Originally posted on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Tossing coins into a well and making a wish?

This is a custom so ancient that nobody has discovered its origin.  Consider a virtual one, from Stone Hill Graphics, which invites us to “Enjoy and make as many wishes as you want to” bragging that  “the coin will never run out, it is endlessly renewing!”

Antique Print 1882

(To see the image of a very magical wishing well click on the one by Stone Hill Graphics.)

So delightful the Stone Hill Graphics depiction it even has drawn a passing note, both whimsical and scholarly, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research librarian, Amy Farber, in the bank’s blog, Liberty Street Economics:

Do you throw coins into a fountain when you see that others have done so?  A comprehensive and thoughtful student project on wishing well use in Southern California has been posted on the internet by University of California, Irvine, anthropology professor Bill Maurer. The 2006 project bases its findings on interviews of people throwing coins into fountains and states that:

Although the exact origins of this practice are unknown, offering money to water is an old tradition that can be dated back to Roman-British and Celtic mythology. Since then, the tradition of making a wish with a coin has been passed down through generations by socialization, evolving from a religious ritual into a fun, yet superstitious, cultural practice in Southern California.

(Disclaiming, as always, that “The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.”

There is, of course, no correlation whatsoever between policies of Quantitative Easing and … a virtual invitation to “Enjoy and make as many wishes as you want to … the coin will never run out, it is endlessly renewing!”

It is a mark of great dignity that the Bank will permit, even unofficially, a spot of refreshing whimsey to appear.

Also coming to mind, from another source, is a satirical blog posted at Open Salon by a shy genius operating under the nom de plume of Noirville Headinlocker.

In his blog, overall captioned Orwell Was An Optimist, the pertinent, impertinent, entry is entitled “American Monetary Policy Sans Gold Standard.”  It features an image of Willy Wonka (as played by Gene Wilder) with the message superimposed, “It’s really quite easy.  You simply write down the amount of money you want to magically appear, and it does.  I learned that trick from the New York Federal Reserve.”

And goes on to say:

The most powerful man in the world isn’t Barack Obama, it’s Ben Bernanke. Imagine having a magic checkbook you can fill with any numbers you want and give to your friends. “And would you be interested in 25 billion? I think I can manage that…..There. You are rich.” We either have a gold standard or a magic checkbook.

I would be interested in 25 billion.  If only the Neo-Keynesians were right … this blogger certainly would take a check from the magic checkbook in a New York minute.

What a pity such magic, capable of being used with impunity, does not exist….