On a trillion dollar platinum coin

January 19, 2013 BY danariely

This week I also got a question about the “trillion dollar platinum coin.” Sadly, we did not have space to put it in the WSJ column, so here it is:

Hi Dan,

Yet another random person on the internet who finds your research interesting and illuminating.

The current bit of economics controversy in the news left me wondering about your take on the trillion dollar platinum coin as a means for avoiding a US default via the debt ceiling. There’s debate on the legality, but there’s also the broader political question of whether or not it’s a “good idea” — which depends on what principles you work from to measure how “good” a consequence is. This leaves me wondering about YOUR expectation about the possible outcomes of such a move.


In my mind, the real issue here is trust. After all, with the amount of debt that the US has right now, we are at the hand of our creditors. If one day they decided to knock on our proverbial door and ask for their money back, we would be in deep trouble. From this perspective, the question is whether such a “trillion dollar platinum coin” would make us appear more trustworthy (as a creative nation that comes up with innovative solutions), or less trustworthy (as a nation that has to resort to shady maneuvers to manage its internal debates). If I had to bet, I would guess that other countries would take the less favorable interpretation of such a move. Moreover, as we know, ones’ initial perspective colors the interpretation of new data, and given the economic hernia that the US has created or contributed to, my guess is that trust in our financial system is not something to write home about.

With all of this in mind, I would try to make the next financial deal one that improves the way that the world looks at our financial health.

(Plus, you can buy a trillion dollar platinum coin for $19.95 on ebay)