Towards the end of cash

Sweden was the first country to introduce paper banknotes, back in 1661.  And now it is on the verge of being the first country to eliminate cash altogether:

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.

He says that’s a problem for elderly people in rural areas who don’t have credit cards or don’t know how to use them to withdraw cash.

The decline of cash is noticeable even in houses of worship, like the Carl Gustaf Church in Karlshamn, southern Sweden, where Vicar Johan Tyrberg recently installed a card reader to make it easier for worshippers to make offerings.

“People came up to me several times and said they didn’t have cash but would still like to donate money,” Tyrberg says.

Bills and coins represent only 3 percent of Sweden’s economy, compared to an average of 9 percent in the eurozone and 7 percent in the U.S., according to the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella organization for the world’s central banks.

Three percent is still too much if you ask [ABBA's Bjoern] Ulvaeus. A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for someone who made a fortune on “Money, Money, Money” and other ABBA hits, but for Ulvaeus it’s a matter of security.

After his son was robbed for the third time he started advocating a faster transition to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.

“If there were no cash, what would they do?” says Ulvaeus, 66.

The Swedish Bankers’ Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.

“Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public,” says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.

The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

“If people use more cards, they are less involved in shadow economy activities,” says Schneider, an expert on underground economies.

Do you think eliminating cash entirely in favor of all-electronic transactions would be a good idea?

Happy (belated) Gustavus Adolphus Day!

November 6 was the commemoration day for one of my heroes, the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, the military genius and devout Lutheran who arguably was used by God to save Protestantism from extermination during the Thirty Years’ War.   Sometimes honored as the greatest Lutheran layman, King Gustav makes for an interesting and inspiring example of vocation.

The blog of the LCMS leadership, Mercy, Witness, Life Together, has a great post about him, including an informative sermon by Rev. Eric Andrae:  Feast of Gustavus Adolphus, King and Martyr, 1632.

 

King Gustavus Adolphus

 

HT:  Mary

Putting humanity on trial

In Sweden, all of humanity has been put on trial with a jury of Nobel Laureates.

On Tuesday 17 May, humanity will be on trial as the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium brings together almost 20 Nobel Laureates, a number of leading policy makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability.

With Planet Earth as plaintiff and Nobel Laureates as jury members, compelling evidence will be presented showing how humanity may now be capable of radically altering the remarkable conditions for life on Earth. Nobel Laureates will hear how our vast imprint on the planet’s environment has shifted the Earth into a new geological period labelled the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Man.

“This court case is a bold step to take, especially in the context of this Nobel Laureate Symposium. It is, however, a necessary step towards recognising that our generation is the first to know that human pressure is so large that the possibility of irreversible changes to the Earth System can no longer be excluded. The prosecution will therefore maintain that humanity must work towards global stewardship around the planet’s intrinsic boundaries, a scientifically defined space within which we can continue to develop,” says Professor Will Steffen, prosecutor and Director at Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

One of the most recent and most significant attempts to provide scientific guidelines for such improved stewardship was published in Nature in 2009. The Planetary Boundaries approach was developed by 28 scientists, who estimated that three of the boundaries, climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss, have already been transgressed and that several other are already in the danger zone.

“We know the earth’s resilience and resource base cannot be stretched infinitely. Moreover we are now uncomfortably aware that “business as usual” is not an option anymore. Our societies and economies are integral parts of the biosphere and it is time for the leaders of the world to act as stewards of nature’s invaluable and inescapable contribution to human livelihoods, health, security and culture,” says Professor Johan Rockström, Symposium Chair and Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and Stockholm Environment Institute.

The court verdict will contribute to the Stockholm Memorandum to be signed by Nobel Laureates on 18 May. The Memorandum will be handed over in person to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed by the UN Secretary General in preparation for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20) and for the ongoing climate negotiations.

via Humanity on trial in Nobel Laureate Court Case | Global Symposium 2011.

First of all, this report was made before the event and it sounds like humanity was not considered innocent before being proven guilty.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I was not read my rights and did not have legal counsel.  The jury did not consist of my peers, since the Nobel Prize winners are smarter than me, and, anyway, aren’t they human beings too and thus part of the indictment?  I assume that the verdict was “guilty.”  So are they going to throw all of humanity into the slammer?  And if they do, who is going to run the prison?

