Monday, June 27, 2011

In which I think too much

Interesting episode of Planet Money on Friday about efforts to get Americans to start using dollar coins. The gist of it is, the government keeps minting dollar coins, Americans are deeply unenthusiastic about using them, and now the Fed is sitting on a gigantic trove of coins that nobody wants.

I live in Taiwan, where there's a commonly used coin equivalent to US$1.50 and the lowest denomination bill is worth US$3. Up in Japan, the lowest denomination bill is worth about ten US dollars, and they've got a commonly used coin worth half that. It's obvious that Americans are only going to really start using dollar coins once the government stops printing dollar bills, giving people no choice. If that happens, somehow I suspect there will be a great public outcry, fueled by populist rhetoric either impossibly vague ("It's shameful that we let the government take away our dollar bills, because... of reasons we haven't thought of yet") or preposterously insane ("This is just the next step towards A NEW WORLD DICTATORSHIP").

Personally I don't care much if we switch over to dollar coins or not. Then why am I writing this post? Because I'm curious. The fact that they've gone to such great expense to stoke public enthusiasm for dollar coins, and they've failed utterly, makes me wonder if this is something else you can chalk up to the vague old concept of American exceptionalism, along with our not using the metric system (which to be honest I'm also somewhat indifferent about) and our embarrassingly deficient public transportation (which I do care about).

Is there an underlying pattern here? Or should I not try to connect the random dots?

No comments: