The Corner

More Penny Thoughts

From a reader:

Dear Jonah:

First, all those who favor the abolition of the penny need only demonstrate

their conviction by telling all cashiers to “keep the change” with respect

to pennies. That is, after all, the inevitable result of aboloshing the

penny: merchants (and the IRS) will simply round all prices up to the

“nearest nickel”. The rest of us “precision and accuracy freaks” will

continue to insist on getting change to the penny, thank you very much.

This approach is both “rational” and “libertarian”, although Libertarians

seem to think that is redundant.

Second, there are practical difficulties. Eliminating the penny, the “coin

of lowest face value”, is by definition a vain pursuit. The “nickel” would

simply become the “next penny”. Furthermore, if you thought that the “Y2K”

problem was costly, try rewriting all the world’s financial software, and

alter the existing data, to round off to the “nearest nickel”. Then again,

why just the penny? Why not make the ten dollar bill the smallest unit of

currency? That ought to empty our overloaded piggy banks even faster, no?

Or satisfy the ultra-rationalists and have a committee of mathematical

economists establish some sort of “cube-root of pi-squared over two” as the

basic unit of currency? Or some other nonsensical Jacobin scheme like tying

it to the distance between the North Pole and the Equator? It may not be

bad to have a small-valued coin, perhaps analogous to the reason that it is

good that Planck’s constant is a very small number.

Third, regarding the absurd attempt to pretend that rationalism has anything

at all to do with currency… What could possibly be more irrational than

currency? Currency has “value” only because an entire population displays a

degree of credulity that, upon reflection, would scandalize the most

ardently religious mind.

Rationalism is irrational. Reason is the slave of Passion.

R. Timmins, NYC


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