The Scale Of Money

from the spend-a-few-hours dept

No one I know puts “scale” into perspective better than Randall Munroe at xkcd. If you haven’t seen the latest, you should take the time to dive into what may be his largest image ever (and he’s known for creating large images) dealing with money. I warn you, though, it may suck up a lot of time as you go through it:

<a http://xkcd.com/980/huge/#x=-9308&y=-4612&z=5″ target=”_blank”>Money
While he’s offering a poster of it for sale (along with some of his other “giant” images), I’m not sure even a poster does something like this justice, which is why he’s also offering it as a “custom-printed four-poster tile pack. It comes as four individual 36″x24″ posters which can be tiled on the wall, for a six-foot-wide mural view of the chart, allowing you to clearly read even the finest details.” I may have to put that on my holiday wishlist.

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Comments on “The Scale Of Money”

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26 Comments
MichaelG says:

energy section wrong?

The original version of the energy section at top-right was just wrong — numbers didn’t match the number of bricks, and were out of line. As I write this, he’s corrected one of the numbers, but left a typo in it.

I don’t know where he gets the number that wind could be almost as cheap as gas for the entire country (120 billion vs. 78 billion.) The other figures look dodgy as well. You’d have to build a LOT of hydro capacity to power the entire country.

Running across obvious errors made me less interested in the rest of the chart.

MichaelG says:

Re: Re: energy section wrong?

The typo is obvious — it says “Advanced combined cycle natural gas – $78,10z0,000,000”. The first version had something over $300 billion there, which didn’t match the number of boxes.

The label on that section is “price of enough electricity to power all US homes for one year, by plant type.” That sort of implies that you COULD power all homes using all plant types. Since Geothermal, Hydro, Wind and Solar are all geographically limited (not available everywhere), that’s misleading at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: energy section wrong?

Oddly enough, a quick search of the internet will bring you much interesting data. Two things of note are that wind hasn’t really gotten cheap, but the cost of coal burning power plants has gotten more expensive. The next, partly misleading, part of the chart is that it wouldn’t be possible to use all types of power in all areas.

Google is your friend, you should learn to use it.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Another interesting take on the scale of money in terms of the budget deficit; U-Tube video: The proposed deficit cuts explained with whiskey and shot glasses. This was done back in February 2011, so some of the numbers may no longer be current.

Now for the mandatory disclosure. So-called claims for “deficit reduction” are a disingenuous play on words. There is NO actual deficit reduction, what is being proposed is to spend slightly less then originally proposed. The US will still have deficit spending along with increasing debt.

To phrase this a bit differently. Hypothetically, blame Bush proposes to buy a $20,000 clunker of a car. Obama gets elected and now proposes to by an extravagant luxury $100,000 car. The people get upset, so Obama downgrades his proposal to only buy a stripped down $50,000 sports car while lamenting over this sacrifice. He now claims to have “saved” (reduced the deficit by) $50,000. No mention of the fact that unfunded deficit spending increased by $30,000.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

If the term used is “deficit reduction” Yes you are correct that it is disingenuous. Lately, the term I have heard used most frequently by the media is “spending cuts” which is accurate. Spending cuts sounds good to the ill informed but is completely bogus from a policy stand point.

If there was an actual plan to eliminate the budget deficit, that would be great. Sadly, that won’t be coming from our current Congress and probably won’t come from the next if the people in the US don’t wake up.

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Closing the gap between revenues and outlays requires raising tax levels and reducing the military budget significantly; closing the gap on the debt requires sustained surpluses that are then used to pay down the principle over an extended period of time (perhaps decades). All of this can be done without having to go the British route. True, it will be hard and in the short term there is going to be a great deal of pain which is why maintaining social services and safety nets will be even more important than they already are…

I just don’t see Congress (now or in the future) ever having a backbone stiff enough to do what is required here unless/until the criteria that makes YOUR Congressmen/woman the best thing since buttered bread because they bring home the bacon shown to be the con game it has always been at the expense of everyone else.

In other words, we will not get out of this crisis until congress rediscovers that they have a duty, responsibility, and constitutional mandate to actually work collectively towards what is best for the entire country. We are too parochial in our vision which is why we have the mess and seeming corruption we have now.

