I'm OK, Euro OK

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

I'm OK, Euro OK

January 5, 1999

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Introducing Europe's hot new currency -- the Euro, the currency so convenient that it doesn't actually exist yet. Are you sick of lugging all your money around? Well then, try the Euro out. You'll never get weighed down by cash again.

Yes, there's a brand new currency in town, and aside from the fact that Euro notes won't be released until 2002, the Euro is tres chic. On January 1st, eleven nations of Europe (including France, Germany, and Italy) combined their individual currencies into the Euro. By 2002, Francs, Deutschmarks, Lire, and others will all be replaced entirely by it. This is exciting news. Well, actually it really isn't, but, hey, nothing else interesting happened this week that I can write about, so play along with me here. Okay?

You can't even hold a Euro in your hand for three more years, but beginning this week Europeans can pay with it by using a credit card. And if you want, you can transfer all your money into Euros. Yes, we have reached the point where it's possible to use a currency that has absolutely no coins or bills. Somehow, this is not comforting, although it shouldn't really matter. After all, this is the era of computers. Who cares if the Euro itself doesn't exist? Hell, after paying all our Christmas credit card bills, it's not as if the dollar will really seem to exist for most of us this month.

Still, I just don't get the whole concept. You can trade in Euros. You can spend it on non-cash purchases. But if you would like to fondle your money, you cannot actually do that until 2002. It sounds like some elaborate practical joke to me.

"Hey, Pierre, guess what! This American guy just gave me $10,000 for a bunch of Euros!"

"Helmut, dude, we're rich! Are you sure he didn't want any Euros now?"

"No, I just gave him this piece of paper that said he owned 11,000 Euros. I told him we won't have any until 2002."

"And he just gave you the money! Ha! Ha! What an idiot!"

I can't wait to see the headlines in 2002: "Due to unforeseeable problems, the release of the Euro note has been delayed indefinitely." Or perhaps the Europeans are banking on the Year 2000 computer problem to help them out. "Hmmn, 11,000 Euros, you say? I don't see that here in my computer. Sorry. . . . Gee, maybe you should have gotten that in cash."

Okay, maybe I'm being paranoid, but what do you expect? I'm American. We dig conspiracies, and in this country I don't think we would stand for such a currency. We would at least demand some form of cash. With no cash how could Americans (other Americans, not me) possibly be expected to underreport their incomes on their tax returns? And let's face it. We're not really good at undergoing change either. You saw how we handled the metric system, and most of us are still griping about the new twenty-dollar bill (which for the record does look sort of dumb). Converting to another currency would be out of the question for us.

Despite my worries, I'm sure the Euro is completely legit. In fact, the world's first imaginary currency is poised to offer a real challenge to the worldwide hegemony of the U.S. dollar. Maybe I shouldn't be so skeptical. If we all just believe in the Euro, maybe it will become real. And besides, what do I really know about all this? I'm just a humor columnist with a limited grasp of economics. "Hey, let see what Lavin thinks about the Euro" is not a phrase that has ever been uttered by any economist anywhere. Alan Greenspan is more likely to host America's Funniest Home Videos than an economist is to ask me about the Euro.

Still, I do know one thing. If someone ever tries to pay me in an imaginary currency, I'm not falling for it.

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