Vhen Banks do not Always Know Best


Babatunde Valentine Onabajo


6th edition (2016/2017)


Payments / Technology

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The highly esteemed 20th century British novelist C.S. Lewis once remarked that: “a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive” (Lewis, 1987). He went on to explain that this is because a tyranny that exists for the sake of evil can only be evil for so long – “It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated”. A tyranny exercised by people he referred to as “moral busybodies”, however, would “torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience” (Lewis, 1987).

In many respects, such sentiments describe the situation in the financial technology (fintech) world today with regard to the mass issuance of contactless cards by banks and other financial institutions. We are told that contactless cards “are good for us” and we need not question our supposed “betters” who know more than we can ever hope to know with regard to our payment preferences. Those who want to opt out of using contactless technology are told they have no choice in the matter (Collinson, 2015).

Why is this a problem?

This is problematic as it is underpinned by what is known in the academic literature as “paternalism”. Paternalism is defined as an “interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm” (Dworkin, 2017).

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