Money is dirty! No, I am not talking about the immorality of money, you’re on the wrong blog for that conversation. I am talking about the physical banknotes that are passed from person to person; cash is covered in human and animal filth! And in light of the COVID-19 or the coronavirus, it is no small thing to consider the positive effects that adopting cryptocurrency, a purely digital currency, could have on the health of a society. If for nothing else, then for the simple fact that it might help to stop the spread of infectious diseases.
However, given that cryptocurrencies continue to demonstrate their value as exchanged currency, held assets and as a means for raising capital (ICOs), it might be time to consider the encouragement of cryptocurrency adoption rather than continuing to invest in a fiat-currency or hold on to cash.
Since we know how dirty money is, don’t you think it’s time everyone took the benefits of using cryptocurrency a little more seriously?
China’s Health Initiative to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19: Sterilizing Cash
The coronavirus, as I am sure you are all well aware of by now, is no small problem. The rate of infection has led to people being held in quarantine, as it has spread to 72 countries around the world.
Not only that, airports have canceled flights, and many countries have put a hold on travel to and from China. Even the Lourve in Paris is currently closed.
Presently, China is believed to be the country of origin. There have been over 45,000 confirmed cases, with 1117 deaths as of this writing.
China’s idea about money…
One of the many direct actions that the Chinese government has taken to control the spread of COVID-19 is to sterilize their cash, and to put a hold on the movement of cash via transactions and money transfers between banks. Instead, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is encouraging an increase in digital transactions, this on top of the transactions already made using digital means.
China’s population currently sits just under 1.5 billion, with a large agrarian population accounting for much of that, over half of China’s population remains in rural areas. And yet the virus continues to spread, due to the population density of many of China’s cities.
In light of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the PBOC has stopped the movement of cash from major infected cities in China. They have put in place a practice of sterilizing cash with ultraviolet light and heat, the cash will then be held for 14 days.
That means that the infection is spread by entering the nose, mouth, eyes or ears. This occurs through contact with infected surfaces – surfaces such as cash – dirty money.
What Else Is On Your Money
It is unlikely that it is the coronavirus that first brought to your attention how dirty physical money really is. In fact, there have been many studies in the past highlighting just how unhygienic money is in the past because of the pathogens it is able to carry.
Money is passed from person to person, in restaurants, homes, washrooms, banks. Money is in contact with every surface. And unlike those surfaces, it is not getting a good Mr. Clean scrub down.
One such, rather infamous, study was conducted in 1996. The study collected banknotes from a selection of large American cities and tested them for traces of cocaine. Based on the results of the study, approximately 79% of the bills tested were found to have trace amounts of cocaine on them.
Why was the percentage so high? Well, because cash is not just the best way to traffick in illegal drugs, but using rolled bills is also one of the preferred ways to use cocaine, according to this 1996 study.
However, finding cocaine on your cash may not be as personally worrisome as carrying the coronavirus, in fact, I am sure many would be just fine with it, like a gift with purchase.
Furthermore, in other studies examining banknotes, cocaine was not the only thing researchers found on banknotes; and it is definitely one of the less worrisome.
What else is on your money?
In yet another study done in 2002, eukaryotes, bacteria, viruses, and archaea are some of the other specimens found on cash.
What are those things? Basically, they are skin cells, snot and other fluids, cold and flues, viruses, feces, and large amounts of taxa. Interestingly, taxa are associated with dairy production and fermentation.
Also, on 94% of the bills tested in the 2002 studies, a variety of strains of staphylococcus was also found.
Suffice to say, money ain’t clean – it’s very dirty!
Finding Patient Zero
Returning to our concern for the spread of the COVID-19, an important part of understanding the spread of any infection is understanding where it began. It is not clear exactly how the virus started. However, the first human cases are believed to have been contracted in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, in December 2019.
However, while researchers work to discover the exact origins of the Coronavirus, a strong working hypothesis is that the virus may have originated with bats and then later spread through the popular pangolin trade.
Many illnesses spread from animals to humans, including China’s SARS outbreak in 2003, which originated with bats, and the later MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia in 2012, which originated with palm civets and then passed on to camels.
Pangolins, COVID-19, and Cryptocurrency
Pangolins are endangered scaly, ant-eating mammals. At present, all four species of the pangolin are the most trafficked endangered animal currently on the black market.
And China has a huge market for the pangolin scales. As a result, these animals are imported in tremendous numbers to Chinese markets, where their scales are sold for food and medicine.
Present findings suggest that pangolin scales can host a variety of coronaviruses. Moreover, a cursory study shows that 99% of those who have been infected with the virus have a strain that is a match to that of the pangolin.
