Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sat across from me, his coffee cup trembling ever so slightly in his right hand as he set it down on the table between us. Coffee was all that he ordered (he said something about wanting to be a good steward of the taxpayer's money), so I was rather surprised when he reached for the saltshaker.
"Did you know," he started, "that in the Middle Ages, salt was such a valued spice there were times when it traded ounce for ounce with gold?"
As he held up the shaker and marveled, his hand continued trembling. Confused, I instinctively pulled my cup of coffee in a little closer to me.
"No, I didn't know that."
"It's true. In fact," he chuckled, "they might have even thought of it as...a commodity." He turned from the salt to look at me as he said this, with a lilting tone, as though gauging my response for receptivity to this concept. "We at the Fed ARE concerned about the future of the dollar, despite what our critics say, despite what our actions over the last twenty years would suggest." Surprised by his sudden candor, I leaned in. I was still confused, but now intrigued, by his passion at the very least.
"People complain and worry about the runaway creation of fiat currency. They say we have learned nothing from history. Not only do I vehemently disagree, but I now have the solution, pun intended, for our problems." A wave of nausea swept over me. "A salt-backed currency."
"Instead of passe silver, or blasé gold, salt provides the answer and gives the best of both worlds. History, as I mentioned, shows us the precedent for salt's value compared to gold, and when you factor in the inevitability of (here he strum-tapped his fingers on the table) reversion to the mean, there's all kinds of upside. And just like silver, salt is consumable across multiple industries, not the least of which is food. And people have to eat, right?" At this moment I wondered if he suffered from hypertension. "And just as with the so-called `precious metals' there is a finite amount of salt on the planet."
My mouth was suddenly dry, but it wasn't wealth I was tasting. I objected. "Yes, salt was valuable before the age in which we live, but with modern technologies and transportation being what it is, salt is, well, it's just salt."
"Just salt?" His smirk masked amusement, possibly annoyance over my lack of vision. His voice lowered, "But what do you think is going to happen when oil hits $500 a barrel? I'll tell you what: the return of clipper ship trade routes, and salt as THE medium of exchange. Let me tell you what the other benefits are." I hadn't recalled asking.
He continued, "Fortunately, there's enough of it in the world today that we can not only back our current 12 trillion dollar money supply, we believe we might even have a little wiggle room to keep doing what we do best." He winked.
"Also, there would likely be more mergers, which are a sign of strength for the economy. With salt being found plentifully in the human body, we'll probably see financial institutions merge with medical organizations and HMO's. As long as a person's heart still beats, they can service their debts by giving blood, and even sweat. It's an ingenuity called for in today's world. And don't forget salt's curative properties. Sure silver has them too, but the cost to convert it into colloidal form is prohibitive. Salt gives you a much bigger bang for your mineral."
I was quite ready to leave at this point, so I reached for my wallet. He seem surprised I didn't share his enthusiasm, but he quickly recovered and waved my hand from my pocket. "Don't worry," he said, "I've got this." He began to unscrew the saltshaker lid...