[Avodah] Paying your workers on time using electronic payments

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Mon Jun 24 19:00:44 PDT 2019

R' Micha Berger asked:

> When you wire money, money goes from one account to another.
> The fact that said money is only represented by bits, rather
> than slips of paper, may not change anything. Even if the bill
> was backed by gold or silver, you could ask whether it counts
> as money; fiat currency more so. But data... why would it be
> any different than fiat currency?

I would suggest that there is one small difference between bytes of data
and fiat currency: Granted that fiat currency doesn't have any inherent
value, but it at least a tangible object. Being a tangible object, even if
it is a worthless one, it is still possible to pick it up physically and
perform some sort of kinyan on.

I'm not at all familiar with the halachos of performing kinyanim on
worthless objects, but I'd presume that it's at least a mashehu better than
the kinyanim one might perform on intangible bytes.

Next topic...

In several contexts, and with various phrasings, R' Micha Berger has
pointed out:

> credit card transfers include the power to claw back the money.

I would like to distinguish between two different kinds of credit card
transactions. One is the ordinary purchase of an object in a store. I
choose my object, somebody presses buttons and/or swipes a card, and the
sale is complete, with a debit from my account and a credit on theirs. My
ability to challenge the transaction later, and "claw my money back" is
totally irrelevant, because even if I am successful, it would be a separate
transaction. Every economic system provides for this situation, because we
must have a way to correct errors (whether accidental or deliberate). For
example, suppose I pay my employees promptly and with cash, with all the
hidurim. And then I realize that I overpaid one of them. The fact that I
can get the overpayment back does not invalidate case as a payment method!
And similarly, I can't see why "the power to claw back the money" would be
a problem with other payment methods.

But there is another, entirely different sort of credit card payment, and
it is fairly common at hotels, restaurants, and many other situations:
Instead of everything becoming a fait accompli at the point of sale, the
transaction is merely put on "hold", giving the merchant a few days to
adjust the amount up or down. And then, a few days later, that's when the
transaction is finalized. In this model, errors can be corrected before the
money actually enters the receiver's account, and it seems to me that this
is a serious problem for all sorts of Bal Talin situations, because the
recipient might not receive the money until days later than expected.

Next topic...

It seems to me that many of the questions being raised about credit cards
are not really new at all, and are easily compared to older questions
regarding payment by check. For example, one of my seforim points to a
difference between the common practice in Israel and in the US: In Israel,
many merchants will accept a third-party check as payment, and therefore a
paycheck can be considered as cash (in terms of the employer's mitzva to
pay with cash). But in the US such checks are accepted far more rarely, and
so it is not considered cash. (Personally, I'm not sure if I *ever* "spent"
a paycheck in this manner, except for some supermarkets that allowed it
*IF* I would pre-register and fill out a few forms and such beforehand.)

In contrast, it is very easy to use a bank card to purchase groceries, and
in fact some stores are trying to refuse cash. When I compare this fact to
what I wrote at the beginning about fiat money, I come to an interesting
conclusion: If the issue is making a kinyan, then physical fiat money is
possibly better than the intangible bytes that were credited to my card.
But if the issue is spendability, then a bank card is much better than a
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20190624/17af9c08/attachment.html>

More information about the Avodah mailing list