Thursday, January 24, 2008

All For One And One For All

In reading about Napoleon and his women, I've discovered a number of interesting things about l'Empereur. For one thing, he pinched people--hard. He was known for saying insulting things to people at parties and pinching them badly enough to cause bruises and bloody noses. Very odd. My general opinion of Napoleon has gone down a lot since I started the book.

But one idea he had was very forward thinking: at one point, just before his career collapsed into his first exile period, he experimented with the idea of creating a single currency for Europe. It didn't work out, of course, until a decade ago, but it's interesting that this was one of his governmental ideas, almost two centuries prior.

This led me to think about the idea of a universal currency. Would it be possible for the entire world to use just one currency? For a long time, the dollar had been sort of a world standard, although thanks to our Dear Leader, the dollar has taken a hit in recent years. Now you can't even take a cheap vacation to Canada. And you can forget Paris. The leader is the euro, it's undeniable (side note: my text editor doesn't recognize "euro" as a valid word--conspiracy, anyone?).

Think of how much easier international commerce would be if we were all to convert to a universal currency. But I can't imagine it actually happening--it would involve the restructure of so much of the financial system that governs economies. But on the positive side, I wonder if it wouldn't help to even out global wealth. If we all used the same currency, it might make those in poorer countries richer, while knocking down the wealthy in America.

There would be other advantages. In the age of Nazi power, Hitler deliberately devalued the German mark for the purpose of preventing Germans from doing business with other countries and keep the currency at home. It also discouraged people from traveling out of the country, where they might observe the radical anti-German sentiment rising in other European countries. Sometimes I think this is partly the aim of the Bush Administration--by dropping the dollar's value, Americans spend less time abroad, and continue their insular way of life, blissfully ignorant of what's really going on in the world.

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