HT: James Kirschner

Sex by surprise

It is being reported that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in Sweden with rape.  Actually, that most tolerant of nations is charging him with having sex without a condom.  Under certain conditions, apparently, that is a crime in that country.  So says this report:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing arrest for violating a Swedish law about sex without condoms, rather than a mainstream interpretation of “rape.” Yet that’s the charge reports often levy against him. Behold the smear campaign.

The New York Times wrote about the case on Thursday, noting that Swedish authorities were hunting Assange on charges of “rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion.” It commented on the alleged offense, stating claims by two women that “each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual.”

The Swedish charges aren’t exactly new, though. Some of the media had reported “rape” allegations back in August, and the Daily Mail even asserted the first alleged illegal act occurred when a condom broke, and the woman concerned “whatever her views about the incident,” then “appeared relaxed and untroubled at the seminar the next day.” At this seminar, Assange met the second alleged victim and “a source close to the investigation said the woman had insisted he wear a condom, but the following morning he made love to her without one.”

Assange has questioned the “veracity” of the two women’s statements, as the Times report notes. Assange’s former lawyer yesterday “confirmed” the charges were to do with sexual misconduct concerning sex without condoms. Assange’s current lawyer then revealed Swedish prosectors had told him they were not seeking Assange for “rape” at all, instead the alleged crime is “sex by surprise,” which carries a penalty of a fine, although the details of the allegations haven’t been revealed yet.

Thanks to Webmonk for pointing this out. The cosmopolitan Australian is not being prosecuted for publishing classified documents or endangering American security, though the soldier who gave him the documents might be. At any rate, what intrigues me here is Swedish law. Does a country extradite someone for a misdemeanor? Or in Sweden’s legal system is this new crime of “sex by surprise” a felony, but a felony punishable only by a fine? This all seems exceedingly strange.

Sweden seizes home-schooled child

The Christian Telegraph reports that Swedish government seizes child from home schooling family:

A Christian home schooling family could permanently lose custody of their only child simply because they home-school, reports LifeSiteNews.com. . . .

Swedish authorities forcibly removed Dominic Johansson from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, in June of last year from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime. The officials seized the child because they believe home schooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insist the government should raise Dominic instead.

“It’s one of the most disgraceful abuses of power we have ever witnessed,” said HSLDA [Homeschool Legal Defense Association] attorney Mike Donnelly. “The Swedish government says it is exercising its authority under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in their unnecessary break up of this family. In addition, the Swedish Parliament is considering an essential ban on home schooling. We have heard that other home-schooling families in Sweden are having more difficulty with local officials. We fear that all home-schooling families in that country are at risk.”

Swedish social services initially limited visitation to the child to two hours per week but now have curtailed that to one hour every fifth week and no visit at all for Christmas because the social workers will be on vacation.

On Dec. 17, a Swedish court ruled in Johansson v. Gotland Social Services that the government was within its rights to seize the child. They cited the fact that Dominic had not been vaccinated as a reason to remove him permanently from his parents and also claimed that home-schoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized.

Sweden skis down the slippery slope to gay marriage

Setting up legalized domestic partnerships for homosexual couples is a better option to gay marriage, isn’t it? And churches might bless gay commitments without buying into gay marriage, can’t they? Well, Sweden is turning domestic partnerships into marriages. And the state church of Sweden, Lutheran though it is, has voted to take the next step from gay blessings to gay weddings:

A majority of the Church of Sweden's general synod meeting in Uppsala decided on October 22 to allow same-sex weddings in church from November 1, six months after the state changed the law on marriage to encompass homosexual people.

Before the marriage law was changed, homosexual couples in Sweden could enter into registered partnerships, a possibility that has now been replaced by marriage. The Church of Sweden will now apply to the state to conduct legally recognized marriages under the new regulations.

Speaking to Swedish Radio, Bishop Martin Lind from Linköping who supported the general synod's decision noted that discussions that led to the vote had begun much earlier and led to the blessing of homosexual partnerships in Sweden some years ago.

"When we said yes to life-long homosexual love we said yes to the decisive part of it all. What is happening now is primarily a question of terminology: Can this also be called marriage?" he said.


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