DAILY BRIEFING
Inflate the Penny

Jun. 3 - William Safire has called for the abolition of the "outdated, almost worthless, bothersome and wasteful penny." (The penny is a one-cent coin.)

Hallelujah to that. Get rid of the nickel, too, please. But to keep the copper and zinc lobbies from opposing the abolition of those useless coins, as Safire claims they've been doing, let's get serious about coinage. Instead of eliminating two of our coins, why not inflate them by a factor of 100? The "New Penny" would be a dollar—not some silly novelty dollar, but something with the weight and gravity of actual money. The "New Nickel" would be a five-dollar coin. Both would be minted using the same minerals being used for the penny and nickel.

Think of it: you could go to a bar with a handful of coins. You wouldn't need five pounds in loose change for toll-money on long road trips. It'd be a little awkward tipping strippers, but I'm sure they'd find a creative way to be accommodating.

* * *

The smallest unit of currency here in Denmark is the Ýre, or "ear." An ear is one-hundredth of a crown (krone). Since crowns are worth about sixteen cents each, ears are obviously worth 0.16 cents each—in other words, you need about six of them to muster the value of a penny.

The Danes don't trouble themselves with individual ears. The smallest minted coin has a value of 25 ears. There are also 50-ear coins. Then you have your one, two, five, ten, and twenty-crown pieces.

Danish prices, however, refuse to acknowledge the reality of Danish coinage. You'll frequently see prices like "99.95" despite the fact that it's physically impossible for such an amount to be tendered in Danish cash. Registers at larger stores ring up two totals: the actual total of your purchase, and then, below it, in electrical parentheses, the total as rounded off to be payable in cash.

It's a brazen maneuver. You don't ordinarily see such mathematical sleight-of-hand performed so flagrantly. "Here's what you owe," the register seems to be saying, "but we're going to charge you a little extra because we've been too fucking lazy to make all our prices payable in actual money."

[Digression: Dagens Ord]

The day of the word is penge, meaning money. It takes a while to get the hang of its usage because penge is plural. For example:

"Did you bring your money?"
"Yes, I have them."

[End Digression]

Over at NRO's The Corner, which I always enjoy browsing, they appear to be furious with the very notion of penny abolition. Many of my favorite columnists are defending the penny on the grounds that, well, you know, we're kinda used to it and stuff.

That's not conservatism. That's not even traditionalism. It's just silly. I assume Jonah Goldberg and John Derbyshire are still writing with quills and papyrus all day, taking their coach-and-six home from work and then digging dinner ingredients out of their root cellars and tuning in to the best of "Little Orphan Annie" on their AM radios. Which is a complete metaphorical meltdown, but you get my point. (And isn't it kind of ironic that these journalists are crying out for "tradition" on the medium of... a blog? Break out the broadsheets, guys!)

Traditions aren't valuable just because they're traditions. They only became traditions in the first place because they served some important use or purpose. As those uses or purposes expire, or become eclipsed by other developments, the traditions wither away. But that's almost beside the point. The Treasury has been reintroducing new paper bills for years, now, and I don't remember any particular ruckus over at NRO when, for example, the new twenty showed up.

The penny is a scourge. It's worthless clutter. If you see one in the street, do you still stop and pick it up? If so, is it for its actual monetary value or because you think "all the day you'll have good luck?"

The sooner we get rid of it—er, pump it up—the better.

Birthdays

Today is the birth of Colleen Dewhurst (1926), Allen Ginsberg (1926), Tony Curtis (1925), Josephine Baker (1906), and Jefferson Davis (1808).

Happy Thursday!

© 2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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