A very curious feature of this invention we call currency is that you can’t track it with ease. Pick a dollar bill in your hands, can you say if the past owner of that money was your employer, or if you got it from the market? No, most likely you can’t.
Short of conducting an investigation, money is virtually trackless. Owned by who posseses it, one needs simply to present it to benefit from it’s credit feature.
The average people need not know the origin of the money, but this information is relevant for governments, companies and organizations. A government is interested to know if money was involved in illicit activities, as well as to keep track of taxes, for example. A company would be interested in not being associated with crime.
There are means to track large flows of money. For example, any bank transaction higher than a set amount is notified to regulating banks. Personal intensive investigations, with correlating databases, can eventually uncover money laundering. But there is hardly enough people to investigate the population, so only a small fraction of the infractions are punished.
But how one could make money more trackable?
The first step into achieving this is to abolish completely the paper and coin currency. It’s simply impossible to keep track. Instead, favor electronic payment options. We will need to redesign currency as well as the infrastructure used by it.
Money currently has only one relevant attribute: it’s value, how much it represents. What if we added to every cent a list of owners, as well as a past transactions field and a timestamp?
This is a very simplified example of what I’m proposing. Say that for a particular cent:
The more down in the table you go the further back in time you are. So this cent went from the Government of Indiana all the way to Mary, who owns it now in her bank account. John loaned this cent from Peter in 15/06/2017.
Of course there could me more fields in this, as well as codes representing each type of transaction, estabilishment and person. This would have to be very synthetic however, since in the US alone there are $1.56 trillion of dollars in circulation. Imagine the computer space required to store this information. Probably a record too far in the past could not be kept. Nothing is free of charge.
So a person would have many blocks of cents with different history in his/her bank account. Of course to him/hers, it could only be displayed the total amount.
In every store, there would be credit cards like machines that would register the transactions. They could also be owned by people, or be available in banks for people to register personal transactions such as loans. The banking system would compensate these transactions as it normally does.
Of course, people could still falsify the entries somehow. That’s why there would have to be standart security measures, like the ones used today to prevent credit card fraud. It may seem like too much an imposition to force everyone to use electronic payment means, but there could be considerable gain.
It would be required to process this information. The second step of this endeavour is to build advanced computer routines for scanning infractions, and apply them continuously to the data gathered.
For example, a large amount of small transactions from young consuming group could indicate a drug selling bussiness. A large donation from a company to a politician could trigger an investigation. An unusual growth in income could potentially lead to identifying criminal organizations.
People would ultimately barter or use a black market money, but it’s a lot harder to try to by crack with your iPhone than it is with money.
When in doubt, always follow the money trail.
[IMAGE: French Pacific Territories currency note, circa 1985 image source]