Skip to main content

Laughter not the best medicine?

Didn’t we once live in a world where a silly idea introduced to the public would be laughed at and then disappear?

Now they are taken up by Nobel Prize winning economists.

I have to say I was startled yesterday when Paul Krugman took up the topic of the $1 trillion platinum coin as a solution for the debt ceiling confrontation in Washington, D.C., in his New York Times blog.

It headlined the front page of the Huffington Post website.

Admittedly, since Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot instead of untying it and then went on to conquer much of the ancient world, human beings want to take the easy route.

And the $1 trillion platinum coin seems to have achieved Internet immortality like the rumor that “In God We Trust” was removed from Presidential dollar coins when they were introduced in 2007 instead of moved to the edge.

I have written about the $1 trillion coin idea in the summer of 2011 during that debt ceiling crisis and again last month.

At least with the “In God We Trust” rumor, there is nothing dangerous about it.

The $1 trillion platinum coin idea is based on the enabling law that created platinum coins, but it bestows on the Treasury secretary the authority to pick the denomination.

Krugman himself calls the idea of picking a very high denomination of $1 trillion for a platinum coin to be silly. He also calls the debt ceiling issue silly.

However, he says using the $1 trillion coin idea to circumvent the law is benign while adhering to the debt ceiling law is vile and disastrous.

Is it?

Once a power is granted, isn’t it likely to be used again and again?

Once the debt ceiling issue fades into the past, what’s to prevent $1 trillion coins from being used to finance the entire operation of the government?

Why not remit all taxes and simply create the money in high-denomination coin form?

Gold bugs have been fearing a Weimar-style hyperinflation since the financial crash in 2008.

This would certainly be it.

Fortunately, Internet ideas seem intended to exist primarily for the purpose of calling attention to the proponent espousing them.

Let’s hope laughter at the idea will yet prevail and Krugman has gotten what he wants in a little more Internet fame.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."