Earlier this month, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to order every store in the city to accept cash. It seems that some innovative companies were experimenting with cashless stores as a way to cut costs, improve efficiency and keep prices down.
But in progressive San Francisco, that kind of progress cannot be tolerated.
Democrat-controlled Philadelphia imposed a similar ban on cashless stores in March. That same month, New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law banning cashless stores throughout the Garden State. Deep-blue Massachusetts has had a ban on the books for 40 years. New York City and Washington, D.C. — two more deep blue enclaves — might be next.
Indeed, when it comes to actual progress, achieved through private sector innovation, progressives tend to be the most reactionary of anyone.
Of course, there’s always some well-meaning justification. In the case of mandating cash, it’s supposed to help the poor and those without bank accounts. San Francisco Supervisor Vallie Brown, who introduced the cashless ban legislation, said that it “will go far in ensuring all San Franciscans have equitable access to the city’s economy.”
Philadelphia Councilman Bill Greenlee says banning cashless businesses is “about being fair to people and giving everyone an equal chance to buy a basic product.”
New Jersey assemblyman Paul Moriarty justified the statewide ban because “this idea of ‘we don’t want to accept cash’ just marginalizes the poor, young people who haven’t established credit yet, people who prefer to pay in cash.”
But the fact of the matter is that these bans are solutions in search of a problem.
Cashless stores are experimental at the moment, as cutting-edge businesses try to figure out ways to trim costs and improve efficiency.
Dos Toros, which has 17 outlets in New York and four in Chicago, says that its restaurants haven’t been robbed once since going cashless. It’s also cut down on employee theft, and spared managers the time and expense of counting and reconciling cash. Those savings can get passed on to its customers.
Good for them. But if other companies find that going cashless means cutting off too many customers, they will find a way to accommodate those carrying around wads of bills. Which is exactly what’s happening.
Shake Shack, for example, was considering converting stores to cashless, but decided against it when it realized how many of its customers paid with cash. Sweetgreen, a salad chain, went cashless a couple years ago, but decided to start accepting paper currency at all its stores by the end of the year. Amazon Go, which was designed from the ground up to be cashless, is taking cash at its New York store.
But if a store does want to be cashless, how is that a problem? How is it unfair? Customers who want to pay cash will always have options. Saying cashless stores are unfair because not everyone can shop there would justify banning Giorgio Armani because it “marginalizes the poor.”
Someone should inform these ban-happy progressives that the free market will sort all this out, far more effectively and efficiently and in a much more satisfactory way for all involved than any government decree ever could.
It’s these same progressive enclaves, by the way, that have fought against other forms of actual progress, whether it’s electric scooters (which cut down pollution), ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft (which cut commuting costs), rental services like Airbnb (which opened up more options for low-income travelers) . Before that, progressives attacked innovative retailers like Walmart for being too efficient and keeping costs too low. San Francisco even banned sidewalk delivery robots because, well, who knows why.
This is a lesson everyone should heed: Government doesn’t spur innovation. It thwarts it. The more powerful and intrusive a government gets, the less innovation will occur. Always and everywhere.
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