Remaking the Money

Jeff Schneider has a good post up about how our country, for all its talk of liberty, devotes too much attention and reverence to men of power. He’s specifically talking about memorials and coins, which are almost universally devoted to politicians with a few generals thrown in. Don Boudreaux riffed off this to come up with a list of people he would put on our coins and currency in place of the current list of politicians, politicians and more politicians.

Our current arrangement has the following men on our currency. For coins: Lincoln (penny), Jefferson (nickel), FDR (dime), Washington (quarter), Kennedy (half-dollar), various (dollar). Only Sacagawea wasn’t a politician but she’s been replaced by a list of all of our Presidents. For bills, we have: Washington ($1), Jefferson ($2), Lincoln ($5), Hamilton ($10), Jackson ($20), Grant ($50) and Franklin ($100). McKinley, Cleveland, Madison, Chase and Wilson are on higher denominations that are no longer in circulation.

Looking at that list, I can see a lot of room for improvement. As admirable as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are, do they need to be on both a coin and a bill? There’s no reason Kennedy should be on a coin, other than Baby Boomer idol worship. Batshit crazy Indian-murdering Andrew Jackson doesn’t belong on a coin. Nor does Grant, really.

So here’s how I’d remake things:

  • The penny: I’d get rid of pennies.
  • Nickels: I’d actually get rid of nickels too, but we’ll have a big enough fight getting rid of pennies. If you must have a nickel, go with someone like Earnest Hemingway or some other artist or writer. Hemingway with a shotgun and a bottle of whiskey would make an awesome nickel.
  • Dime: Jonas Salk.
  • Quarter: The Wright Brothers.
  • Half Dollar: MLK
  • Dollar coin: I like the idea of varying this to reflect various important people from history (non-politician division). One year, you could have Elvis. One year, you could have Carnegie. If you wanted, you could put Steve Jobs on the dollar for a year. Or Bill Gates. Or both. I’d much rather have Bill Gates on my currency than a damned Kennedy. However, that could make coin-collecting expensive, so maybe that’s better done with the quarter.
  • $1 bill – I’d get rid of the $1 bill
  • $2 bill – Let’s stick with Jefferson but let’s also recognize him for the things he considered the most important — the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Religious Freedom and the creation of the University of Virginia.
  • $5 bill – We can stick with Lincoln
  • $10 bill – George Washington can go here. Washington is one of the few Presidents truly worthy of honoring. He could have stayed in office until he died. He could have massively expanded the power of the Presidency. But he didn’t. And that choice was critical to the survival of our Republic.
  • $20 bill – I’d put Norman Borlaug here. I think an American who saved over a billion lives deserves some recognition, don’t you?
  • $50 bill – Albert Einstein. He was born in Germany, but we’ll claim him.
  • $100 bill – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Because, in the end, the greatest achievement of Western Civilization, so far, was putting a man on the moon.
  • Anyway, put your ideas in the comments.

    Comments are closed.

    1. Seattle Outcast

      I’d keep all the current coins and bills, but they do need a shakeup:

      Ronald Reagan
      John Wayne
      Batman
      Colt Pistol
      Flag Raising at Iwo Jimo
      Patton
      WWII Army Helmet
      M16 Rifles, crossed
      Apollo orbiter
      A-10 Tank Killer
      Empire State building
      Driving of the Golden Spike
      Mount Rushmore
      Route 66

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    2. richtaylor365

      I like the idea of shaking things up a bit, but since (in my mind) putting folks on currency is the highest compliment a country can pay to a citizen, much thought and reflection is required.

      I agree with you on the penny (get rid of it), removing Kennedy from our currency, and getting rid of the dollar bill ( remove the 2 dollar bill as well, useless), but would like to see 1,5,10 and 20 dollar coins, more economical.

      As far as people, I strongly disagree with you about Andrew Jackson not being worthy, come on, he was the most baddass president, like evah. Anybody that carried a hickory cane around (and beat many folks into a coma with it), personally dueled (and killed) more people than posterity can count (even giving opponents the first shot and carried one musket ball in him for 19 years), and who famously quoted ,”I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun”, deserves the highest currency recognition.

      Other presidents deserving; Madison (for his Constitutional scholarship), Eishenhower, and Reagan (for the obvious reason of winning the Cold War, and providing countless millions the opportunity to taste freedom).

