Sometime ago I posted about a fun book on depression era “stamp scrip” a variant of local currency that, to hear tell, actually works. In that posting I quoted a story about the surprising amusing helpful role that a high velocity currency can play. Today I happened upon the same story again, but I was bemused that the story has been repurposed. I think it is fair to say that the original story’s purpose was to illustrate why we need more currency in circulation, while the new version appears to be arguing that you shouldn’t trust the currency system. Apparently this story lacks much loyalty to either side in the debate.
Here are the two versions, first the older one:
Charles Zylstra, the enterprising man who first introduced Stamp Scrip to America (in a small western town) tells this story. A travelling salesman stopped at a hotel and handed the clerk a hundred dollar bill to be put in the safe, saying he would call for it in twenty-four hours. The clerk, whose name was A, owed $100 to B and clandestinely he used this bill for the liquidation of his debt, thinking that before the expiration of 24 hours he could collect $100 from his own debtor, whose name was Z. So this 100 dollar bill went to B, who, greatly surprised, used it to pay his own 100 dollar debt to one C, who (equally surprised) . . . and so on, and so on, all the way down to Z, who, with much pleasure, returned the bill to A, the clerk, who, in the morning, restored it to the salesman. And then did A, the clerk, stand petrified with horror to see the salesman light a cigar with it. “Counterfeit,” said the salesman, “a fake gift from a crazy friend, Abner; but he didn’t put it over, did he?”
Apparently they used to write in paragraphs, but the modernized version is done up in newspaper standard style; one sentence per paragraph.
It’s a slow day in a little east Texas town. The sun is beating down, and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
On this particular day a rich tourist from back east is driving through town. He stops at the motel and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
As soon as the man walks upstairs, the owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmer’s Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times
and has had to offer her “services” on credit.
The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.
The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything.
At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the $100 bill, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States of America Government is conducting business today.
It’s fun to think about all the little changes. Things happen faster these days, for example. I like the addition of weather. And a prostitute! How liberated.
Bob McTeer, writing for Forbes, says it’s hard for him to see anything wrong with the second version.