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Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

“Money, money, money…in a rich man’s world.”

So goes the famous Abba song.

Image source: Billboard.com

This was, or should I say still is, one of their most famous songs. Though the pop group sang about money, now something very historical is being debated in the band’s homeland of Sweden. Earlier this year there was discussion in the media about Sweden possibly being the first country on earth to abolish not “money” but money in the form of cash.

Image source: bbc.co.uk

Let me quote from a CBS article from around 5 months ago on this subject.

“Sweden was the first European country to introduce bank notes in 1661. Now it’s come farther than most on the path toward getting rid of them.

 

“I can’t see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore,” says Bjoern Ulvaeus, former member of 1970’s pop group ABBA, and a vocal proponent for a world without cash.

 

The contours of such a society are starting to take shape in this high-tech nation, frustrating those who prefer coins and bills over digital money.

 

In most Swedish cities, public buses don’t accept cash; tickets are prepaid or purchased with a cell phone text message. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some bank offices — which make money on electronic transactions — have stopped handling cash altogether.

 “There are towns where it isn’t at all possible anymore to enter a bank and use cash,” complains Curt Persson, chairman of Sweden’s National Pensioners’ Organization.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57399610/sweden-moving-towards-cashless-economy/

The article then continues and mentions that for example the ABBA singer, Bjoern Ulvaeus is campaigning for a cash-free Sweden and one thing which has led him to thinking that this is the best thing for the country is that his own son has been burgled three times. One of the arguments in fact for abolishing cash, is that it decreases crime.

 

Bjoern Ulvaeus, the former ABBA singer and now advocate of a cash-free Sweden.

Image source: Blick.ch

There are other arguments including the claim that it will also make corruption more difficult as all financial transactions will be traceable. Corruption with the syphoning of money and other things has led to severe European economic problems with countries like Greece having their economy in tatters. In fact Sweden only has 3% of its financial transactions in the form of cash. I do not expect that percentage to increase, rather decrease especially in the Iphone, digital phone age.

Is it a good idea?

Once Sweden does it, then perhaps other countries will be tempted to follow suit. At the very least it is not something that can be dismissed as the delusional rantings of internet posters or others but something which is practised in the country that gave us SAAB, Volvo, Ikea and other giant companies famous across the world.

A modern SAAB car.

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Another car giant, Volvo.

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I am completely against it. Though it can make life far easier and more convenient and can decrease burglary which can be a very horrifying and traumatic experience for those who undergo it, I feel that it comes at a far greater risk or loss and that is of our personal liberty.

The state is becoming increasingly more and more powerful and more and more we are losing our ability to be private individuals with the increase of modern technology, for instance the mobile phones that we use can easily trace as to whichever part of the world that we are in. For the state to have the power to find and monitor every single financial transaction that we carry out is very worrying, especially if the state is an undemocratic and illiberal one. Even in democracies themselves, many complain that the elected politicians are nothing but liars or even in some cases corrupt thieves coming in to power to enrich themselves and their friends.

Money to an extent defines us, and if not us, our current situation. By defining I do not mean that it is a valid measurement of your worth as a person or you morally, but it defines what you can and cannot do, or what you can do in your current circumstances. For the state to know how much money you have and everything you do with it they know far something far more important and fundamental than what food you eat, or what socks you wear every day which we would generally consider to be an invasion of privacy.

There is also the question of what happens if an electronic virus wipes damages our IT system, when people can hack in to NASA or the US defence department’s systems they can also damage other things. Making the world more and more IT-dependent is risky because as they say “do not put all your eggs in to one basket” and if we are reliant on IT alone then we suffer devastation if IT-based systems are damaged or destroyed. The recent blackout of 0.6 billion people in India (less than 10% of the world’s population) shows the damage that can be done in the modern electronic and technological age that we live in.

0.6 billion Indians without power in July 2012.

 Image source. 

 

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For me the abolition of cash is something reminiscent of George Orwell’s classic work, 1984 which depicted the horrifying scenario of an all-powerful state.

George Orwell’s famous masterpiece, “1984” which has had a huge cultural influence on modern society, with terms such as “Big brother” coming in to our every day lexicon.

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However this is a huge topic and much more can be written.

Thank you for reading.

– Jahan

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As I said in my previous blog, I will be going to Malaysia in a few weeks. I will be staying there for 2 weeks and hope to visit different parts of the country including of course the capital, Kuala Lumpur and the northern state of Kelantan next to the border with Thailand. I have been asked by my Malaysian friend to order three books. The books are by a Swedish writer and my linguistically versatile friend wanted them in the original Swedish. Unfortunately the company where you can buy the books online don’t deliver the books to Malaysia, but they do deliver to the much closer United Kingdom.

The website was http://bokus.com

Bokus.com, a website for Swedish language books.

 

Image source.

 

The first book that my friend requested was “Män som hatar kvinnor” (Men who hate women).

The book Män som hatar kvinnor, known to many in English in the form of the film "The girl with the dragon tattoo".

 

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The second was “Flickan som lekte med elden” (“The Girl Who Played with Fire).

"Flickan som lekte med elden" (The Girl Who Played with Fire), also made in to a film.

 

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The third and final was “Luftslottet som sprängdes” (“(“The Grandiose Fantasy that was Blown up”), translated in to English as “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” and made in to a fim.

Luftslottet som sprängdes.

 

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The writer of all of these books, which are part of a trilogy, namely the “Millenium Trilogy” is the Swedish writer and leftist, Stieg Larrson.

Stieg Larsson, whose success was such that in 2008 he was the second best selling author in the world.

 

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Larsson’s work became seen to be more even more relevant when a fellow Scandinavian shocked the world with a bloody massacre of people in 2011. Larsson had written about the far right in Scandinavia two decades earlier but no one had anticipated this. If Larsson was an idealistic leftist than Anders Breivik was his antithesis, a right wing extremist. Whereas Larsson took to the pen, Breivik took to the gun.

Anders Breivik the right wing extremist from Norway, Sweden's neighbour, who carried out a horrific massacre which shocked the world.

 

The reason why I am mentioning this in my website is that though globalization has achieved many books, it has not yet made Swedish books be delivered to Malaysia! So my Malaysian friend had to ask me a Londoner to buy them and get them delivered to my house in London, so that I can bring them over to him when I go over there.

However when I went to the website, everything was in Swedish and there was no foreign language option or no way I could use English, so I had to rely on a friend (whom I would like to thank, Hanna) and also on “Google Translator”.

So though the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place, and we are all becoming more and more interconnected there are still limitations. Limitations for a shrewd business minded person means an opportunity, a niche in which they can fill a gap and provide a service or product to those who need it and of course, make money! This whole process involved a Malay, a Swede, and a Londoner all using facebook and hotmail to carry it out.

Swedish giant, Ikea are however in Malaysia! So the Scandinavians do have a commercial presence in the country.

Swedish giant Ikea is in Malaysia even if other Swedes aren't.

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– Jahan Choudhry

 

 

 

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