      Other notables deserving;

      John Steinbeck
      Mark Twain
      George Gershwin
      Thomas Edison
      Alexander G. Bell
      Josiah Gibbs (the guy Einstein said was smarter then him and the greatest mind in American history)
      Sam Walton
      John D. Rockefeller (if being the richest man in American history means anything)

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    3. Argive

      I do think that Madison deserves some recognition for his contributions to the Constitution, as well as being the only president to not restrict civil liberties in wartime. That was one of the few things Madison did right during the War of 1812. Not sure if that deserves being put on a coin/bill, though. I also would keep Franklin on the $100. His diplomatic skills were critical during the Revolution, and he really was a true polymath as well as a prolific inventor and scholar. He accomplished quite a lot more than tying a key to a kite string, in any case.

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    4. Hal_10000 *

      Rich, I was being a bit humorous … I don’t really want Elvis on a coin. I think your ideas are pretty good, especially Madison, for reasons you and Argive mentioned. One of the most under-rated Presidents in history, IMHO.

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    5. Xetrov

      Wow, had no clue about Bell. There’s bound to be negatives, whoever would be chosen. Most likely more than half of those currently on money were slave owners, so we can’t have that! And George Washington had it out for Cherry trees, so he’s out. I vote for fictional characters. SO’s recommendation of Batman being first on my list.

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    6. Seattle Outcast

      Reading about Bell reminds me of the discussion surrounding cochlear implants as a “cure” for deafness – can we get a side thread going?

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    7. hist_ed

      Also didn’t know about the dark side of Bell. But I read this line and shook my head:

      “Bell believed that deafness was a horrible curse to the person who suffered from it.”

      Isn’t it a horrible curse? I think Bell’s other thoughts about the deaf (basically Eugenics) are horrible, but I kinda agree that deafness is a pretty bad thing-that why we try to cure it, right?

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    8. Starving Writer

      [quote]Isn’t it a horrible curse? I think Bell’s other thoughts about the deaf (basically Eugenics) are horrible, but I kinda agree that deafness is a pretty bad thing-that why we try to cure it, right?[/quote]

      For you, who have always had the ability to hear and can’t imagine life without it, losing your hearing would probably be a horrible curse.

      For me, who have never heard a sound my entire life? It’s just a way of life. And I’m speaking as somebody who had the cochlear implant surgery and hated it so much I ditched the machine in a drawer and never touched it again.

      You know what you’ve grown up with. You rely on your hearing. After a lifetime of silence, I found hearing to be incredibly annoying, distracting, and completely unnecessary. if there were a magic pill that’d cure deafness, I wouldn’t take it. I’m perfectly content with my life and don’t view my deafness as a “curse.”

      I realize that this is a very difficult concept for most “able-bodied” people to grasp (heck, I feel the same way about my sight — losing my sight would absolutely be a curse, but there are many blind people out there who are perfectly content with their lives and don’t want to see). A true ally of deaf people would’ve accepted that deaf people are perfectly happy the way they are. A.G. Bell didn’t, and instead he basically single-handed committed cultural genocide on the deaf population, wiping out nearly all of the progress they had made from 1817 (when the first deaf school was founded in USA) to 1880 and plunged the field of deaf education into a sort of “dark ages” that the field still hasn’t fully recovered from.

      Comments like yours is a great indication of the kind of damage that A.G. Bell did.

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    9. Seattle Outcast

      I tried to talk to my wife’s niece about it (or hell, anything at all), but she was too much of a self-absorbed dickbag to do anything except text her deaf friends 24/7 the entire time she was in Seattle.

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    10. richtaylor365

      SW, I commend you for your resiliency in dealing with your disability, but tbh your opinion that other deaf people would not like to hear if they could seems ludicrous. If your position was the prevailing one, then when babies were born with a disability, the consensus would be ,”No big deal, he/she will just adapt, and lead a normal happy life, let’s not do anything at all to improve the situation”. If you go to youtube you can find dozens of video’s of people who through modern technology learned to hear for the first time, the results are life changing. If they felt like you, they would not bothered in the first place. Ditto, with your opinion about blind people., are you telling me that those either born blind or became blind later in life would not take some magic elixir that would restore their sight in a heartbeat?

      I think you took unfair umbrage at hist_ed’s use of the word “curse”, nothing was meant by it, and he made a good point, the mere fact that so much effort, study and research goes into addressing disabilities of all kinds indicates that the prevailing attitude with those afflicted is that they would like to be “normal”.

      A natural extension of your attitude would be ,” So what that your son was born paralyzed from the waist down, he will adapt and be happy with his station in life, in fact he won’t even want to walk if we could cure him”.

      Much progress has been made with gene therapy and stem cell research in dealing and curing blindness. There is a real need for this type of research because most sufferers do not share your view, they would love to see again. The same with all other forms of disabilities; the blind want to see, the deaf want to hear, and the lame want to walk again. Hopefully, someday, they all can.

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