On my way to play squash today, I got into a conversation with a girl on the subway. At one point she said, "Why can't we just print a ton of money and give it to everyone? Then everyone would be happy." So I laughed. Then she said, "Seriously, why not?"
And I realized she actually meant it. Because she had told me she was a ballerina (which, by the way, is really not something you expect to hear), I said, "Imagine everyone had a ton of money, and someone offered to pay you to dance. You wouldn't do it because the money has no value to you. That's inflation." And she replied, "No, I would do it anyway because I like dancing, so everyone's happy." Seeing she had rather badly missed the point, I asked her to pretend she had a job she didn't enjoy. Her straight-faced response was that someone in the world would like to do any job there is, so all you had to do was find that person and give them that job. Then, she concluded, you wouldn't need money at all.
About this point, I got to Grand Central and our visit to this hyper-inflationary psuedo-teological daydream came to an end. This was quite fortunate because it gave me a chance to coax the laws of supply and demand back out from their hiding place. And as I walked off the subway, all I could think about was this passage from my tome of wisdom, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"How can you have money," demanded Ford, "if none of you actually produces anything? It doesn't grow on trees you know."
"If you would allow me to continue ..."
Ford nodded dejectedly.
"Thank you. Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich."
Ford stared in disbelief at the crowd who were murmuring appreciatively at this and greedily fingering the wads of leaves with which their track suits were stuffed.
"But we have also," continued the Management Consultant, "run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability, which means that, I gather, the current going rate has something like three deciduous forests buying one ship's peanut."
Murmurs of alarm came from the crowd. The Management Consultant waved them down.
"So in order to obviate this problem," he continued, "and effectively revaluate the leaf, we are about to embark on a massive defoliation campaign, and ... er, burn down all the forests. I think you'll all agree that's a sensible move under the circumstances."
The crowd seemed a little uncertain about this for a second or two until someone pointed out how much this would increase the value of the leaves in their pockets whereupon they let out whoops of delight and gave the Management Consultant a standing ovation. The accountants amongst them looked forward to a profitable Autumn.
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe