Time to cross the Atlantic – 500 year history

Replica of a state-of-the-art warship in the 1800s. That is how you could get across the ocean quickly back then. Photo of San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.
Replica of a state-of-the-art warship in the 1800s. For a couple hundred years, this is the technology you would use to get across the ocean. Photo from San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

For a thumbnail overview of the radical reduction in time it takes to travel long distances over the last 500 years, look at the time to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to America, provided by Robert Bryce in his book Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.

Update –  Another post on transatlantic crossings on October 1, 2018: Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.

He points out at location 1582 of the Kindle edition: Continue reading “Time to cross the Atlantic – 500 year history”

The dramatically improved efficiency of dramatically increased amount of travel in America over 40 years

The workhorse 737, along with all other commercial jets, have improved their efficiency tremendously over the last 40 years. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
The workhorse 737, along with all other commercial jets, has seen improved efficiency over the last 40 years. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Robert Bryce dives deep into the astounding technological and economic advances of the last 200 years as he ponders Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.

Yet one more reason the neo-Malthusians are wrong in predicting imminent collapse, according to Mr Bryce is

..that we are wringing more and more value out of the energy that we consume.

Consider that in Continue reading “The dramatically improved efficiency of dramatically increased amount of travel in America over 40 years”

Illustration of the foolishness of calculating how many years of a resource is left by using the amount of currently known reserves

Those 6 wells will soon start producing. Twenty years ago it was impossible to reach that oil. Technological innovation makes recoverable oil that was previously untouchable. Photo by James Ulvog.
Those 6 wells in North Dakota will soon start pulling huge amounts of oil out of the ground. Twenty years ago it was impossible to reach that oil. Technological innovation makes oil recoverable that was previously untouchable. Photo by James Ulvog.

Robert Bryce dives deep into the astounding technological and economic advances of the last 200 years as he ponders Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.

Innovation leading to technological advances creates wealth, improves health, and makes everyone better off. Some people in some places have been left behind by the dramatic economic improvements of the last two centuries. The best way to make life better for those folks is to continue innovating and make cheap, small, fast, highly economical tools and resources available to them.

The book as so many explanations and illustrations. I’d love to describe dozens of things that caught my eye. I will mention merely a few.

You will often see the foolish and erroneous statement that we only have X years of some resource left on the planet. When you look at the built-in calculation you see the presence of the silly fallacy of dividing known reserves by current consumption.

The reason that calculation is so foolish is it completely ignores exploration that finds new fields, innovation in recovering more resources, and economic changes that make it worthwhile to gather something that was uneconomical before.

Consider for a moment the idea that we are going to run out of oil because at current consumption rates will use up all the proven reserves in however many years. The formula is

  • proven reserves
  • divided by current consumption
  • equals years until we completely, totally exhaust all of that item on the entire planet

Continue reading “Illustration of the foolishness of calculating how many years of a resource is left by using the amount of currently known reserves”

Cemetery at Fort Buford shows what infant mortality used to look like

Reconstructed commander's quarters and barracks. There are about 5 well sites in the panorama. Consider that as an indicator of the low density and visibility of oil wells. Photo by James Ulvog.
Reconstructed commander’s quarters and barracks at Fort Buford. There are about 5 well sites in the background. Photo by James Ulvog.

One of many indicators of the radical improvement in the quality of life over the last 100 years is the dramatic drop in infant mortality.

Commander's quarters. Photo by James Ulvog.
Commander’s quarters. Photo by James Ulvog.

During our September vacation in North Dakota, we were able to visit Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford State Historical Site. Both locations were a delight to tour.

Another view of commander's quarters and barracks. There are about 5 well sites in the panorama. Consider that as an indicator of the low density and visibility of oil wells. Photo by James Ulvog.
Another view of commander’s quarters and barracks. Photo by James Ulvog.

Infant mortality

In the cemetery at Fort Buford we see an indicator of the high level of infant mortality in play a long time ago.

Continue reading “Cemetery at Fort Buford shows what infant mortality used to look like”

Fort Union Trading Post brochure shows the beauty of trade

Photo by James Ulvog.
Photo by James Ulvog.

During our September vacation in North Dakota, we were able to visit Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford. Both were a lot of fun to see.

The brochure produced by the National Park Service for the Fort Union Trading Post national historic site 25 miles southwest of Williston has lots of fun comments. I want to focus on the wages at the time and the wonderful beauty of free trade.

Continue reading “Fort Union Trading Post brochure shows the beauty of trade”

How much wealth was in the Roman treasury in 49 B.C.? How about annual tax revenue under Augustus?

(Cross-posted from a post on 8/22/14 from my other blog, Attestation Update. I’m accumulating all my posts on transportation time and prices in the past here on this blog. Someday plan to link them together to tell a larger story.)

Hadn’t thought about that question too much, but when Jacob Soll mentioned it in his book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations, it got me thinking.

He gives the following info:

In his Natural History, Pliny states that in 49 BCE , the year Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Roman treasury contained 17,410 pounds of gold, 22,070 pounds of silver, and in coin, 6,135,400 sesterces.

Soll, Jacob (2014-04-29). The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (Kindle Locations 276-277). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

I don’t think in terms of pounds of gold or silver and I don’t know what a sesterce is or what it is worth. But I do know how to search the ‘net.

