Richard Stratton, executive, author and former drug smuggler, enjoyed
counting piles of hundred dollar bills. He says it was a "pleasant,
relaxing experience." Harvard Economist Kenneth Rogoff thinks hundred
dollar bills are nothing but trouble.
Both expressed their individual expertise in an NPR
interview with Melissa Block and Chris Arnold. Stratton, a novelist,
friend of the writer Normal Mailer, and later TV executive and magazine editor,
once served eight years in prison for drug smuggling. He told NPR the drug
business involved generating and smuggling huge sums of money as well as
narcotics. Rogoff thinks $100 bills are
all too often used to finance illegal activities, and that's a good reason to
get rid of them. Rogoff notes these big bills allow a person to carry $1
million in a briefcase. And why would anyone not engaged in nefarious
enterprises want to do that?
Rogoff goes even further. Writing
in the Financial Times, he proposes getting rid of paper money entirely and
replacing it with electronic money. Among other things, he argues, as electronic
payments, even for small amounts, become increasingly prevalent, the need for
paper currency declines. There would be complications, of course, and
international cooperation among governments would be needed. But Rogoff
suggests getting rid of large denomination bills would be a good start.
Rogoff and others have said 75 percent to
percent of all U.S.
currency world-wide is in $100 bills. And many experts think easy flow of
huge amounts of anonymous cash facilitates
tax evasion as well as illegal trafficking in drugs, weapons and human
Times notes that when someone with Rogoff's heavyweight credentials
questions the future of physical money in a conservative, influential
publication like the Financial Times, "The world should sit up and
from physical to virtual money would be momentous. Would underground and
unofficial currencies flourish? Would crooks find ways to exploit the
transition? Stratton, who no longer holds $100 bills, told
NPR he thinks criminals would adapt.
Judson, an economist at the Fed, told
NPR she's not convinced there's a need to get rid of the Benjamin Franklin
bill because there's really no way to know how much cash in circulation is
being used for good or evil. Some historically huge $100 bill transactions have
been conducted by government. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S.
$12 billion in shrink wrapped hundred dollar bills to Iraq to pay Iraqi
ministries and U.S. contractors. Planes delivered literally tons of cash from
New York to Bagdad for disbursement by the U.S. led Coalition Provisional
Authority. Congressional investigators later found control of the cash was
lacking, and accounts
on how much remains unaccounted for.