Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
Sugar and spice and unfettered insensibility.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Please log in.
Before you can vote, you need to register. Please log in or create an account.

The Zero-Dollar Bill

A unit of worthlessness
  (+15, -3)(+15, -3)
(+15, -3)
  [vote for,

There are those who will argue this point, but I believe that to establish what something is, we must also establish what it is not. Yet in the modern financial system, we have comitted the cardinal sin of failing to do just that; we have tried to give worth to things without fully realizing what worth is. The worth of goods and services, and of the monetary units representing that worth, therefore fluctuate wildly, leading to all sorts of nonsense and headaches.

Thus I propose that the U.S. Mint print a gazillion or so Zero- Dollar bills, legal tender emblazoned with the likeness of George W. Bush and entitling the bearer to nothing at all. These bills will circulate through the economy in the usual manner, being proffered by consumers in exchange for absolutely no goods or services whatsoever, or for things that by common consent have no worth, such as an item that the purchaser doesn't want or need and that the vendor could stand to be without. Once we have established through unilateral understanding what the worth of nothing is, only then can we establish the true worth of anything of value.

I will now accept your praise and/or condemnation. Please form an orderly line.

<editorial note: for those who haven't spotted it yet, this is a thought experiment.>

Alterother, Dec 13 2011

//Perhaps printing them on actual toilet paper// http://www.bitsandp...z_6wCFYUZQgodWBSCTQ
[Klaatu, Dec 13 2011]


       Baked - all US (and most other) currency. It's a house of cards, I tell you! Used to be redeemable for gold, then (almost) for silver, now it ain't redeemable for sh*t.
spidermother, Dec 13 2011

       Praise sprinkled with condemnation, with a flakey and buttery bun-like quality.
swimswim, Dec 13 2011

       I love the idea, but I worry about the bills accreting rarity value. Using low-quality, non-archival paper might help with that, and would also preclude concerns about their use in forgery.   

       Perhaps printing them on actual toilet paper, and selling them in bulk at very near cost is the solution.
Loris, Dec 13 2011

       //to establish what something is, we must also establish what it is not// Perhaps, but isn't it even more smartassy to establish what is the counterpart? You Could have invented the Anti Dollar. That I might have voted for.
zeno, Dec 13 2011

       A zero-dollar bill would be good to use when you don't want to tip because of bad service. It would show that you didn't just forget.   

       I somewhat riskier use would be tucking them in the underwear of ugly strippers.
marklar, Dec 13 2011

       Reading this idea makes me feel naught-y.   

       Posting that anno even more so, I'd venture.
Alterother, Dec 13 2011

       // smartassy //   

       As per my usual fare, this is only half TiC; I'm completely serious about the need to establish fixed worth. Monetary value is the only major mathemetical system governing our lives that completely disregards the concept of zero. It's like playing high-stakes poker using an incomplete deck.
Alterother, Dec 13 2011

       //Posting that anno even more so, I'd venture.//   

       De nada...   

       How does a zero-dollar help "establish fixed worth"?   

       I mean, by allowing me to actively give someone a tokenised version of nothing in exchange (presumably) for a non-tokenised (i.e. real) version of nothing, what have I achieved, other than stating to the other person that I value their commodity/service as being worthless? I could have just told them, or, like millions of people do everyday when they bin their junk-mail, or walk past street-sellers of trinkets, just ignore them. If I had to give all these people my hard-carried zero-dollars all the time, just to confirm that I've no interest in transacting with them, I'd have to keep running back and forth to the cash-machine in order to have enough zero-dollars to hand out to all the people I'd either met (or never met) with whom I didn't intend to transact - it strikes me as being all a bit unnecessary - woundn't it just be simpler to continue to safely ignore everyone?
zen_tom, Dec 13 2011

       or we could try and pass off undesirable coupons?! there are enough of those in existence already.
bob, Dec 13 2011

       The idea, and keep in mind that this is a thought experiment, is to give people a firmer realization of the intrinsic worth of an object or an action performed. By determining through real-world economic trends what is without worth, a baseline is established, one that currently does not exist.   

