Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse #55: The "value" of Zimbabwean currency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So focused have we been of late on the presidential race, on Iraq and the economy, and on so much else besides, that we've only done one SOTA since January -- that one was a rather serious one, on the Chinese earthquake.

But here's one, from The Plank:

The 25 billion Zimbabwean dollar note, currently trading for $1.35 on the open market, is selling for $40 on eBay.

I can't really explain just why this is a SOTA. Is it the political turmoil in Zimbabwe? (As bad as it is, it's not like we haven't seen it before, all throughout history, and often much worse.) Is it the hyper-inflation? (Again, we've seen it before.) Is it the nature of supply and demand in the free market? (But all sorts of things get bought and sold on the free market.)

So maybe it's what I will call the eBayification of value. (Which has a nice ring to it, if also a foul odor.)

While Zimbabwe suffers under Mugabe's yoke, the people of that miserable land struggling through poverty and chaos, you can buy and sell whatever you want on eBay, including inflated currency that to us has may have little to no intrinsic value but to them could mean a bowl of rice, a cup of water, and a pinch of hope.

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