This Would Be Funny If It Weren't So Depressing

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The economic woes of Zimbabwe—an understatement, I know—continue apace, and BBC News is reporting the odd nomenclatural difficulties facing local economists. For instance, can the average Zimbabwean count the zeros in a quadrillion? A septillion? With wads of worthless billion dollar notes in circulation and inflation showing no sign of abating, one woman told the BBC that she is using the Internet to make sense of all those zeros in her wallet: "I actually Googled what comes after trillion about a month ago, and sent that out to all my friends so they'd be prepared."

It's depressing for sure, but it's difficult not to be both befuddled and amused by this little detail noted by Auntie Beeb:

Only last week, the Harare Herald advertised the Lotto bonanza prize being offered was 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. At the time, that was equivalent to around 4,000 US dollars.

Full story.

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  1. I never understood the dynamics of 1,000,000% inflation. Once all money in an economy becomes valueless (and this happens even at 1,000% inflation), aren’t further transactions in that currency just a ruse?

  2. I want the 1 Zimbabwean dollar bill. I think it would be awesome to have money worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

  3. Now, what would Dr. Evil’s ransom demand be in Zimbabwe dollars?

  4. I want the 1 Zimbabwean dollar bill. I think it would be awesome to have money worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

    Sounds like the 1 Zimbabwean dollar bill is finally “sound money”.

  5. If they take three zeros off the amount, they can call the new currency the “fuerte” Zimbabwean dollar. But I suppose that at least six zeros should be eliminated, so they can call it “extra-fuerte”.
    Lord knows this has worked wonders for the inflation in Venezuela… (sigh).

  6. Boo on the headline. That is the unwritten subtitle of every other post.

  7. Can’t win ’em all Warren…

  8. I’m with MP. This doesn’t make sense to me. How are they even measuring the value of the money? At a certain point wouldn’t the marketplace resort to bartering and stop using money altogether? Unless incomes are inflating at the same rate as goods, in which case, wtf?

  9. Wow, you really CAN wipe your ass with $1000.

  10. On eBay now someone’s selling a Zimbabwean 1 cent note printed in 2006 packaged with a 5 billion dollar note recently printed (for the low, low price of $19.99).
    Kind of tells the whole story right there.

  11. Unless incomes are inflating at the same rate as goods, in which case, wtf?

    And, I mean, how could you even tell? Pocket calculators don’t go up that high.

    Paper Bug | July 23, 2008, 4:52pm | #

    Fucking hilarious.

  12. They should write 10^9 instead; it’s easier. I tried to actually superscript it but the sup tag doesn’t work here.

  13. We’ll just print more money! Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before??

  14. Rana, what is the inflation rate in the Chavez workers paradise now?

  15. On eBay now someone’s selling a Zimbabwean 1 cent note printed in 2006 packaged with a 5 billion dollar note recently printed (for the low, low price of $19.99).

    Cool! If you just search eBay for Zimbabwe, there’s a whole assortment of notes available. Now’s your chance to be a Billionaire!

  16. I’ve got an idea for one of those specialty “Monopoly” games with real money.

    I’m stuck trying to to figure out if the Community Chest card that requires you to forfeit your farm to the government makes you pay $10 or collect $100.

  17. You know you have a problem with inflation when the govt can’t even pay for ink and paper to print its worthless currency from…

    Fidelity Printers & Refiners, the state-owned company that tirelessly churns out bank notes for the Robert Mugabe regime, was thrown into a crisis early this month after a German company stopped supplying bank note paper because of concerns over Zimbabwe’s recent violent presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent by international observers.

  18. Zimbabwean stick up artist: This is a stick up. Empty out your wallet and hand it to me.

    Victim: OK. Here. Don’t shoot!

    Zimbabwean stick up artist: No no no! Hand me the empty wallet!

  19. Why is mugabee so stupid?

  20. Fidelity Printers & Refiners, the state-owned company that tirelessly churns out bank notes for the Robert Mugabe regime, was thrown into a crisis early this month after a German company stopped supplying bank note paper because of concerns over Zimbabwe’s recent violent presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent by international observers.

    So if they can’t print the money, then there will be deflation, right?

  21. From Occam’s link:

    “At 5 p.m. July 4, it cost 100 billion ($4 at the time) in the same bar.

    An hour later, the price had gone up to 150 billion ($6).”

    This is a bit misleading. Happy Hour ended at 6pm.

  22. I’m sure the government realizes that there is no going back from this. If they ever want to have a stable economy they will have to wipe everybody clean and start at zero, with a completely new form of money. Imagine if the value of their dollar really did come back to normal levels; anybody who had saved a billion dollar note would be freaking rich.

  23. J sub D,
    Yeah, compared to Zimbabwe, Venezuela is a paradise.
    The inflation rate here is at a mere 30% (this varies according to source); food prices have increased about 50%.
    But, hey, gasoline is dirt cheap. We can fill our car tank for about $3… 🙂

  24. Why is mugabee so stupid?

    Any stupider than continuing to mint 5-cent pieces that are worth 9 cents?