Just because YOUR community and/or demographic is doing well in this environment does not mean that you will not sink with the rest of the Titanic passengers when this is all said and done…

Too much trees vs forest going on; and if we don’t all get our collective heads out of the sand, while you might save your favorite tree, the forest is still going to die off…

A Monkey with Atitude (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

nice socialist turns of phrase… How about we cut Medicare/Medicade/SS they are the 3 biggest drains to the treasury while we are at it… but oh wait you said we need to make them bigger… so i guess taxes is the only way? Hmmm even though its been historically show Government revenues actually decrease with tax hikes….. So how about we meet in the middle scrap current tax laws and make a truly fair system, the FAIR TAX… oh wait it cuts Government power…

Definition of fair is everyone pays the same.. not some pay more and others pay nothing… and as a “collective” how can you not agree? Everyone pays the same…

AMusingFool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Yes, Social Security is really cutting a huge hole in spending. Yes, just keep telling yourself that. In twenty-five years or so, it’ll actually be correct.

And hey, let’s cut medicare/medicaid. Medical spending will rise even faster with old people unable to collective bargain for care, leading to them dying much sooner (as they can’t afford medical care). That’s a perfect solution to budget problems. I completely agree that my grandparents should just hurry up and die, so the rest of us don’t have to pay for their inevitable health decline.

And Fair Tax. Hmmm. Yes, I think it’s completely fair that 10% of the population gets 73% of all income. Nothing at all unfair about that. Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along.

A Monkey with Atitude (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Hmmm… Lets try some facts…

Pensions/Health Care/Welfare (of the 2011 budget, spending) 59%
Defense – 25% (including 3 armed conflicts, agreed or not)

Source – http://www.usgovernmentspending.com

All for cutting, but make it across the board… because if your just going to cut defense

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

nice socialist turns of phrase…

It is telling that you would use the word “Socialist” as some type of negative attack. While I am not a Socialist, I am sympathetic to many of their views as I am of a number of Libertarian and yes, Conservative ideas as well. This makes me a normal American in my POV and not some ideologue who can’t stretch his thinking beyond talking points to encompass ideas based on merit and necessity rather than dogma.

How about we cut Medicare/Medicade/SS they are the 3 biggest drains to the treasury while we are at it…

While Medicare will be solvent for at least the next 35 years, we need to continuously borrow money to support the Industrial Military complex and the wars we keep getting into because some politicians think we are the world’s police force. It is not social welfare, but rather corporate welfare that is killing us slowly…

so i guess taxes is the only way? Hmmm even though its been historically show Government revenues actually decrease with tax hikes…..

LOL, and how do you explain the prosperity and growth under Clinton in the 90’s when tax rates were at a much higher level and the decline in both growth and prosperity under Bush II? Me thinks you may need to go back and study that chapter more closely…

Definition of fair is everyone pays the same.. not some pay more and others pay nothing… and as a “collective” how can you not agree? Everyone pays the same…

The flat tax is a scam to reduce the tax rate for the top 1% while increasing the taxes for everyone else. Couple that with the fact that as a total of income a Janitor might have to greatly sacrifice and go without while that multinational CEO would not have his/her life effected at all.

I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

A Monkey with Atitude (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Industrial Military complex – Karl Marx turn of phrase…No Dogma needed, much about a person can be learned by the turns of phrase they use

It is not social welfare, but rather corporate welfare that is killing us slowly… – 37% of the total budget was social welfare… and growing the Obamacare hasn’t even started yet.. Source see above post

Corporate Welfare – is part and particle to current mind sets of those in government, and we most likely agree to end it (in fact i would make them pay it back)

“LOL, and how do you explain the prosperity and growth under Clinton in the 90’s when tax rates were at a much higher level and the decline in both growth and prosperity under Bush II? Me thinks you may need to go back and study that chapter more closely…”

Proven – Reagan Tax policy worked – http://www.house.gov/jec/fiscal/tx-grwth/reagtxct/reagtxct.htm

OK ill go to the Clinton Tax Level if you go back to the Gingrich Spending levels (adjusted it would put us 200 Billion in the black) – Suggested by Alan Greenspan (http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/would_you_accept_clinton_tax_r.html)

