Money talks

David D. Creekmore

A long time ago, I used to teach. I taught several subjects, most of which dealt with law in one form or another. Sometimes, it was boring. I used to try to make a joke out of every point so that it would be easier for the students to remember. Since these were people who had already begun a career- such as police man, fireman, first responder, or other emergency service, I had to make it interesting or my time, and theirs was lost.

Occasionally, I got to teach a course on history, and part of this was economics. I developed a series of things that I could either pass around, or copy, to drive a point home. I got this system from a professor I had in college- Arnett Elliott. Last I heard, he was the head of a college in Washington State.

One series I had was money. I used U. S. money to show that people didn’t trust paper money after the debacle of “Continentals”- paper currency issued during the revolution that became worthless. To bolster the confidence of the public, all paper currency had Martha Washington’s picture on it. She had given her family silver to be melted down to pay the troops during the revolution.

Then, the currency issued by the Weimar Republic of Germany after World War I. This currency was as high as 100,000-marks. I used this as an example of what happens when you spend money you don’t have, and have no silver or gold to back it up. Needless to say, the largest of these notes was worth less than $1.

Next, the occupation currency issued by the Japanese government during World War II.  In the Philippines, the currency was in pesos and read “The Japanese government “as the issuing country. In Burma, it was rupees.

The most shocking to my students was the currency issued in American Samoa. It was in dollars. I pointed out that when you lose, then the occupying country can do as they wish. I also used Confederate currency- printed on the back of defaulted bonds.  I like to think that some of the students learned enough to start thinking.

Here I am, 30 years later, and every now and then, I run into one of my old students. I always ask if they learned something. Usually, they say yes.

The college got a little upset with me because one quarter I had a class that started at 11 p.m. and lasted until 2 a.m. Since most of my students worked, this was the only time they could come- after working a full-shift. The dean used to drop in to make sure that I was actually holding classes, and following my lesson plan. I pointed out that Harvard had a class doing the same thing. I was just ahead of times.

By David Creekmore

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