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Rohan Grey

Valuable Change

Fall 2013

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This past winter, pundits penned numerous articles about the possibility of the federal government minting a platinum coin to generate funds and avoid raising the debt ceiling. That idea was already old news to Rohan Grey ’14, who had, months before, organized an event addressing the issue as part of an interdisciplinary seminar series he created at Columbia Law School. That discussion brought together some of the economists who had first touted the financing solution back in 2010.

Though the Obama administration ultimately rejected the platinum coin idea, Grey explains that its legal viability illustrates a larger point about macroeconomics. “The spending constraints on currency-issuing governments are not the same as the constraints on households,” he notes, adding that the government does not have to balance its budget the way a family might. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Grey says he created the eight-part series, titled Modern Money and Public Purpose, to dispel such basic myths about the relationship between law and macroeconomics. He organized the events with the help of M. Jonathan Brice ’14. The Workers’ Rights Student Coalition, a new social justice group at the Law School, signed on as a co-sponsor and, soon, so did 10 more student groups. International organizations have also taken notice. Members of Greece’s Syriza political party visited the U.S. recently and asked Grey to host an event discussing their economic platform.

The Sydney native hopes the series will foster discussion on timely economic issues for years to come. He even created online tutorials to accompany each seminar. “The goal,” Grey says, “is to eventually turn this into a massive, permanent, free digital learning network.”

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Photographed by David Yellen