Having been raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression, I had a sense of the poverty and want of that time in Newfoundland history. People did not have money; their pockets were empty. Fisherman sold their salt fish to the merchant, who graded the fish, and sold food and supplies back to the fishers based on the value of their catch. Money seldom exchanged hands as the value of the fish was rarely enough to cover the goods the fishers needed for the coming winter. Most families were indebted to the merchant from year to year.
Max Braithwaite wrote about Saskatchewan, Canada during the Depression and referred to the empty pockets of the people who lived on the prairies at that time. During his first year teaching, he lived in the basement of the school, ate food provided by the families of the children he taught and was not paid until the end of the school year. He did not have a penny in his pockets.
In Prince Edward Island, Canada, Marion Reid wrote about the egg economy at that time. Farmers did not have any money unless they brought eggs to the store where they received cash for them.
Today many people do not carry cash although it is not due to a lack of money. Rather, we are becoming a card carrying society and the need for cash is limited. Standing in line at a store check-out, it is obvious that few people carry cash and the people who do are often seniors. Rarely do young people make payment with cash. Bank cards have taken the place of currency for many people.
Times have changed but pockets are still empty. Will we become a cashless society? Will every exchange of funds for goods and services become electronic? With many of the transactions today being electronic in nature, it will not be a huge step to eliminate cash altogether.
If we pay for everything with a card, will we spend more than we would if we handed out our hard earned cash for a transaction? If so, we will be no better off than the generation who was indebted to the merchant from year to year. It will take discipline to live within our means if a cashless society becomes a reality. In some ways, times have not changed all that much.