  25. “Y”mar

    Zimbabwean stick up artist: This is a stick up. Empty out your wallet and hand it to me.

    Ymar, I got the joke before you added the two followup lines.

  26. I’m sure the government realizes that there is no going back from this. If they ever want to have a stable economy they will have to wipe everybody clean and start at zero,

    If you’re a white farmer, they already did that, too. They are officially out of ideas.

    They’ll be on the cellphone-minute standard in a few days.

  27. Ymar, I got the joke before you added the two followup lines.

    I actually tested the joke in the office before posting. Some people actually DIDN’T get it without the extra 2 lines!

  28. Better post title: How to Be A Billionaire

  29. That inflation is so extreme I’m amazed anyone even uses the currency. Is the use of barter a capital offense or something?

  30. hmmm… I sent this article to Weigel this morning. Apparently I got the wrong writer.

  31. That inflation is so extreme I’m amazed anyone even uses the currency. Is the use of barter a capital offense or something?

    Yes. sort of. If they catch you using foreign currency, or you refuse to accept the state currency, they beat you within an inch of your life and take your stuff.

  32. they beat you within an inch of your life

    Which is fatal because an inch there now equals only 1/10,000,000th of the old inch.

  33. At what point do they exhaust the current numerological system and have start making up new numbers?

  34. TallDave,

    There’s nothing greater than infinity, there are always enough numbers.

  35. Mo, I think TallDave’s question deals with what to call the numbers, not whether they can keep stringing digits together. You can obviously write 1,234,567,879,012,345,678,999,000,123,321,456,654,000, but what do you call it?

  36. Oh, I know, I was ribbing him. I’m sure there some Latin word for it. I can’t imagine it going from a septillion to a googol. Sure enough, Wikipedia backs me up. Not to mention you can always do things like double up (a billion billion rather than a quintillion).

  37. As BJ Lawson pointed out on his web log a while back, when discussing the Fed’s inflation policy: if it were possible to stimulate an economy by inflating the currency, Zimbabwe would be the highest-growth economy on earth.

    I look forward to a time when any banker or politician spewing tripe about wanting to “ease monetary policy”, someone immediately yells “inflation is theft, motherfucker!”

    -jcr

  38. I think Mugabe is dumb and evil. So basically its like letting Satan’s retarded child run a country.

    He probably doesn’t understand what he is doing, and as long as it helps him stay in power, it doesn’t really matter to him whether he has the Milton Friedman Seal of Approval.

  39. The west loved Mugabe when he was killing off Ndebeles and supporting the white farmers. Once he stopped playing ball with them and gave the land back to its rightful owners the west got angry and sealed off all trade with his country to starve it into submission.

  40. Once he stopped playing ball with them and gave the land back to its rightful owners

    I’m a little unclear on how taking land from the people who owned clear title to it and giving it to roving gangs of political supporter/thugs constitutes “giving land back to its rightful owners.”

  41. At what point do they exhaust the current numerological system and have start making up new numbers?

    Hexidecimal currency!

    Can’t wait for the new $4F note!

  42. I seriously don’t see how the economy is functioning if people are still using Zimbabwe dollars. If I was a farmer in Zimbabwe, I’d insist on goats and plywood before several quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars. This is known as a “complete collapse of an economic system”

  43. That “cleartitle” was given by a white-dominated government over a majority-black country! Why don’t you do your homework, you dipshit.

  44. So, class warrior, you’re saying only people who compromise the racial majority of any given geographical area can give and hold clear title to any chunk of it? Does this hold true even when the locals never had any concept of land ownership in the first placed and had no idea what a farm was?

    Sounds like your just a troll anyway

  45. The whites in Rhodesia pushed the black residents off their land to arid ort semiarid land and took the best for themselves the pig white commercial farmers deserved to f***ing die for what they and their pig ancestors did.

  46. Since no one here has the f***ing guts to answer my statement they shouldjust shut up. Maybe if the wast hadn’t sieged Zimbabwe’s economy Zimbabweans wouldn’t be starving to death. The blood of Zimbabwe is on the hands of the white overclass of the world.

  47. I’m thinking that classwarrior should have avoided sprinkling the agave worm with meth.

  48. And economicst complets it. Everyone has avoided my logic by claiming that I’m on drugs. As ithappensthe strongest thing I have ever taken is some pot.

  49. 10^12 dollars = 1 terabuck
    10^15 dollars = 1 exabuck
    10^18 dollars = 1 zetabuck
    10^21 dollars = 1 yottabuck
    10^24 dollars ~ 1.66 moles of bucks

  50. Man I love the “~1.66 moles of bucks”

  51. You’ll have to excuse classwarrior. He was dropped on his head as a baby. Repeatedly.

    But I’m sure he’s an Obama voter.

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