Gift cards to the rescue

Currency substitutes exist to enable their issuer to tinker with how their used.  There is real value in that power.  For example when the drug store sells a gift card to a restaurant chain they bought that card for about 20% off it’s face value.  Presumably that 20% is a measure of the value the restaurant captures from their little micro-currency.

There are lots of aspects to tinker with.  Food stamps tinker with one thing, as do school lunch vouchers.  Frequent flyer programs are mostly about loyality.  Gift cards are about loyality as well, but they also have a change lost in the cushions thing going on.  National currencies are about retraining control of your macroeconomic control levers.  But, I doubt I’m close to enumerating all the things people try to tinker with and I’m surprised I haven’t stumbled upon a long careful enumeration in the liturature.

I wrote a while back about how some of the local currency systems established in the depression were explicitly designed to assure that people didn’t just stick the money under their mattresses.  They were designed to increase the velocity of money.  Here’s another example along those lines.  The suggestion that the government should send out stimulus payments in the form of rapidly expiring gift cards.  While they do some of that already, either you buy that high efficiency appliance this year and get a tax rebate; or you miss out.  There must be a lot more they could do to increase people’s sense of urgency.

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