OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Feb. 27, 2023) – Last week, an Oklahoma House committee unanimously passed a bill that would require brick-and-mortar businesses and government agencies in the state to accept cash for payment of goods and services. The bill would protect Oklahomans from being forced to adopt a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

Rep. Clay Staires (R) introduced House Bill 1633 (HB1633) on Feb. 6. Under the proposed law, a retail establishment would be prohibited from requiring payment by credit card or a central bank digital currency during normal business hours. Retail establishments also could not legally prohibit the use of cash, nor penalize cash customers.

“A retail establishment selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail during regular business hours shall accept cash as legal tender when offered by the buyer as payment and shall not charge a penalty for use of cash.”

The provisions would not apply to online or over-the-phone purchases, parking lots, wholesale or membership-based retail stores, or goods sold exclusively through a membership model that requires payment by means of an affiliated mobile device application.

State and local government entities would operate under similar rules.

On Feb. 22, the House Business and Commerce Committee passed HB1633 by an 8-0 vote.

In effect, the enactment of HB1633 would protect Oklahomans’ right to use cash and shield them from being required to use a central bank digital currency.

CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCIES (CBDC)

Digital currencies exist as virtual banknotes or coins held in a digital wallet on your computer or smartphone. The difference between a central bank (government) digital currency and a peer-to-peer electronic cash such as bitcoin is that the value of the digital currency is backed and controlled by the government, just like traditional fiat currency.

Government-issued digital currencies are sold on the promise of providing a safe, convenient, and more secure alternative to physical cash. We’re also told it will help stop dangerous criminals who like the intractability of cash. But there is a darker side – the promise of control.

At the root of the move toward government digital currency is “the war on cash.” The elimination of cash creates the potential for the government to track and even control consumer spending.

Imagine if there was no cash. It would be impossible to hide even the smallest transaction from the government’s eyes. Something as simple as your morning trip to Starbucks wouldn’t be a secret from government officials. As Bloomberg put it in an article published when China launched a digital yuan pilot program in 2020, digital currency “offers China’s authorities a degree of control never possible with physical money.”

The government could even “turn off” an individual’s ability to make purchases. Bloomberg described just how much control a digital currency could give Chinese officials.

The PBOC has also indicated that it could put limits on the sizes of some transactions, or even require an appointment to make large ones. Some observers wonder whether payments could be linked to the emerging social-credit system, wherein citizens with exemplary behavior are ‘whitelisted’ for privileges, while those with criminal and other infractions find themselves left out. ‘China’s goal is not to make payments more convenient but to replace cash, so it can keep closer tabs on people than it already does,’ argues Aaron Brown, a crypto investor who writes for Bloomberg Opinion.”

Economist Thorsten Polleit outlined the potential for Big Brother-like government control with the advent of a digital euro in an article published by the Mises Wire. As he put it, “the path to becoming a surveillance state regime will accelerate considerably” if and when a digital currency is issued.

In 2022, the Federal Reserve released a “discussion paper” examining the pros and cons of a potential US central bank digital dollar. According to the central bank’s website, there has been no decision on implementing a digital currency, but this pilot program reveals the idea is further along than most people realized.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB1633 can now move to the full House for further consideration. It could also be referred to a second committee.

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