Recycling: Unenlightening Units of Measure

Megan McArdle quotes this from Wiredog, which is supposed to help me understand how much a trillion dollars is:

A couple years ago someone asked me, as an aid to visualizing the budget, how many transport flights it would take to move $1T worth of $100 bills.

So $1T is 10B $100 bills.

10B grams is 10M kg

120,000 kg is the capacity of the C5 Galaxy aircraft. So it would take 84 flights to move $1T in $100 bills.

Another analogy involving days since the birth of Jesus follows. My response:

These analogies don't seem very useful to me. 84 planeloads of $100 bills is totally meaningless to me as a measure of value. It's much more meaningful to say that a trillion dollars is $3,300 for every man, woman, and child in the US, or roughly twice that much for every labor force participant. Or that it's 7 cents out of every dollar's worth of goods and services produced in this country.

Knowing that the government took 40 cents out of every dollar I earned last year enrages me a lot more than some contrived story about airplanes ferrying pallets of $100 bills around.

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Wrong units

That was my reaction to a previous DR entry. And also, I see, your reaction to that same entry.

I'd forgotten about that.

I'd forgotten about that. Well, anything worth peating is worth repeating. And I still need to get to work on converting my net worth to pennies.


I put the AIG-bonus-gate in perspective by dividing by a million and imagining the following conversation:

"Honey, remember that old friend of mine from school? I saw him today. His business went bankrupt, so I gave him $170,000."

"Never mind that, what is this $165 receipt for lunch?!"