Whatever the market will bear

Behold: 160 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, in a set of three bills:

10, 50 and 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwean notes

This is being promoted as an Educational Product: a merchant is selling sets of three bills, exactly like this, through Amazon for $22.99 with (why not?) free shipping. This is actually a great deal more than face value at their 2008 issuance. In mid-November, the Zimbabwean inflation rate was calculated at 79,600,000,000 percent — per month.

On the reasonable basis that yes, it could happen here, a brief summary of how it happened there:

In 2007, the government declared inflation illegal. Anyone who raised the prices for goods and services was subject to arrest.

This is well within the mental capacity of the US Congress.

In January 2009, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa lifted the restriction to use only Zimbabwean dollars. This too acknowledged what many were already doing. Citizens were allowed to use the US dollar, the euro, and the South African rand. However, teachers and civil servants were still being paid in Zimbabwean dollars. Even though their salaries were in the trillions per month, this amounted to around US$1, or half the daily bus fare. The government also used a restriction on bank withdrawals to try to limit the amount of money that was in circulation. It limited cash withdrawals to $Z500,000, which was around US$0.25.

And finally:

In 2009, the government abandoned printing Zimbabwean dollars at all. This implicitly solved the chronic problem of lack of confidence in the Zimbabwean dollar, and compelled people to use the foreign currency of their choice. As of 2014, Zimbabwe still uses a combination of foreign currencies, mostly US dollars, and the economy is still in a slump.

This was, I must point out, only the second worst hyperinflation in history; the Hungarians replaced the pengő on 1 August 1946 with the forint, which was deemed to be worth 4 x 1029 pengő, and you could get an actual US buck for 11.44 forints. (After 68 years, said actual US buck is now worth about 225 forints.)







3 comments

  1. JT »

    6 July 2014 · 10:04 am

    and somewhere out there, Dr Evil is yelling: “No, I meant American Dollars!”

  2. Charles Pergiel »

    6 July 2014 · 1:08 pm

    Zimbabwe quit printing their own currency because they no longer had a line of credit with their paper and ink suppliers. True fact because I wrote it on the internet.

  3. fillyjonk »

    6 July 2014 · 4:25 pm

    There’s also the gag about some people using the dollars as toilet paper, because they were a lot cheaper than the actual product.

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