       It suddenly occurs to me, however, that there might be side effects. Things that we currently consider to be without worth might, by the simple act of denoting such, actually attain worth. For instance, I would happily exchange $0.00 for the time of day, a friendly greeting from a stranger, or a door held open; all of these are things that enrich my life in a very small way, and by tipping those who provide such impromptu services, even with a bank note that literally isn't worth the linen it's printed on, I could be giving people the impression that such things do have worth. I wonder what would happen then?
Alterother, Dec 13 2011

       If you're going to have a zero dollar, you might as well have negative dollars as well. So in buying a car, for instance, you would be given the keys and twenty thousand negative dollars.   

       To make this work, throwing away or burning negative money would have to be made a felony, but once the concept is established, then the government can introduce imaginary money, taking us full circle to where we are today.
ldischler, Dec 13 2011

       I toyed with a $-1.00 bill as well, but I didn't want to overcomplicate the simple elegance of my core concept.
Alterother, Dec 13 2011

       I have established that a dollar is not a zebra. Does this help define it?
RayfordSteele, Dec 14 2011

       Would you get in trouble for forging a zero dollar bill?
caspian, Dec 14 2011

       Shirley printing them on toilet paper would give them some nominal value, ie, to be used as toilet paper. In fact, the actual material needs to have zero worth, like leaves. But then, could be useful for starting log fires...   

       It's tough to make something *actually* worthless.
theleopard, Dec 14 2011

       Only valid in .gif format.
lurch, Dec 14 2011

       "Please guvna, gif us some cash..."
theleopard, Dec 14 2011

       // I have established that a dollar is not a zebra. Does this help define it? //   

       Yes, but remember that a zebra, like a dollar, has worth, if only to other zebras.   

       // It's tough to make something *actually* worthless. //   

       It may be that a thing can _only_ be made worthless by common consent (unlikely at best), which I feel supports my argument for a fixed standard of worthlessness.
Alterother, Dec 14 2011

       // // It's tough to make something *actually* worthless. //   

       It may be that a thing can _only_ be made worthless by common consent (unlikely at best), which I feel supports my argument for a fixed standard of worthlessness. //   

       We understand your species has produced something called "The X Factor" which seems to fit the above specification.   

       // To be festive it could also have a sanity clause printed on it. //   

       No it can't. Everyone a-knows dere ain't-a no Sanity Clause.
8th of 7, Dec 14 2011

       I would say that you currently have misgivings and misunderstandings related to the current economic system.   

       Introducing the zero dollar bill is of course not the way to go. This idea effectively muddles the concept of zero in an effort to better understand the value of a dollar. (Hey sista, how many zeroes did you earn today?)   

       Let us instead consider a dollar as an object, for it is. The fact that it is an object is what allows us to count dollars, using positive, and negative numbers. Just like apples, a man with a basket full has a lot of them, a man with empty hands has zero, and the man who promised a hundred to somebody but can't get them just yet, has a negative number of them.   

       More specifically, let us consider the dollar as a commodity. Much like gold, silver, or various coins before it, the dollar is a good which holds some intrinsic value... not really because it has a lot of uses in itself, but mainly because you can store a lot of value in it for an indefinite amount of time. This allows you to provide some good or service, collect your commodity, save that commodity for an indefinite period of time, and then use it to obtain some other good or service of approximately equal value to that which you gave in order to earn the commodity.   

       Of course, you may argue that gold has value because it is a precious metal... Why? Because I can make necklaces and rings, and window signs, out of it? Because I can coat microphone jacks with it and sell them for more? Frankly, gold has few significant applications beyond it's use as a store of wealth. It has value because we say it does... and during times of economic crisis, we say it's value is better than that of money.   

       This is because money is not quite like gold. It has even fewer intrinsic values. Sure, you can make necklaces out of coins, and fold a dollar into a ring, and you can burn it for heat... but in most of these cases, you destroy the money-ness of the money. This is because money is a manufactured commodity, whereas gold is an element.   

       Most of the confusion that comes from the use of dollars is due to this nature as a manufactured commodity. if I said "Oh, let me have ten gold ingots, and in ten years, I'll give you back eleven gold ingots." this would make a little of sense to you. After all, those gold ingots don't come cheap, and clearly you want to buy stuff with them while you hold onto them, which I cannot buy if you're holding onto them. It's only fair that you should reward me with a little interest in return.   

