impossible without the aid of modern technology. So, what you
have in Illinois is a master list of all of the legal gun owners and
their guns. You can imagine how much a list could be abused by anti-gun
officials. Recently some anti-gun city officials tried to obtain such a
list from the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement.



Shortly after the village of Morton Grove implemented its notorious
handgun ban, its neighbor Evanston, Illinois followed with a nearly
identical law. But, Evanston went a little farther than Morton Grove.
The police chief of Evanston contacted the state’s Department of
Law Enforcement and requested a list of all of the FOI card holders
living in Evanston. He said that he only wanted to notify the card
holders about the existence of the new law. Oh sure! If you believe
that then drop me a card, I can make you a real good deal on some
left-handed screw drivers. Fortunately, the state refused to supply the
list.



I included this example from Evanston because it clearly
illustrates just how dangerous computer lists can be. But, with
technology advancing as fast as it is, anti-gun bureaucrats, like those
in Evanston, may soon be able to get the information that they want
without having to go to the state capital for it.



Nearly everyone should now be familiar with the “automated
teller” at their local bank. These human substitutes again require
a card and the customer’s private identification code or account
number. Bankers love these machines because they make transactions more
efficient and are much more cost effective than human tellers.



Recently a New York bank installed automated tellers and also
radically altered the ways in which depositors were allowed to conduct
business with the bank. The new rules allowed only large depositors to
enter the bank to transact business with human beings. If you were a
small or average depositor you could only use the automated tellers.
The public outcry was so great that the bank was forced to abandon its
new policies and revert back to a more normal routine.



This attempt by a New York bank to place efficiency and profits
totally ahead of human concerns is a good example of the general
attitude held by many of the banking and corporate elite in this
country. I do not believe that they consciously wish to set up
machinery that is dehumanizing, but I do believe that our banking and
corporate leaders are often afflicted with considerable tunnel vision and can only see those things that will improve their situation.



As you can see, innovations in the fields of electronic finance and
communications are coming hot and heavy. By making extensive use of
some of the systems mentioned here and others not discussed, some people
are for all practical purposes, living a cashless existence already.



Exactly how does a cashless society threten the liberty of all
law-abiding citizens and gun owners in particular? Well, first you need
to understand that most Americans basically trust their government. The
idea that someday our elected officials, fireproof bureaucrats, and
tenured jurists could turn on us and impose a totalitarian state represents to the average person an unreasonable degree of paranoia.
However, our founding fathers did not feel that such paranoia was
unjustified. This is why the framers of our constitution included so
many checks and balances. They wanted to come as close as possible to a
government whose very structure would prevent the kind of oppression
that, at the time, diminated the rest of the world. So far the creation
of these inspired benefactors has stood the test of time and proven
itself to be among the greatest of human achievements. Because the
basic design of our republic has worked so well, most Americans do not
take seriously the idea that it could ever fail form within.



Our founding fathers were able to foresee most of the things that
could destroy the constitution that they were drafting and as a result
included protections within the document itself. But, the one thing
that they could not foresee or even conceive of, is the threat posed by
today’s awesome technology. The creators of our nation knew very
well that economic freedom and political freedom are indivisible, you
can not have one without the other. They also knew that the right of
each citizen to privacy concerning his personal financial affairs is
essential for there to be true economic freedom.



A truly cashless monetary system (with its nearly unlimited ability
to remember the most trivial of financial transactions) is a temptation
that even virtuous administrations would find hard to resist. For
example, some decidedly liberal administration in the future, with a
collective social agenda to impose would be able to tap into the
national monetary network, find the financial support of any individual
or group that opposes its Utopian programs and use the power of perhaps
the IRS to destroy that support.



Let’s say that you are a member of a church that opposes the
government’s foreign policy or perhaps some of its social programs.
Should the opposition of your church become too bothersome, the
administration’s bureaucrats could easily search the cashless
monetary network and come up with the identities of everyone supporting
the church. Then through the use of various forms of harassment like
tax audits, the threatened exposure of publicly offensive transactions
(prostitution, gambling etc.) or the just plain freezing of accounts
(try to survive for several months with no money) the economic
foundation of the church would be destroyed. For all practical purposes
the church would no longer exist.



Now for the gun owners. With a totally cashless system in place,
the sales of all new firearms, ammunition and accessories would
automatically be recorded along with everything else. It would be a
simple matter for an anti-gun administration to produce lists of new gun
owners from the nation’s electronic monetary network. I also
firmly believe that any administration that would indulge in the kinds
of abuses that I have already suggested would certainly seek to fulfill
one of the anti-gunners’ fondest dreams–that of national gun
registration.



