Splitting Pennies

Came across a brilliant video arguing for the removal of the US One Cent piece from circulation:

In many ways, this is a fantastic example of ways in which content can be shaped and presented to interested parties.  The video, which I had to work to be able to attribute to Colin Gregory Palmer Grey, takes the best part of textbooks, quotations, images and sound to create a rich and deep five-minute argument for removing the penny from US circulation.  I especially like the credits where the video pays tribute to its sources; while there is no way to verify those through links, they look similar to Twitter handles, and seeing Joi Ito (Director of the MIT Media Lab) is great cred.

My one stumbling block was further research.  This video presents a pretty cut-and-dry argument to remove the penny from circulation.  Is there argument on the matter?  The video provides no resources for continued research, so I went out on my own to find…that the video addresses the traditional arguments for the penny, leaving the other side with little, and leaving little* to critique of this video.

There was one thing I came across in my research, though:  how much money do we spend on producing pennies.  The video says that it costs 1.8 cents to mint one cent (the cost having grown to more than the penny’s worth in 2006).  A page through about.com dedicated to the argument (is it telling that about.com is the first link when googling should we keep the penny?) lists the cost at 1.2 cents to mint one cent.  A 2009 Wall Street Journal says the cost is 1.7 cents, close to the video’s argument, but then says that the US Mint creates seven billion pennies a year, which is nearly double what the US Mint projects to print this year, and more than triple the 2.3 billion pennies the US Mint itself says it produced.

I often see the “Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics” quote thrown around, and there is much truth in that — as well as in facts.  The more I study facts, the more I see facts as abstractions from reality, and reality doesn’t do so well with facts.  There are lots of ways to read the same thing.  That being said, an easy way to reduce ambiguity is to make source content more accessible.  A video like this only needs to provide a simple sheet with hyperlinks to the facts it cites…many people won’t bother to look, but for those who are interested in debating the point, fact-checking, or just learning more, it’s a fantastic primer.

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