25 July 2007

The US Dollar 1785 - 2007

Economists are today scanning the fiscal horizon for any sign of the The US Dollar which is understood to have vanished without trace on a journey through European currency exchanges.

It was in the mid-to-late 18th century that the people of America began to tire of the system of pounds, shillings and pence (abbreviated - for reasons of Latin (and insanity) - as "L.s.d" and just as likely as the drug of that name to cause the users to hallucinate thanks to the extraordinary complexity of a system in which a pound was divided into 20 shillings, and each shilling was divided into 12 pence) and decided to tell the Brits back home in the UK exactly where they could stick it ... along with taxation without representation, all those German mercenaries they kept billeting in American homes and several tons of tea.

When the British finally took their American cousins' advice and waddled - somewhat uncertainly - away from their shores, the newly-liberated United States of America was left in desperate need of a currency of its own. So desperate was that need, indeed, that in 1785 the Congress of the Confederation was to take the route followed by so many American celebrities in recent years, and adopt a young Hispanic currency - The Dollar - as its own.

The Dollar was soon being raised by its new parents in the ways of the Enlightenment. Gone was the weirdly contorted system of L.s.d., replaced by a clear-browed, strong-thewed metric subdivision - enabling every citizen of the new republic desirous of giving their neighbour their "two cents" to know exactly how much that two cents was worth without having to resort to logarithmic tables or advanced calculus.

Over the following centuries The Dollar would come to bestride the fiscal globe, backed by a land rich in resources, natural and mineral, and by an industrious and inventive population. By the mid-twentieth century, The Dollar had become the hard currency of choice from everyone from oil magnates and international jet-setters to purveyors of currency-backed affection in South-East Asian backstreets, Moroccan hash-dealers and rebellious young citizens of communist states eager to be able to afford a pair of Levi's jeans on the black market.

Yes, The Dollar had its bad times: it got caught up in successive flirtations with assorted financial systems, from the gold standard to the fiat standard, even experimenting with bimetallism in its early years; its value rose and fell with mineral discoveries and oil crises, stock market surges and crashes, it splashed millions here there and everywhere in the 1920s yet could hardly spare a dime in the 1930s, it bubbled up with the arrival of new technology and new dealing methods and slipped away on the suds of Enron and Worldcom. Yet through feast and famine, war and peace, The Dollar still kept to its adventurous ways, journeying across the globe in the hands of the rich and the poor and in the back pockets of millions of plaid-shorts worn by troops of oversized American tourists eager to belittle foreigners and complain about the lack of decent water pressure in the hotel shower.

Despite having seen off so many disasters before, The Dollar that was to meet the crises of the mid-noughties was not the currency it had once been. Now it found itself assailed on all sides: on one side by the costs of the war on abstract concepts by their very nature incapable of defeat terror, on another by the surging price of oil, on yet another by a faltering industrial base threatened by increased competition from China and India, on another still by a set of banks eager to loan out billions of dollars to anyone capable of signing their name (or if not capable of signing their name, at least capable of finding their ass with both hands ... or maybe one hand ... okay, let's leave the ass-scratching thing and just get you to make your X on the dotted line).

With US credit fatally undermined by years of sub-prime lending, The Dollar's journeys into foreign currency markets were to become increasingly fraught with danger. In mid-July 2007 it flew out into the European and British exchanges, apparently without a care in the world. Tragically, it was last seen plunging to record lows over the rocky mountains of international finance and is believed to have crashed into the side of a euro.

The Dollar is survived by millions of British tourists amazed to find that a £10 lottery win will get them three week's stay in a suite at The Four Season's New York and the whole contents of Bloomingdales, Saks and Tiffany's, with enough change left over for a 12-course meal at Alain Ducasse.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on yet another superb and insightful feat of intellect. However I am shocked and horrified to discover that the usually impeccable team at As A Dodo could be capable of such grievous historical inaccuracy, for American Independence came about, in fact, in the mid-to-late 18th century. Let us just hope that no cardiac arrests have been caused among scholars of American history by this slip-up.

The As A Dodo Team said...

Ah ... good point. That's yet another correspondent we've had to shoot. At least we got him to correct the entry first.

Anonymous said...

all i got is one question and one comment how much would a doller from 1785 be worth now in the year 2009? and the passage above in offense was boring but yet again im only 13 years old stuff like this is boring to most people like me anyways it was informative.