The flat tax is a scam to reduce the tax rate for the top 1% while increasing the taxes for everyone else. Couple that with the fact that as a total of income a Janitor might have to greatly sacrifice and go without while that multinational CEO would not have his/her life effected at all. –
I didnt say Flat Tax I said Fair Tax which are very different, 1 is a system like the present, the other (Fair Tax) is a consumption tax, so the billionare that buys a fancy car or plan will pay much higher taxes than a janitor (that is refunded for any purchase necessary for life, food, drugs, and the like). (Fairtax.org)

So before you start your babble know your facts.. i put my sources…

AMusingFool (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit


Industrial Military complex – Karl Marx turn of phrase

Or Eisenhower. They’re certainly easy to confuse.


37% of the total budget was social welfare

And your point is?


Proven – Reagan Tax policy worked

Several points there: you do realize Reagan raised taxes several times (I only ask because very few of those who put Reagan forth as an icon to be followed do) after seeing that those 1981 cuts put the government on an unsustainable course?

And is income concentration a good thing? Because those tax cuts started the concentration of wealth in this country:
http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
(see the first paragraph after Figure 5, in particular)

Do high taxes actually retard economic growth?
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/07/12/tax-rates-and-gdp-growth/


OK ill go to the Clinton Tax Level if you go back to the Gingrich Spending levels

I wouldn’t mind some of that. Clinton-era (Gingrich, if you prefer) military/defense spending levels would certainly be good. But most programs have gotten more expensive as the population has grown. You want to adjust those figures for population growth? I’d have to look into it in more detail, but that might work.

As for the fair tax, I’m not too keen on going to a pure consumptive model. First, you’ve got a lot of exceptions to take care of, as you noted. But those exceptions could easily make the system as convoluted as the current system.

More importantly, it probably ends up reducing taxes on the rich, as it wouldn’t tax capital gains (where the rich make the majority of their money). If you don’t tax capital accumulation, then you’ve set up an excellent system for a class system (you know, an aristocracy). That’s a great deal for absolutely killing social mobility (you know, what supposedly makes America great).

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Jack Daniels Explains The Deficit

Industrial Military complex – Karl Marx turn of phrase…No Dogma needed, much about a person can be learned by the turns of phrase they use

Hmm, it is interesting that you would equate a term used by President Eisenhower as something related to Marxism. My how far to the right we appear to have strayed…

37% of the total budget was social welfare… and growing the Obamacare hasn’t even started yet.. Source see above post

Yet we didn’t and don’t need to borrow to sustain a system that is in the black well through 2025. Are you suggesting the 22+% we spend ( and have to borrow to support) on defense, war, and material is a better use of our tax dollars?

Proven – Reagan Tax policy worked – http://www.house.gov/jec/fiscal/tx-grwth/reagtxct/reagtxct.htm

You must be too young to remember Reagan and his administration. Under Reagan, taxes were actually raised and the deficit literally BLOOMED: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20030729-503544.html

OK ill go to the Clinton Tax Level if you go back to the Gingrich Spending levels (adjusted it would put us 200 Billion in the black) – Suggested by Alan Greenspan (http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/would_you_accept_clinton_tax_r.html)

Ah, invocation of Greenspan. After he left office and witnessed how his theories and actions helped lead to the melt-down in 2008, he simply said he was wrong. What a wonderful example of unintended consequences and how badly the Republicans with the Democrat’s assistance mucked up the economy. Please do a little deeper research as it will expand your mind and world view…

I didnt say Flat Tax I said Fair Tax which are very different, 1 is a system like the present, the other (Fair Tax) is a consumption tax, so the billionare that buys a fancy car or plan will pay much higher taxes than a janitor (that is refunded for any purchase necessary for life, food, drugs, and the like). (Fairtax.org)

Consumption tax sounds so similar to the European VAT tax. Regardless, a consumption based tax falls disproportionately on those with the least ability to pay said taxes and only works to reduce overall consumption. Well, if people cut back on consumption they buy less goods and services which in turn leads to downsizing because of a significant drop in demand (translation: people start loosing jobs when they get layed off because people are buying less of what they make).

Try again

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