Beyond #TheNew10 -- The Case for a Citizens Currency Advisory Committee
57 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016 Last revised: 10 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 6, 2016
On April 20, 2016, ten months after promising to place a woman’s portrait on the $10 bill, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced sweeping design changes in American currency. Citizens have been asking for these types of changes for at least 95 years, and we hope that Treasury will bring them to fruition rapidly. Until now, the portraiture and imagery featured on American currency has consistently asserted and reified the singular importance of one type of American: White, male politicians and statesmen, largely from the executive branch. This article explores the administrative framework that has enabled these representational shortcomings to persist as long as they have. From the beginning, the process for designing federal paper money has been characterized by arbitrary and arguably autocratic decision-making and resistance to open processes that consider the creativity and insights of the public. The way that Treasury approached its announcement was fraught with challenges for those citizens trying to have their voices heard in what they believed should be an authentic democratic process. It took a small, private organization, Women On 20s, to highlight this fact for the country - an organization that deserves pages in Treasury’s history books. After reviewing the history of the Treasury Department’s role in the design of currency - and coinage - and compare it with that of other agencies tasked with choosing the people and events worthy of commemoration. We argue for an alternative process for future currency design that will permit meaningful citizen input.
This article also answers the question of when and how the decision was made to put Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
Keywords: Women on Money, Legal Rhetoric, Treasury Department, #TheNew10, Currency Design, Legal Writing, Law Library, Legal History
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