Tag: Currency

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 Only Sacagawea wasn’t a politician but she’s been replaced by a list of all of our Presidents.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.

    The Dollar Dilemma

    I’m not sure how you guys feel about dollar coins. I’ve spent many months in countries, particularly Australia, that have dollar coins. They are massively more convenient than bills, in my opinion. I really can’t understand why they haven’t caught on in this country. It seems mainly to be inertia. We don’t use dollar coins because … we don’t use dollar coins.

    Well that … and strippers tend to get annoyed when you try to put coins in their g-strings.

    I think the main problem is that we keep printing dollar bills, which only feeds the inertia. If the mint announced to the American people, “Hey, we’re no longer making dollar bills! Deal with it!” there would be a huge outcry followed, within a year, by everyone learning to live with it. The same thing goes for the tremendous amount of money we waste making useless pennies. If we abolished the penny, coin collectors would scream. Within a year, we’d be fine.

    It’s not clear to me that switching to dollar coins would save any money in the long haul. Coins and bills are a means of exchanging goods, not goods themselves. But if we’re going to do it, let’s do it. Either switch to dollar coins completely or give up on it.

    Still, it takes a Congress to look at this issue and … find the dumbest possible course of action when it comes to dollar coins:

    Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in Federal Reserve vaults in breathtaking numbers, thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007.

    And even though the neglected mountain of money recently grew past the $1 billion mark, the U.S. Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate.

    The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year.

    A joint inquiry by NPR’s Planet Money and Investigations teams found that the coins are the wasteful byproducts of a third, failed congressional effort to get Americans to use one-dollar coins in everyday commerce.

    Read the article and you’ll find some really hilarious quotes. The most recent idea was to put all of the Presidents on the coins on the idea that people would see them as “educational”. But people don’t use coins to educate, they use them to buy things. If I want my daughter to know who the 13th President was, I’ll show her wikipedia and keep my dollar for the strippers (or at my age, the vending machine).

    When they revised the dollar coins, they insisted that, despite the Presidential heads educational initiative, at least 20% of the new coins had to be made with Sacagawea on them. Because we all remember the riots that rocked the country when, for a brief period, it looked the dollar coins we’re not using would not be embossed with the face of someone we never heard of.

    I actually have several of the dollar coins on me and they are quite pretty. It would be great if I could use them in vending machines or on the Pennsylvania turnpike. But until Congress and the mint shit or get off the pot, that won’ happen. And those coins will continue to sit in a vault, draining money from the treasury.