October 1, 2010
The other day a co-worker of mine said, "Will work for chocolate." And everyone laughed as though this were an original line, and not one stolen from homeless guys who sometimes stand on corners holding signs that say, "Will work for food." Several years ago on my way home from work I’d sometimes see a homeless guy holding a sign that said, "Why lie? Want beer." I really appreciated his honesty, although I still never gave him any money because I was afraid he’d just use it to buy food, but that’s another story. My co-worker’s joke got me thinking about the possibility of moving to a cocoa-based economy, instead of one based on little pieces of paper. I can see some advantages-for instance, instead of having to deposit your paycheck in a bank account which you’ll then withdraw money from to buy food you can just eat your paycheck. For another thing forests are currently being cut down so the wood can be pulped and turned into paper which is then turned into bills. Now there’ll be an incentive to replant all those forests, even if they’re just replanted with cacao trees.
Obviously cocoa beans themselves won’t be valued as currency. After all can’t walk into a store and try to pay for groceries with a tree trunk that might eventually be turned into paper for bills. Believe me-I’ve tried it. But it will mean a huge boost for the economies of places like Indonesia, Ecuador, and Cameroon. Nigeria is also a big cocoa producer, but their economy is already getting a huge boost from emptying a lot of gullible peoples’ bank accounts. That brings me to some of the problems of a cocoa-based economy. For one thing it would be really hard to maintain an economy by transporting large numbers of chocolate bars. Just imagine the size of the ATMs. Chocolate, like almost every currency now in use, would have to be converted into electrons. For some reason this is really, really easy to do with little pieces of paper, but a lot more complicated when it involves something like chocolate or Vincent Price, especially if you want to put them back together. One small mistake and you end up with half a chocolate bar with a giant fly’s eyes and a tiny little fly with a chocolate chip where its head should be. And I don’t think it would be really feasible to have an economy based on a currency that melts in your pocket, especially in warmer climates. The more I think about this the more I think that it makes a lot more sense to work for beer.