It’s All About the Benjamins

Here’s something I didn’t know. The United States’s strongest export is $100 bills. Not credit. Actual, physical hundred dollar bills. From Binyamin Appelbaum at the New York Times:

America’s most profitable export product is not oil or medicine or Hollywood movies or Boeing airplanes. It is a small green piece of paper with Benjamin Franklin on the front.

Last year, the United States exported $65.3 billion of its currency — mostly $100 bills.

The world needs an international currency, and the dollar is the obvious candidate because the United States, for all its economic troubles, remains the hub of the global economy. United States government debt is the world’s most popular investment, and the bonds can be purchased only with dollars. Oil is the world’s dominant trade good, and it also is priced and sold in dollars. Much like Facebook, everybody uses dollars because everybody uses dollars.

The popularity of paper dollars, however, requires a little more explanation. Most modern money is notional: Wealth is stored on computers; payments are made electronically.

I cannot remember the last time I owned or even held a $100 bill.

Yet foreign demand for the bills known as Benjamins has surged even as the domestic use of dollars has declined. The number of $100 bills in circulation roughly doubled between 2008 and 2017, and experts estimate a vast majority are in foreign hands.

I’m not sure what this means but I suspect it is telling us that the level of criminality and corruption has reached unimaginable levels and in a wide array of troubled places in the world including Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, and China people, especially public officials, are putting their loot into the form of $100 bills all the better to spirit it away undetected. They are the currency of criminality.

I don’t have a great deal more to add to this story other than to observe that the demand of $100 bills will make counterfeiting them even more attractive. The more of them are in circulation, the more space there is for phonies.

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