That brings the total of people infected with the pangolin strain up to around 40,000. This means that those who are infected with this strain may have come into contact, directly or indirectly, with pangolin scales.
However, while the reigning hypothesis is that the infection is being spread from pangolin scales, the original animal is believed to be a bat. That means that the pangolin is considered an intermediate host, which means the point of transfer to humans. However, the pangolin is not where the virus originated.
What might this all have to do with cryptocurrency? Well, it is a bit of a digression I grant you. Still, it might be taken as a reminder of how easily viruses spread on the surfaces of things, included among pangolin scales, and a return to our original culprit, cash.
Moreover, rather than invest in black market endangered species trades, just invest in cryptocurrency! It’s so much easier! And no pangolins are killed. Nor does the coronaviruses spread
The Case for Digital Money
The coronavirus is believed to have started in a marketplace in China. Therefore the need to sterilize the potentially infected cash is paramount. But we are also seeing the additional problem, which is the continued reliance on physical cash.
Banknotes are made of combinations of polymer, linen, and cotton. While polymer is less porous, banknotes with higher cotton and linen content are more porous. That means that banknotes are an ideal breeding ground for infection; as we have seen with the incidences of cocaine, feces, and milk.
Aside from the problem of infection due to carriers of disease, there is a financial cost as well. China’s need to sterilize its cash is a particular financial, not just a serious medical concern. The cost of collecting and sterilizing cash is dear. However, the cost of simply maintaining a cash economy also comes at a great expense, which I will explain in further detail.
What is the Cost of Cash?
While criticizing dirty money for carrying infection and disease, we might also pause to consider how much it costs to keep cash and coins in circulation.
Just how much does it cost to produce currency and coin?
Well, here is a report from the Federal Reserve Board. The current projected budget to produce, engrave and print legal tender in the 2019 currency operating budget is $955.8 million and the multi-cycle capital budget is $3.2 million.
All that to mint coins and cash, in a nearly paperless world. The cost of China’s cash sterilization cannot be cheap.
Gold and Bitcoin, Bitcoin and Gold
As electronic transactions grow, coronavirus seems like a lesson we can use to move towards adoption of cryptocurrencies. One of the limitations of typical digital transactions is the concern for a lack of security. However, with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, making secure digital transactions is not an issue. The blockchain technology that Bitcoin was built on is incredibly secure. It’s nearly impossible to attack, unlike most banks and PayPal transactions.
While gold is currently trading at a seven-year high, Bitcoin is sitting around $8500 USD. Although Bitcoin is down about 34%, this is not uncommon. Bitcoin is a volatile asset by nature. Still, both gold and Bitcoin are being looked at as a safe-haven asset.
Cryptocurrency continues to gain legitimacy as companies including Square and Facebook begin to accept and create their own cryptocurrencies.
What’s more, futures trading for Bitcoin is now being conducted on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. That means that Bitcoin is open to purchase by mutual funds, hedge funds, and pension funds.
Final Thoughts on Cryptocurrency, Germs and Endangered Species
But in all seriousness, it is times such as these when we must learn to use the tools that we have more effectively. That way we can benefit the most from them. Now, in the uncertainty of the coronavirus, it seems like a good time to start using cryptocurrency. For the simple fact of limiting ourselves to exposure to dangerous pathogens that are carried on cash and banknotes.
- Wash your hands. The CDC recommends you wash your hand thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Wash them when you return home, before you eat, and of course, after using the washroom.
- If you feel ill stay at home, rest and do not return to work or public until you are no longer feeling symptoms of any illness. While it is unlikely that you have had contact with the COVID-19, those with weakened immune systems are at a much greater risk of contracting the virus.
- Currently, the virus is the most deadly in China, but the coronavirus has continued to spread, albeit at a slow enough rate that the COD is NOT considering a pandemic -fear not, you may continue to go outside.
- Don’t use cash! Use digital and electronic payments. Cash is porous and can be an excellent host to the disease. We live in a global economy and it is time to submit to the necessity for digital, perhaps non-fiat currency.
- Give your computer, phones and home a good clean. Researchers have found that household cleaning products containing 62% to 71% ethanol (alcohol), .5% hydrogen peroxide, or .1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to be effective at killing the virus that is potentially living on surfaces.
- DO NOT purchase any black market pangolin scales from Chinese markets, which come from the critically endangered animal! If you didn’t know that, then take note of it now.
- If you do not need to travel, then don’t. Instead, consider postponing your holidays and trips until the COVID-19 is under control.
- Finally, do your research and invest in your cryptocurrency of choice. If you need help deciding what is worth investing in, start here.