Two Bit Hack: Part 3

Return To Part 1

Federal Reserve

Chickens like mirrors. Some enjoy looking at themselves, others are smart enough to know that on a winter's day, a mirror can reflect sunlight allowing them to warm both sides of their bodies at once. The institution had chickens and vegetable gardens where the patients worked at growing at least some of our own food. Like most of the classes we took-- Anger Management, Healthy Eating, Food For Wellness, Music, etc, the classes were mostly to beat back some of the boredom that was eating away at what little sanity we had left. The chickens never seemed to care unless of course one should get too close to a hen and piss off the very jealous rooster.

There was no One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or Nurse Ratchet, we had to figure out other ways. I looked at all the everyday confusion there and saw opportunity. So one day while in art class I came up with Billy Bucks in One, Five and Ten dollar denominations. I limited myself to Ten because I can't draw faces and used stick figures instead. Ten was about all I could fit onto the face of one bill. The One had a single stick figure, the Five had five stick figures and the Ten, ten stick figures. Of course no two bills were exactly alike but that didn't matter as what made a Billy Buck quasi official was my signature right on the front of the Billy Buck below the words, "In Billy We Trust."

My doing it was kind of tongue and cheek but the other inmates-- some who hadn't seen real currency in years-- after only a little bit of resistance, quickly took the idea to heart as they longed for anything that would make life in Asylumland more like the world in which they had all once lived and most longed to return to sooner rather than later.

Having our own currency soon brought an end to the barter system that had previously been in place inside. A barter system with no means to keep score is always a disaster waiting to happen. With no way to keep score, people never really know if they're getting a fair deal. Not that it doesn't happen with currency but in barter there's no means for fair and equitable retribution should someone get cheated. Take for instance the guy who sells his extra biscuit at the breakfast table. If he sells it for the promise that he will get cornbread at supper and the cornbread never comes then he's out a biscuit and cornbread. But if he sells his biscuit for a Billy Buck that he uses come supper time to buy some other inmate's cornbread then neither party feels cheated.

It was because the reduced hard feelings worked to keep score and reduced the fighting among inmates that the management of the asylum allowed the practice of trading in Billy Bucks to grow and prosper. The growing economy inside the asylum actually reduced tensions among inmates and reduced the need for security on behalf of the institution. Before we knew it a few of the guards had been laid off or reassigned to other wings where we'd never see them again.

Never mind that we were under the control of the asylum, we still managed to establish a certain degree of autonomy. I soon established myself as something of a federal reserve of the asylum, painting as many Billy Bucks as I thought were needed in circulation and assigning them to people who brought me things myself or others might want or need. In time I became so busy I hired others to paint Billy Bucks for me so that all was needed was my signature to put them into circulation.

Eventually Billy Bucks spread throughout the entire institution with patents who had only recently been admitted or patents who had been in solitary rooms for years released into the general population with a few Billy Bucks stashed in their pockets. One can only assume hospital staff was using Billy Bucks to entice favorable behaviors from the more difficult patients. Such is the power of money-- even play money when play money is all there is. While a Billy Buck was worthless outside of the walls, inside a Ten dollar Billy Buck could and sometimes did buy me a thousand dollars worth of pleasure.

In time the inmates decided their country needed a president. Because I controlled the money they naturally thought I should be in charge but I explained the various arms of government should not be one in the same and suggested they have an election to pick someone else who would be capable of leading them through not only the best of times like we were living then but also through the worst of times like something dreadful like an invasion by some foreign country.

Naturally they picked a young man who went by the name of Thor and stood literally head and shoulders above the second biggest man in the asylum.

While not really violent, Thor spent his spare time lifting furniture... with people on it. There was little doubt in anyone's' minds that Thor was quite capable of being a warrior if the need presented itself. As to whether or not Thor could run a country-- even a make believe country inside an insane asylum-- well there was the duly elected vice president and Thor's best friend, The Brain, to make sure everything worked as it should.

Of course, it didn't take long before counterfeit Billy Bucks began to make their way into circulation. I knew from the beginning it was inevitable and Thor thought it really cool that anyone could simply paint their own money any time they wanted but The Brain privately explained to Thor that counterfeit money would soon make all our money worthless. "There can be only one federal reserve," The Brain explained. "You let this continue and you and Billy will both be out of a job."

I've little doubt Thor was clueless as to how currencies really work, as the former head of the federal reserve of Asylumland I'm not really sure myself but The Brain said it and Thor believed it to be true. Inside of a day the counterfeiters were located, dragged before Thor's court, convicted and made to be quite miserable.

It was then The Brain and I realized a judicial branch of government would soon need to be created. The problem was: how would we convince Thor that the President couldn't also be judge and jury?

Continue to Part 4: Expanding Economies