The Pence Are Disappearing

I first noticed this when I travelled to Avebury. My train ticket was exactly £10. Very odd. prices are usually £8.60 or £12.30. They always have some pence. Then my bus ticket cost exactly £4. Even more unusual on a bus. That’s why you always have to have the right change.

Then I started noticing other examples of rounding out the pence, and even rounding up the pounds. A blood test costs £25. The Bath Spa £25. Driving license photocard £20 plus £5 for a photo. The shops (well the chain ones, anyway) have special offers galore which means you get 2 for £2.50 or 3 for £10. M&S (“your” M&S, it belongs to you) did away with pence a few years back. A shirt costs £35, a swimsuit £16. It seemed like a good idea at the time to get rid of those annoying .99 on the end of everything.

Last week I went into a very expensive cafe (and came out again quite quickly) which had no pence, only pounds or half pounds. A sandwich was £12 or £11.5 and coffee was £4.

The Monopoly game (full of clues, see Earlier posts) has no pence! Even though it has been around for a long time, since the time when a penny could still buy you something, there are only round pounds. This neatly got round decimalisation in 1971. How did the Monopoly inventors know that was coming? Speeding fine £15. Old Kent Road £60. Most values are rounded to the nearest fiver, so even the £1 notes get annoying.

Coins were originally made of metal which had value in itself. Therefore it was a fair exchange, a lump of silver or gold or bronze in exchange for a bag of apples. Somewhere along the line, large amounts of useful metals got replaced by paper, which is of no value or use, other than rolling up your tobacco with. It is just an IOU note, it even tells you it is. It is only of use if you can persuade someone else it is of value and thereby swap it for something else.

Next stage, the plastic got introduced, which is the property of your bank, it says so on the card. Money becomes virtual, just a record on a computer. And the stage after that is to microchip everyone. Then the notes will start to disappear too, and finally the plastic. It even says so on my debit card “Towards a PVC-free future”. This will all be with our consent, because we will be persuaded that it is convenient (the carrot), and blocked from certain activities (such as travelling, or going to events, or paying bills) if we do not join in (the stick). We are all trained from an early age to respond to carrots and sticks. I am curious to find out what will happen in November 2012 when my debit card expires. Will I be offered something else instead?

We don’t have to go along with the plan. Like everything else, it is By Consent. It can only happen if they get enough people to buy into it enough of the time. Carry on using coins, trade in places and with people that support coins and notes, use your plastic a bit less, and try a bit of the Gift Economy.

See earlier posts: By Consent, The Gift Economy.

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