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Scott

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Stuff [Jun. 28th, 2012|10:43 pm]
I hate change.

No, not in the sense that I've been reading too many Catholic blogs and they've started to sink in. In the sense of pennies and nickels and so on. I never end up having the right amount, and I always end up on a dresser and forgetting about them and having them build up until I have no choice but to make a $20 purchase entirely in coins of 25 cents or less (Yes, I did that once. Then I never went to that particular store again out of shame).

It seems pretty much a no-brainer to get rid of at least the smaller coins. Wikipedia says that the penny costs 2.4 cents to make, and is only worth the equivalent of about two seconds' labor. The same article claims that the penny is preserved in part due to the effort of a "coin lobby" consisting of businesses like Coinstar, which is just more proof that no matter how cynical I get it's never enough.

My crazy ill-thought-out solution to the problem of coins is to use random numbers. If a purchase comes out at $5.68, a little calculator-like machine near the cash register generates a random number between 0 and 99; if it's greater than (or equal to) 68 you pay $5; if it's less you pay $6. That way we can get rid of coins without infringing upon merchants' God-given right to price items at $199.99 instead of the obviously inferior $199.

One might worry about the threat of fake random number generators. But the government could produce tamper-proof generators with the same verifiable holograms and codes they use for money. They would have the disadvantage of remaining with the dishonest user as opposed to ending up in the hands of honest people like cash (though this is also an advantage that prevents counterfeiters from laundering their goods). But I doubt there would be much incentive to counterfeit anyway - small businesses couldn't make too much money from rigging their generators unless they were rigged to be obviously nonrandom in which case they would be caught, and large businesses would have the same reputational concerns that make us pretty certain Wal-Mart isn't secretly paying their employees with counterfeit $20s.

The real problem would be people constantly freaking out because they failed three random number checks in a row and accusing perfectly honest cashiers of rigging their random number generators. But if eliminating the penny would save $300 million, surely eliminating all change would save billions. Spend the money on better statistics education in schools and it's a win-win.
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