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Don’t Dump Alexander Hamilton

All the recent fuss about a woman on our money ignores the fact that the $10.00 bill isn’t the most commonly used piece of United States currency. It’s the penny we should be talking about, but the penny is more maligned than ever, beginning with the fact that it costs more than a penny to make a penny—especially in times when the price of copper is high.

And, yes, many people hate pennies, even toss them away. Canada recently stopped making them, as have other countries. Worst of all, inflation has made the penny almost worthless. What can you buy with a penny? Poor Abe Lincoln’s day may be numbered.

Thus, my proposal: a new two-cent piece with the face of a woman on it. Two cents acknowledges the inflation that has made the penny so valueless. There’s historical precedent for a two-cent coin: both in the United States (1864-1872) and in other countries. (The British refer to the amount as “tuppence.”) Moreover, the new coin would be much more widely circulated than most others. Ergo, the woman on the coin will be recognized by everyone.

The rub, of course, is who to suggest?

Not Sacagawea (done that).

Not Susan B. Anthony (done that also).

Harriet Tubman?

Rosa Parks?

Eleanor Roosevelt?

Harriett Beecher Stowe?

Emily Dickinson?

Dorothy Day?

Snow White?

How about Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand you gasp? Why not, since her praise of greed became the mantra for Alan Greenspan’s disastrous tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Putting Rand on a coin would serve as a warning for everything that can go wrong with capitalism, with our economic system—especially inflation. The two-cent coin is an admission that the penny is worthless, that we are fallible. Since most people don’t know who Ayn Rand is, the new coin could offer a powerful teaching moment in our public schools.

Watch out, children, you will live to see the day when the two-cent coin will need to be replaced with a three-cent coin.

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

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Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

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