Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Friday, August 9, 2019

Human ingenuity and gold

I saw the figure below on this website, and felt compelled to comment.

No attribution was given, so I will assume it was put together by the site operator.

At first glance, it tells a simple (if somewhat horrifying) story of currency destruction. But I think there is another story it tells, which is a little more hopeful.

The picture as presented is a little misleading because it shows what an ounce of gold will buy now. (Gold was $20/oz in 1932, but there was a little less than an ounce of gold in the double eagle. But let's pretend it is an ounce of gold and look at what that $20 coin would buy you in 1932.

According to this site, a gallon of gas cost $0.18 in 1932. Accordingly, your $20 coin would buy you 111 gallons of gas.

According to this site, a gallon of milk cost $0.26 in 1930 and $0.47 in 1935. The reason for the price rise was due to the government introducing programs to help farmers during the Depression. Not knowing when exactly the program started, it's a little difficult to be sure what the price was in 1932. So let's go with $0.33, meaning $20 would get you 60 gallons.

According to this site, a dozen eggs cost $0.36 in 1937. I'll estimate $0.33 for the price in 1932, netting us 60 dozen eggs for $20.

This old New York Times article tells us that a first-class postage stamp in the US cost $0.03 in 1932. Your $20 coin would allow you to mail 666 letters and have 2 cents left to put in them.

All of which is a lot more than $20 buys you now. But notably, it is much less than an ounce of gold will buy you now.

Gas: 111 gallons vs 482 gallons
Milk: 60 gallons vs 427 gallons
Eggs: 60 dozen vs 675 dozen
Stamps: 666 vs 2700

These increases are the result of capital investment and human ingenuity, and are a reflection of real increases in productivity.

So let's not overlook the happy side of the story. A big hand for human ingenuity!