David Owen is a coin revolutionary. The New Yorker writer is in favor of the elimination of the penny, nickel and dime in the name of convenience and common sense. In this week's Money Issue, he argues that pennies have lost their utility. A piece about pennies is the perfect fit for the New Yorker: It's about money in a literal sense, but neither the author nor the reader are expected to know anything about economics or finance. Owen's article is good, but writing about the Mint is just an entertaining waste of everyone's time.
Look in your pockets. Is there money in there? Hopefully yes! Even if you're broke, you've still at least interacted with cash and change at some point. Bills and coins are such a quotidian part of our existence that we rarely stop to think about their actual design, we just stick singles into soda machines and strippers. So whenever news comes out about the ugly and slightly gay redesign of five-dollar bill, there's a built-in interest. We've all used a five-dollar bill before.
But what's to be done about the uselessness of the penny or the hideous new five-dollar bill? Nothing. No one's going to boycott fives. Like a weird birthmark, five-dollar bills and pennies are just a part of life you have to accept.
Yes, there are problems with the Mint. Apparently it's grossly inefficient and continues to produce a coin that no one likes because of the Zinc and Coinstar lobbies. But assuming that money isn't literally made from the blood of children, I don't really care enough to do enough anything to change it. When was the last time you met an anti-Mint activist? Besides Ron Paul?
Pennies are the price we pay for apathy, and that's a cost I can live with.