Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Rich! Well…Not So Much, Actually

Yessirree, one hundred trillion dollars (Zimbabwean). That's a lot of money.
Except that it really isn't. And it's not in circulation any more.
          A couple of summers ago, my dad purchased this very pretty, dead real banknote with the enormous amount of zeros on it from a Zimbabwean artist and gave it to me. My dad does indeed love me, but he didn't set me up for life with this little gift. He paid $6 for it. Since this particular note was worth about $5 when the currency was was briefly in circulation, the artist came out ahead on the deal. And I have a pretty one hundred trillion dollar banknote and my dad's love. I came out ahead on the deal too.
          Zimbabwe itself, obviously, didn't fare as well. This, Gentle Readers, is what we call "hyperinflation." Those of us of a certain age (and those of us who've cracked a Modern European History survey) will recall reading about hyperinflation in pre-Nazi Germany, when a wheelbarrow full of banknotes couldn't buy a loaf of bread. Some of us thought that no world leader, with the benefit of the lessons of history and also access to economists who are trained to detect hyperinflation and other monetary woes, would ever have to make that particular mistake again. Some of us are Tragically Naïve.
          The Zimbabwe Dollar was abandoned as the country's official currency in 2009. They still haven't gotten that economic chaos thing under control, though.

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