Honest Cash

Honest Cash

A case for mass-printed financial symbolism

When I was a child in the 90s, my dad would reassuringly talk about the vast gold reserves backing up our currency. Not that I could blame him for being a good number of decades late with the news: knowledge about money seems to be exiled into economics textbooks, all stacked in a box with a giant boring label on it. Even popular documentaries about financial crises seem to require a solid set of jargon to be understood.

The bills and coins - the ones we use daily to buy things like sustenance - don’t even bother to speak. A number value and a denomination, maybe a bridge, an amphitheater, a composer-politician if we’re lucky. ‘The National Bank of [Insert Country]’, in all-caps. These features all seem intended to reassure us that some central authority has got it all covered.

Yet it is a false reassurance that is unlikely to really help us cope with the unsettling volatility of our economic systems. Only facing and reflecting on reality can achieve this: the logic behind growth, debt and concentration of wealth, both in their clean and abstract math and in the messy realities of the crises they produce.

This project strives to achieve this using new bill designs meant to facilitate dialog and contemplation. They start out with the following guidelines: bills should elevate economic knowledge into symbolism: graphs are dull and exclusive, yet they can also work as logos, sparking curiosity. they should indicate dynamism: if the value of money is in a constant flux, never stopping. It follows: our mindset to hold on to numbers is setting us up for false comfort and disappointment.

it’s all a cycle: ups and downs often follow from the design of the system. It follows: careful when looking for scapegoats during a recession. I made some bills to accompany these ideas, available on http://peterszerzo.com/sketches/honest-cash . One design makes symbolism from the graph of the short-term debt cycle, the other illustrates cycles of concentration and redistribution of wealth.

And they are animated, too! Even if they ought to be printed static, there is something about living-breathing money that should speak to our preconceptions. And besides, how long would paper cash last anyway.