5 Historical Financial Crises That Make This One Look Posh – Part Four

#2: Zimbabwe Thinks Unemployment is Hilarious

The most recent example on this list, Zimbabwe experienced its worst hyperinflation in 2008 and 2009, though the seeds had been planted years before. When the African nation received its independence in 1980, one Zimbabwe dollar was worth about 1.25 United States dollars. Fast-forward a couple decades, and almost the entire country is out of work.

Though the receipt-paper industry mysteriously thrived.

The Cause

In a move that would give Paul Ryan and his pasty-faced RepubliPals night terrors, Zimbabwe’s farmland was taken from white farmers and redistributed to ethnic Zimbabweans.

Ordinarily, this kind of thing wouldn’t result in the economic remake of Deep Impact, but since the country kind of relied on those farms for both jobs and revenue, and since the whole thing was handled poorly overall (farmland given to non-farmers; land subdivided along irrational boundaries; horrible civil war and racial tension), Zimbabwe found itself in a slight muddle.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe

“And I was like, where’d all the farms go? Y’know?”

Of course, this wasn’t the only reason for their financial woes. Not only were the land reforms incredibly costly, but civil war had destroyed much of the country’s production capabilities. Farmland and processing centers were burned, and the government’s reaction was to essentially throw money on the fire and hope it went away.

So, shoddily handled land reform plus sudden lack of jobs, food, and national income from exports leads to the second-worst financial crisis in history? I can see that.

The Aftermath

You’ve got to give Zimbabwe credit for how it handled its self-inflicted money explosion. The ever-resourceful Zimbabweans resorted to using foreign currency instead of their own country’s worthless dollars. This was originally illegal, but eventually the government licensed 1,000 shops to use non-Zimbabwean money. Of course, at this point, far more than 1,000 shops had ditched their dollars, so it was kind of a moot point.

The black market eventually became more standard than anything inside the law, with state-approved bread jumping from $2 million to $35 million a loaf overnight. The national government stopped issuing inflation rate reports, and eventually made inflation illegal. Let me say that again – the nation of Zimbabwe criminalized freaking inflation. Holy hell.

“Alright, sicko, you’ve, um, inflated your last, uh… biggified your final… money, punk!”

The Worst It Got

As you saw on the first post, the $100 trillion-dollar bill.

Otherwise known as the “Dr. Evil Note.” 

The highest monthly rate of inflation was 6,500,000,000,000,000,000,000% (6.5 sextillion), otherwise known as “higher than you can possibly count in your lifetime.” That was in November of 2008. In January of the following year, 94% of Zimbabweans were unemployed – only six percent of the entire country had a formal job. I honestly grimaced while writing that.

Prices doubled every day. Zimbabwean hyperinflation was so terrible, that the ultimate solution was to completely abandon their currency. To this day, Zimbabwe only uses foreign money.

I’ll let this catalogue of images speak for the rest.

At least some people took it well.

Tune in tomorrow for the dramatic conclusion of the first-ever Pavlov’s Hair Conditioner serial list-type thing. Remember that 6.5 sextillion figure I referenced earlier? That’s a far smaller number than what’s on the banknotes you’re about to see.

Tomorrow: ALL HAIL HUNGARY, KING OF THE GIANT NUMBERS.

Be sure to check out our regular features:

Dear Socially Awkward – Boyfriends and bats, Valentines and Hungary, and Spain or something. Submissions welcome.

The Media Manifesto – Because Communism does, in fact, mix well with mass media.

Compass Rose News – Walmart declares bankruptcy after deciding to be nice to people, and a Kansas youth reports seeing colors besides sepia.

And, of course, Xavier’s Original Miscellany – With The Superallergy, The Apathy Argument, and the reason mail on Sundays causes increased therapy.

Finally, The Pavlov Candid Creativity Awards (a.k.a. The Streeties) have been extended. Submit photos of your favorite street performer, food vendor, panhandler, or other roadside personality to pavlovshairconditioner@gmail.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Xavier Yes will be appearing at the Burlington Book Festival this September, so if you’re in the area, check your sanity at the door and sit awhile.

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4 responses to “5 Historical Financial Crises That Make This One Look Posh – Part Four

  1. Holy moly – 94% unemployed!! Thats maddddd! I still think owning a onehundred trillion dollar note would be pretty cool, okay so its practically worthless but still… a one TRILLION dollar note!

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