Thursday, May 8, 2008

Solomon Islands' Fed

"Even Rick Houenipwela [RH], the governor of the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands, says he is an investor in teeth, having purchased a 'huge amount' a few years ago. 'Dolphin teeth are like gold,' [RH] says. 'You keep them as a store of wealth--just as if you'd put money in a bank.' ... The teeth are used like cash to buy local produce. Fifty teeth will purchase a pig; a handful are enough for some yams and cassava. ... Teeth are the currency of choice for this payment: one healthy bride costs at least 1,000 teeth. That necessitates the killing of dozens of dolphins. Local spinner dolphins yield more than 20 teeth, each about an inch long. ... 'It's better than dollars. It lasts longer and has more value than money," [Sharon Faisi] said. ... As the demand for dolphin teeth has increased, the supply can't keep up, [Robert Satu] laments: 'People want more teeth, and its not that easy to get dolphins. It's a very tiring job.' Organized on particularly calm days several times a year, Malaita dolphin hunts are complicated endeavors, involving dozens of villagers and a flotilla of paddle boats. ... Dolphin teeth and other animal products were used as currency in the Solomon Islands and other parts of Melanesia long before European colonizers arrived here in the late 19th century. ... [RH] ... says that some entrepreneurs have recently asked him for permission to establish a bank that would take deposits in teeth. ... [Dolphin hunter Henry] Sukufatu says, 'white people' visited his stall, trying to offer him and some of his colleagues from Malaita a large sum of money in they would pledge to stop killing dolphins, The offer was quickly rebuffed, he says: 'The white man's money will end, but the dolphin teeth will always be there for us'," my emphasis, WSJ, 30 April 2008.

Henry Sukufatu (HS) would make an excellent Fed Chairman. Dolphin's teeth are a better store of value than "Bernankes" because it's difficult to get more of them. It takes effort. History indicates HS is correct, our paper dollars will likely become worthless sooner or later. RH might read Frederich von Hayek's essay on "Free Choice in Currency". Who knows? If he can resolve some technical issues, like what is a "standard" dolphin tooth, he might become the world's premier central banker.

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