Tuesday, November 17, 1998

The Pass-the-Buck Fribble

by Selena Maranjian (

Recently, I had the good fortune to hear a presentation by some middle school students. This wasn't your ordinary presentation. No discussion of the four major food groups. No re-enactment of the landing of the Mayflower. Nope. Instead, these kids are making history. Rather than discuss how a bill becomes a law, they're actually making a bill become law.

The very morning of the day I met with them they had given the same presentation to Congress. They're out to change the world, and they just might do it. You see, these kids are trying to redesign the back of our dollar bill. If you're like me, you may now be appalled. (In general, I fear change.) But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn't come up with a reason why this was a bad idea. Taking a gander at the back of today's dollar bill doesn't hurt their case, either. There's mostly just a bunch of "1"s, "The United States of America," and "In God We Trust" -- oh, and an eagle. A redesign could keep these, but just make them a little less prominent, if need be. A lot of real estate is currently taken up by that cryptic pyramid with a glowing eyeball at the top. What's with that -- are we the United States of Egypt?

By now you're probably wondering what these kids are proposing we emblazon on the back of the bill. (No, it's not a photo of Hanson.) It's the Constitution. (Well, an overview of it: the preamble in full, along with a summary of the articles and amendments. Details are available at the kids' website: The Liberty Bill Project. You can also read the text of the Constitution and check out other nations' constitutions.)

Think about it. The students list some reasons why they think this is a good idea:

  1. Teach all Americans the framework of American government set up by the Constitution.
  2. Teach all Americans the liberty and freedom found in the Constitution.
  3. Deepen an understanding of the Constitution as people discuss what is written there.
  4. Teach the progress of American history as we amended the Constitution.
  5. Spread the philosophy of representative democracy and freedom around the world through U.S. currency.
  6. Allow American soldiers around the world to read, show, and teach the ideals for which they are willing to give their lives.
  7. Ensure that we pass a deeper awareness of the Constitution to our posterity.
  8. Celebrate the Constitution as an American symbol.

If you like this idea, let your congressional representative know. (It's referred to as "H.R. 3792, the Liberty Dollar Bill Act.") Some 56 representatives have already signed on.

Switching gears a bit, this initiative makes me think of other similar modest proposals. How about...

-- Printing on the back of lottery tickets, in an easy-to-read font size, the odds of winning a lottery compared with the odds of winning at a casino or of building sizable wealth through investing in the S&P 500?

-- Printing on the back of sugary cereal boxes a short explanation of the powers of compounding, and how young people can grow a small amount of money into a million dollars if they start early?

-- Printing on the front of every mutual fund prospectus how it has performed relative to the S&P 500 since its inception? (This would be good to print in mutual fund advertisements, as well.)

-- Printing (again, in large letters) on the back of every credit card the maximum interest rate it will charge you and how much that will cost you each year for various balances?

-- Printing on every junior high school diploma a summary of average salaries for high school drop-outs and college graduates?

-- Posting condensed versions of the 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly in stairwells across America?

Can you think of any other worthy initiatives? Post your thoughts in the Fribble message board!

[Hey Fools, why not pen a Fribble, yourself? We welcome submissions from readers. Just click here and read the "What's a Fribble?" item, pen a short masterpiece, and send it off to TMF]

See more of Selena's Fribbles!

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