IT as a barrier to entry

I spoke with Jim Bessen about his new book “The New Goliaths” (you can listen to the interview for Newbooks Network here). Bessen offers a deep discussion (albeit for a general public) on how large corporations have used IT systems to increase product diversity and as a result, reduce incentives for innovation and transform IT applications from an enabler of a levelled playing field to a major barrier to entry.

I was pleased to see Diane Coyle, name Bessen´s book at the top of her recoomended list for 2022 (see further Enlightened Economist Prize 2022 – the winner).

Bridging the gap between communications and computing

In this podcast I discuss a book that will be appealing to a general audience and which helps to bridge the gap of the story of communication in the broad history of computer technology. In Cellular: An Economic and Business History of the International Mobile-Phone Industry (MIT Press, 2022), Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz and Martin Campbell-Kelly make a splendid job to portray the evolution of this industry from the times of Marconi all the way to 5G networks, while considering developments in places as diverse as China, Mexico, New Zealand and of course, Europe, Japan and the USA.  

Listen to the full episode in New Books Network here and purchase the book in Amazon here

Moral Economies of Money

Jakob Feining has come up with the intersting idea of “monetary silences”, to explore how and when people’s practices and institutions shape money and money creation. He provided deep insight into historical episodes to support his view. Towards the end, he comments on the challenges of digital currencies. 

You can listen to the full interview with Jakob for New Books Network here

Other discussions with Jakob in Money on the Left and Macro N Cheese

A paper version in the Journal of Cultural Economy

Cloud-Money: A Review-Cash’s Clipping of Capitalism & AI’s Wings

Jeff Yost provides an interesting review, from a historian of technology and computing to Brett Scott´s book above entitled. I don’t always agree with Brett´s interpretation of the history of money and perhaps less with his forecasts. For full disclosure, Brett did send an advance copy of the book, which I am still working on. But find Jeff´s take on the book interesting. See the full review here.

Remittances, Cash and Fintechs in the US-Mexico Corridor (2022)

Some thoughts on: The Journey of a Remittance in the US-Mexico Corridor: From My Salary to My Family

We were invited to take part in a project around the “frictions” to deploy a central bank digital currency. We looked at why cash predominates at the start and end of the transactions in the third largest corridor by volume.

You can find our full report here

Thanks to that, we were interviewed in a couple of outlets:

Interview, “The multi-billion dollar US-Mexico remittances corridor: what you need to know”, BNAmericas (Chile), (July 1, 2022).

Interview by Bradley Cooper, “How ATMs deliver remittances”, ATMmarketplace (USA), (August 2, 2022). Reprinted by Cash Essentials (Switzerland): (English) and (Spanish) (August 17, 2022).

Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

How debit cards changed our lives

Debit cards are critical and a momentous innovation for the actual implementation of the cashless economy as they give direct access to liquid balances at the point of sale.

In the latest contribution to ADP ReThink Quarterly (1 February 2022 — Issue 4: Security), I recount the failed emergence of debit cards in the USA during the 1970s and their growth from initiatives in the UK at the end of the 1980s. Read the full article here.

Cash and Covid (La transformación en el uso del efectivo y los pagos digitales durante la pandemia) (An update)

We have published an updated version of our study on the impact of COVID on the use of cash, with Manuel Bautista Gónzalez and Ignacio Gónzalez Correa.

Abstract follows and full article avalaible here but only in Spanish.

No hay evidencia sustancial de que la pandemia de la COVID-19 represente un cambio estructural hacia una economía sin efectivo (cashless) en el sector de pagos minoristas. En el corto plazo, los consumidores aumentaron su volumen de pagos digitales y sin contacto (contactless) como respuesta a los confinamientos y creencias de que el efectivo podría propagar el virus. Sin embargo, lo anterior no ha resultado en una reducción permanente en el uso o eliminación de billetes y monedas. Además, en muchos países se observó la «paradoja del efectivo», es decir, una disminución del efectivo como medio de pago y, simultáneamente, un alza en su demanda precautoria ante la incertidumbre y el deterioro en las expectativas económicas.

Palabras clave: efectivo, economía sin efectivo, sociedad sin efectivo, billetes y mo-
nedas, pagos digitales, COVID-19, sistema de pagos minorista, España, Estados Unidos, Reino Unido, México.

Definitive and uncontroversial evidence is yet to emerge that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a structural shift to a cashless economy in the retail payments sector. In the short term, consumers increased their volume of digital and contactless payments in response to lockdowns and beliefs that cash could spread the virus. However, this has not resulted in a permanent reduction in the usage or elimination of banknotes and coins. Moreover, there was a «cash paradox» in many countries, i.e., a decrease in the demand of banknotes as means of payment and, simultaneously, a rise in its precautionary demand of cash given consumers’ heightened uncertainty and the deterioration of economic expectations.

Keywords: cash, cashless economy, cashless society, banknotes and coins, digital payments, COVID-19 pandemic, retail payments, Spain, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico.

JEL classification: E42, G20, L81, N20

How the rise of cash machines changed payday

The first Bankomat in Tel Aviv opened to the public in 1970. IPPA Staff, The National Library of Israel, Israel – CC BY. Europeana

After payroll went digital, people still needed cash, mobbing bank branches on paydays. In the 1970s, banks started making big investments in a new innovation: the Automated Teller Machine.

[See full article in ReThink Quarterly (15 October 2021).]

Early cash machine activation token (Bankomat). Courtesy of Lars Ardvisson.