       I ask you to let me do the same thing with dollars, and suddenly you start wondering where these "dollars" of "interest" come from. Trust me, it's not like I have a dollar factory in my basement. the banks don't either. They just operate like they do because they know they can get another damned bailout. Banks are not actually in the business of money. They are in the business of holding a certain valuable commodity, writing out all sorts of documents, and then convincing people to treat those documents as if they were the actual commodity, and occasionally exchanging some of their paper for that commodity when requested.   

       There is, of course one dollar factory, run by the government. If the government is fair, they attempt to keep the quantity of dollars more or less constant. With a constant dollar amount in the nation, supply and demand should more or less balance out, and the value of the dollar should remain more or less the same.   

       Keeping that quantity of dollars constant is a tough job though, because dollars are manufactured. Jack Ingoff can burn his dollars for kindling. Ivanna Neucar can chop pennies in half to show you how awesome her cutco knives are. Dirk Cooper can melt those pennies down and sell the copper ifthe price is better that way. These are all federal offenses, but since it is perfectly legal for Simon E. to keep a billion of his dollars in a warehouse for fifty years, and they haven't managed to put tracking devices on all their dollars, who's to know.   

       Similarly, the government occasionally decides that it actually needs more of that commodity on the market. Unsurprisingly, if supply exceeds demand, the value of the commodity goes down.   

       I suggest the trouble you're having is in the idea that value really is somehow intrinsic to items. That may be true for some things (Such as work-hours, or perhaps calories...) but in a real sense, the things I value highly will not be the same things that you value highly. Your car might be worth the exact same dollar value as my car, but there's no chance in hell that I'm going to trade with you.
ye_river_xiv, Dec 15 2011

       // money is a manufactured commodity, whereas gold is an element. //   

       To us, gold is a manufactured commodity.   

       Just wanted to share that with you.   

       // If the government is fair //   

       Yes, well, that's where it all falls down, of course.
8th of 7, Dec 15 2011

       //        I would say that you currently have misgivings and misunderstandings related to the current economic system.    //   

       And I would say that that is a very fair assessment, bordering on the overgenerous.   

       [y_r_x] (and others, if appilcable), I never envisioned this as a practical invention; I just like to think in different directions. Sometimes (okay, not very often) it takes a simple observation from a complete idiot (such as [The Alterother]) to point out something that the experts have missed. Tossing out an oddball idea and listening to what others have to say is enlightening, intellectually entertaining, and occasionally results in greater mutual understanding as we all bring what knowledge we have and put it together in a big pile.   

       Whilst my understanding of modern finance is quite limited, I know enough to spot a few holes. What is inflation, in the most basic sense, if not the degredation of worth, which is derived from our own communal sense of value? And how does it keep happening, if not through our own doing? Maybe I'm wrong, but I think we could put the brakes on it if we really wanted to.   

       Please educate me further if you feel the need (and can put up with my BS). I love to learn new things.
Alterother, Dec 16 2011

       Some economist whose name I forget, but who is generally considered quite intelligent did some studies in the fifties. It was his finding that the rate of inflation was inveresely proportionate to the rate of unemployment. It has since become the conventional wisdom that you can have a stable dollar, but you'll end up with a huge unemployment rate, or you can have slow inflation, and a much lower unemployment rate.   

       The powers that be, despite how it often looks, generally prefer supporting people, as a stable dollar is kind of unimportant if you have protestors shutting down ports and such.   

       Of course, research done in the fifties might not apply in the same way...   

       PS: Don't presume me to be any greater authority than you are. I'm just sharing my (hopefully different) limited knowledge. And I'm mainly doing that because I have an opinion of modern finance that is probably somewhat similar
ye_river_xiv, Dec 16 2011

       A Googly search on "Zero dollar bill" yields: About 1,030,000 results (0.31 seconds). That's not to say its not a good idea.
sqeaketh the wheel, May 29 2012

       At last, an inflation-proof currency. But what would the inflation rate be pegged at?
RayfordSteele, May 29 2012


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle