What If Money Expired? | NOEMA

Some interesting ponderings on money, and discussion of various “depreciating scrips” over the years. I don’t know how relevant this is currently with money losing value quickly due to “2%” inflation, but it’s certainly a different way to think about money than current defaults.

Only one paragraph explores property/land use. Fairness of that access would be insanely difficult: Who sets the prices? Who gets deals (i.e. farming for crops and grazing herds needs low cost land)? What happens when mineral resources are found? That’s just some of the many questions that pop into my head in the first 30s. I can’t talk about this clearly without a more comprehensive framework/document.

At face value, money does expire… if you have a stable economy and “stable and modest” inflation. The Fed which sets rates has some control over inflation so artificially it’s never negative. In this backdrop, to hold hard currency is always at a loss vs inflation, whereas putting it into some sort of interest earning vehicle (e.g. savings account traditionally, bonds and t-bills for medium-length holds) means the money is in circulation. I recall a statistic that for every $1 put into a bank, through loans etc it becomes $10 in circulation. And towards the end, I think they have it right; you’d have to devalue investments (funds, stock, “stable” objects… like what gold represents (except it really isn’t all that stable) ), which would be basically impossible; you’d end up with a black market of “investments” instead.

But if you have a highly unstable economy, well, I’m not sure that this is enough. It’s hard to tell if expiring money would help stabilize an economy without a long-lived experiment (probably 25-50 years long), and ways to measure it.

And you could always every 5-10 years reprint all your currency (i.e. transition from local to EU currency) with a 1-year transition time. After which, the old currency is just a collectible. This has happened, but usually in the context of runaway inflation.

But we’re quickly heading towards a “cashless” society, where nobody has hard currency at all. I know plenty of people who don’t carry cash at all, just an ID and a credit card. So, the idea of applying this to hard currency seems moot.

How about debt jubilees instead? That seems to have worked well in what records we have of ancient societies that embraced the concept. Don’t put an expiration date on the money, but on the debt.