A strong dollar means faith in our economy. Lower inflation. Cheaper imports. A better quality of life. We should fight hard to maintain King Dollar. Right?

I suppose, but that's only half the story. The reason a strong dollar is so incredibly vital today is threefold: We're a nation 1) reliant on consumption, 2) reliant on imports to sate that consumption, and 3) compensating for a negligible savings rate by asking other countries to lend us copious amounts of money. Satisfying all three requires a strong dollar.

And a strong sense of humor
Read that list again. It's a near-complete description of the grossly unhealthy elements of our economy. An economy reliant on consumption is reliant on debt. Devouring imports has allowed our industrial and manufacturing base to shrivel. And balancing our lack of savings by importing capital from abroad makes us beholden to strangers, geopolitics be damned.

Let's just say it: We need a strong dollar today to support structural imbalances that have led the economy down a toilet. Which is a lot like saying you need aspirin to feel good, but only because you drunkenly slammed your head into a door again.

President Obama's recent goal of doubling exports over the next five years might help to turn this beast around. Regardless of your political attachment, it's hard to argue with a straight face that more exports wouldn't hugely benefit the economy. It'd bring down unemployment and pare back the trade deficit. Expanding exports is step one toward the return of prosperity. 

Dream on …
Getting there will be tricky. There are several ways in which exports can increase, the most logical being international growth that fuels demand for American products.

But then I read this in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week: "Goldman Sachs economist Sven Jari Stehn calculates that even with above-consensus global growth of 4.5% over the next five years, the dollar still would need to depreciate in inflation-adjusted terms by about 30% for U.S. exports to double …"

That's where things get really interesting. A weak dollar, which everyone fears, increases exports, which everyone acknowledges we need. It's quite a paradox.

Short of miracles, it will be nearly impossible to rebuild our exporting capacity without a weaker dollar, which makes it cheaper for other countries to import American goods. So why aren't we praying for a weak dollar?

The problem, some will say, is that we're still a strong-dollar, import-happy economy. Consider oil. Since most of the oil we consume is imported -- about 58% -- a weaker dollar means higher prices (inflation), which can throw the economy into recession. This happened in the summer of 2008, when $4 gasoline sucker-punched consumers. That's why we generally loathe the thought of dollar weakness.

But there's reason for optimism here. One of the best things to come out of 2008's oil crisis was that it woke us up and influenced change. Public transportation usage surged. Small cars became cool. Domestic energy sources suddenly looked really attractive.

Most importantly, a flood of investment dollars rushed into energy technology and manufacturing. Tesla Motors is a good example. At the time, I called it the reason "why you should embrace $4 gasoline." It took something as wretched as $4 gas to entice a change that brought us closer to energy sanity.

The same goes for a weak dollar. If there's one thing that will forcefully wean our economy off an anti-manufacturing, anti-exporting, anti-savings, reliant-on-the-rest-of-the-world-for-capital binge, it's a weak dollar. And don't kid yourself -- we won't fix these imbalances voluntarily. It takes something big to break deep-rooted flaws. Necessity is the mother of change.

Where to put your money
Still, you're reading this because I promised stocks you should buy if you're scared of a weak dollar. Lucky for us, there are good, high-quality companies that will benefit from both a weak dollar and its impact on exports.

The best candidates have the most sales coming from non-dollar currencies:


Percentage of Revenue from Outside USA*

Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM)




Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)




Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)


Ford (NYSE:F)


Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)


Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
* Most recent reported fiscal year. Figures for Coca-Cola and Caterpillar are for outside of North America.

Be brave
Semantics suggest that a strong dollar is always good, and a weak dollar is always bad. Bull. For both the economy and your investments, this doesn't have to be the case. Don't fear a weak dollar. Embrace it for the benefits it'll bring.

Take a different view? Share away in the comment section below.                                      

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Philip Morris International and Johnson & Johnson. Intel, Coca-Cola, and 3M are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Ford is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Philip Morris International is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel and Johnson & Johnson, and has a disclosure policy.