Keeping in mind that all new gun sales would automatically be
registered through the chasless system, the anti-gun bureaucrats would
then seek registration of all other firearms. Many law-abiding citizens
would grudgingly comply with the law and register their guns. But, of
course, many others would not. In order to force compliance with the
law, this not too distant future anti-gun administration would take
advantage of the fact that all of the country’s information systems
would be fully integrated into essentially one gigantic system. They
could easily tap into state, county and city gun records in their quest
to find unregistered gun owners. Any computer list that might lead to a
gun owner would not be safe.



In the past when I have talked to people about the evils of gun
control I would occasionally run into a gun owner who was unconcerned.
When I would inquire into their ambivalence I would get an answer like
the following. “I’ve got a couple of guns that my dad brought
back from the war as ouvenirs. There is no record of them anywhere. If
they start grabbing guns I will simply bury them in the back yard till
the heat lets up. After all, they can’t confiscate what they
don’t know about.”



Well, if you are one of those gun owners with hidden treasures, you
had better think again. Because, in the future, the anti-gunners and
their super computers stand a very good chance of finding out about you.
How could the caretakers of the government’s gun control system
find out about a gun that has literally no official past? Simply by
waiting for you to tell them about it. The following sequence of events
will show how you could tip your hand.



Let’s say for example that you have Dad’s old war
souvenir, a P-08 Luger. The time period for registering all firearms
with the federal government has come and gone. But, you decided not to
register the Luger because not even your wife knows that you have it,
let alone any level of government. You figure that when the day comes
and everybody else loses their guns via confiscation you will still have
yours. However, before finding a permanent hiding place for your
contraband, you decide that it needs a good cleaning. After all, Dad was
a great guy, but not particularly known for his neatness; he certainly
never cleaned his souvenir Luger.



So, you make a trip down to the local sporting goods store to
select the stuff (pistol cleaning rod, 9mm brass brushes, patches, etc.)
needed for cleaning your handgun. Remember, this is now a cashless
society so you pay for these cleaning supplies just as you do for
everything else, with your smartcard.



What you do not realize is that the UPC codes for all of the
cleaning supplies that you just purchased are a bit different from the
codes of other products. Any produce related to firearms (ammo, spare
parts, accessories, cleaning supplies, etc.) will automatically be
directed to the master gun registration computer in Washington D.C.
This master computer will check its memory to see if you legally own the
type of gun for which the cleaning supplies are intended. Since you
have not registered Dad’s war souvenir the computer will show that
you do not own a legally registered handgun. This information will
automatically be transmitted to the computer at your local police
department. When local law enforcement receives this type of computer
notification they can, in this new society, use it as probable cause for
obtaining a search warrant.



The result, in a few days you will be on your way to an all
expenses paid vacation courtesy of the federal government, while
Dad’s dirty Luger is sent to the foundry to be melted down into
“Jane Fonda for President” campaign buttons.



Perhaps all of these sinister possibilities could be avoided by
passing laws that would prohibit the development and deployment of this
amazing new technology. This approach, although well intentioned, would
be wrong. Prohibition has rarely worked in the past and certainly can
not be stopped by legislation. Besides, it is not the technology that
is bad but rather it is the people or agencies who would misuse it that
are evil. In this case, guns make a good analogy, because as you know,
the problem is the criminal abuse of guns, not the guns themselves.
Like guns, there is a great deal of good to be had from this new
technology.



Maybe then we could have laws enacted that would limit access to
the cashless society’s enormous flow of personal financial data.
In other words, through legislation, perhaps we can protect an
individual’s right to privacy by restricting the access to computer
memories in the same manner that your home is protected from illegal
search and seizure. It’s a fine idea, but I am not very optimistic for two reasons.



First, the U.S. Supreme Court has already handed down a major
ruling on the subject. A few years back the question of whether or not
a government agency could go to a bank and investigate an
individual’s personal financial records came before the court. It
was argued that these records were the private property of the
individual depositor and therefore constitutionally protected from
improper invasion. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not see it that
way. The court said that these records are the property of the bank and
not the depositor, therefore the individual’s right to privacy does
not apply. Secondly, I seriously doubt if any administration could
resist the tremendous amount of power and control that can be had by
dipping into the memories of a totally cashless monetary system. I
believe that well intentioned laws would ultimately fail to deter
bureaucrats faced with such an enormous temptation.



There are other examples of our wondrous electronic present and
future that we could discuss so as to further illustrate our increasing
vulnerability. But, at this point, it would be redundant. I am sure
that by now you can see that the future must be looked at with a very
sober attitude. We must find a way to protect our freedoms and still be
able to take full advantage of the marvels of technology that lie just
ahead. Is it possible to have it both ways? Yes, I think it is
possible, if one essential element in our society is maintained.



That element is “cash”. The American people must stand
up and demand that currency, both paper and metal, remain as the basic
means of settling all debts. We need to also demand that all
individuals and institutions continue to be required to accept cash when
it is presented as payment for a debt. In this way you could still have
the smartcards and the electronic transfering of funds, if you want
them. As long as cash is around, there will be at least one way in
which the Utopian do-gooders will not be able to enslave us.

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