First off, stop calling it the humble copper. The penny hasn't been made of copper for years. Flaherty's “sensible decision” to ditch the penny will save taxpayers $11 million a year (assuming we'll ever see that money) but there's a catch: our money ain't worth nothin. It's fiat, stupid. Perhaps a little history lesson will suffice:
Money, that is a 'medium of exchange', arose in societies where barter had become ineffective. Money increased specialization and the division of labour – it made investment into future goals possible. In short, money revolutionized human society. But it didn't come from a top-down authority. Over time, states have nationalized citizens money or taken part in debasing its value for special interest gains. Banks and Governments have a long history of working together, especially here in Canada.
Fast-forward to the 20th century. Canada gets a central bank. Legal tender laws dictate that only Bank of Canada tokens can be money. People use these notes and coins as money. Banks and Governments print more, so we have booms and we have busts. Finally, it becomes apparent that the 1 cent ain't worth 1 cent. In fact, it costs more to produce this copper coin that it's actually worth. So they scrap the copper and replace it with a cheaper metal. Fast-forward a little more and we find that this cheaper metal is too expensive to produce these 1 cent coins.
Conclusion? Well there's two paths here. One, we can take the statist route and declare the penny to be a barbarous relic, a merchants headache that ain't worth the metal its produced from – so logically we must disown it and forget it ever existed. Or we can take the common sense route: we can stop debasing our currency. For it's not the penny's fault that it ain't worth the trouble, it's the value of the currency that is dropping.
Of course, it's not “we” that are debasing the currency; it's the Bank of Canada. But scrolling along Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites you'd wonder if “we” really are to blame. Everybody seems to think this is a good idea. Few stop to ask: why isn't the penny worth one cent? What is happening to the purchasing power of our money?
The Toronto Star doesn't seem to mind. They end their editorial this way:
The penny’s demise is a victory for New Democrat MP Pat Martin, who a few years ago launched a private member’s bill to scrap the one-cent piece. His next crusade: Getting rid of the nickel. Martin may have a point. As the inimitable Yogi Berra put it: “A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.”
Fuckin' NDP. Shoulda known they were behind this... But perhaps old Patty Martin has got a point. Maybe we should scrap the nickel. While we're at it, let's scrap the dime and quarter as well. Hell, let's even chuck the loonie! It's going to happen either way: the purchasing power of our money drops to justify the further scrapping of tokens (if bread is $200 a loaf, who needs toonies?) or we all return to using actual commodities to represent value (i.e. gold, silver, copper, etc.) Either way, these Bank of Canada tokens are eventually going to be worthless.