Sometimes the problem with communicating important ideas just lack some identifying element. So when we say “such and such thing costs 4 billion dollars” all we really see is a number and we’re at a loss to put it into any sort of a scale or terms.
Some people have tried to compare large costs with consumer grade products such as Big Macs or Ford Cars. But that really isn’t that useful since it’s not honest, how many of us really understand what a product is worth or what it took to make.
So my rationale is that you have to consider that money is not actually real, but is simply a reflection of people’s work. If you have to spend billions of dollars on something, then at least spare a thought for all the people who will have to slave away in order to make that money make any sort of sense economically.
I will instead specify costs in terms of number of person income years1 Which I will describe as the mean income of each householder over the age of 14 in a given country. I do this because if someone is not working in an economic sense, it’s likely that they are working in the shadow none monetary social services economy that serves those who do work. Treat the following as back of the envelope, playful and not serious or in depth, but just my way of experimenting with an idea, so forgive me if it’s totally illogical.
I will list out a few large, costly human endeavours using this to see if it helps my own understanding of what it cost our economy to achieve them and so this is in US median annual incomes per household persons in 2007 ($26,036):
- Red Hat Revenue – $111.1 million – 4.3 thousand people.
- NASA – $17.6 billion – 676 thousand people.
- Microsoft Revenue – $51.12 billion – 2 million people.
- USA Defence budge – $515.4 billion – 19.8 million people.
- USA Annual Increase in debt – $1035.1 billion – 39.8 million people.
- USA Health spending – $2.2 trillion – 84.5 million people.
- USA Gross Debt – $8.9 trillion – 344 million people.
- USA Total GDP – 14.2 trillion – 547.9 million people.1
1 Does this mean that 240 million people outside of the USA are working for the people who live in the USA? More likely this either points out massive debt or that my maths is bogus. I’ll go with the later, because I’m not an economist.