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QZ&A

Kenneth Rogoff wrote the book on getting rid of paper money

John Detrixhe
Member exclusive by John Detrixhe for The Future of Cash

Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff has been a professional chess player, the chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, a Harvard professor, and the author of several seminal books about macroeconomics. It’s an impressive, if not particularly dangerous, career. That’s why the death threats were so jarring.

Rogoff’s latest book “The Curse of Cash” claims paper money fuels the underground economy and is widely used for tax evasion and other criminal activities, while central banks look the other way. It’s a strong position to take, but Rogoff didn’t expect the more than a dozen violent threats that wound up in his inbox. “A lot of the people who are against banning semi-automatic weapons are against banning $100 bills,” he said. “There’s a very big overlap.”

For some 20 years, Rogoff has argued that cash, especially high-value notes like the $100 bill, has worn out its welcome. The European Central Bank’s €500 note, after all, was known as the “Bin Laden” before it stopped issuing them.

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