I share this on my Nonprofit Update blog and cross-post it here at Attestation Update because I enjoyed it and think it might be some fun trivia for accountants and people working in the faith-based community.

By the way, Prof Soll’s book is superb. Just got started reading it and think I will find lots of little tidbits to share. More on that idea in my next post.

How much is that worth?

Continue reading “How much wealth was in the Roman treasury in 49 B.C.? How about annual tax revenue under Augustus?”

While you are laughing at all those robots falling down…

… keep in mind the tasks in the competition were to:

  • get out of a vehicle,
  • walk a distance over level dirt,
  • walk over several feet of broken concrete,
  • climb about 5 steps,
  • identify and approach a door,
  • grasped the door handle and open the door, and
  • walk through the door.

That is a sophisticated collection of gross and fine motor skills.

Yeah, a bunch of them fell down.

Here’s the video:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=g0TaYhjpOfo]

In terms of autonomous robots that could carry out disaster search and rescue tasks, we are about at the same place that space travel was in the late ‘50s.

If you weren’t aware, consider there was a large number of quite spectacular failures in the early days of missile development. For example, the rocket that lifts 10 or 15 feet off the ground, slowly drifts back to the earth, and crumples with the expected spectacular explosion.

Continue reading “While you are laughing at all those robots falling down…”

Background on comparing costs and prices across time

I often make comparisons of costs or prices across time on this blog. Doing so is difficult. I just found two resources to help understand how to do a better job.

The value of money in colonial America from the UNC School of Education explains the British currency system based on pounds. Because mercantilism was the predominant thought on how to gain wealth, manufacturing in the 1700s was done in the home country and raw materials were exported from colonies. (How much mercantilism held back the economy in the home country and every colony is a discussion for another day.)

This made manufactured goods extraordinarily expensive. Things we would think were high-priced were actually inexpensive.

For example most people could afford to buy land and build their own home but few people could afford imported sheets.

The article suggests looking at probate documents to see how things were valued. Continue reading “Background on comparing costs and prices across time”

Supreme Court to hear arguments whether feds can continue to take raisins without compensation

For reasons that defy logic, common sense, and basic morality, the federal government still has in place a New Deal era policy that raisin farmers must turn over some percentage of their crop to the federal government without compensation.

The purpose of the program is to increase prices to consumers.

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day post.

No, I’m not making this up.

George Will points out in his April 17 article, Shriveled grapes, shriveled liberty, the Supreme Court will finally hear oral arguments next Wednesday (4/22) on a case that has been in court for years.

Continue reading “Supreme Court to hear arguments whether feds can continue to take raisins without compensation”

Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution

I am increasingly interested in economic history. We are now in a place of prosperity and health that would have been unimaginable 300 years ago and barely comprehensible two generations ago. How did we get to a place of such wealth?

If we can figure out an answer to that question it will be easy to figure out how to sustain what we now enjoy. More importantly, if we figure out how those of us who enjoy prosperity got here, we have a better chance of sharing it with other people living in countries more reminiscent of life 500 years ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of economics lately. You can tell from the blog posts. I want to write more on the topic.

Here is a great article on how we got here:

3/27 – A Fine Theorem – “Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) – The post describes a lengthy description of the Industrial Revolution. More on the underlying document in a moment.

The linked article gives a great summary. Here are the five major points in the article with a few aha! ideas that registered in my simple brain: Continue reading “Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution”

Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution

I am increasingly interested in economic history. We are now in a place of prosperity and health that would have been unimaginable 300 years ago and barely comprehensible two generations ago. How did we get to a place of such wealth?

If we can figure out an answer to that question we might be able to figure out how to sustain what we now enjoy. More importantly, if we figure out how those of us who enjoy the prosperity others created, we have a better chance of sharing it with other people living in countries more reminiscent of life 500 years ago.

I’ve been reading a lot of economics lately. You can tell from the blog posts. I want to write more on the topic.

Here is a great article on how we got here:

3/27 – A Fine Theorem – “Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) – The post describes a lengthy description of the Industrial Revolution. More on the underlying document in a moment.

The linked article gives a great summary. Here are the five major points in the article with a few aha! ideas that registered in my simple brain: Continue reading “Brief introduction to the Industrial Revolution”

Has the U.S. just stopped making stuff? Yeah, I’d think so too if industrial output in the U.S. wasn’t at all time record high.

There’s an idea that we don’t make anything in the U.S. anymore. Well, we do import a huge portion of the good stuff we enjoy everyday. Yet we still make a huge amount of stuff here.

Check out this indicator of total industry production in the US. The peak production level is today:

industrial production 2-15

This is from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, which has a humongous database called the Federal Reserve Economic Data, or FRED.

What does the index above cover? From the FRED site:

The Industrial Production Index (INDPRO) is an economic indicator that measures real output for all facilities located in the United States manufacturing, mining, and electric, and gas utilities (excluding those in U.S. territories).(1)

So industrial production in the U.S. is at a record level. Cool.

Want to check out manufacturing only? Okay, here is it: Continue reading “Has the U.S. just stopped making stuff? Yeah, I’d think so too if industrial output in the U.S. wasn’t at all time record high.”

Transportation costs dropped 95% in the 1800s

There are a lot of data points on travel cost and travel time during the first half of the 1800s mentioned by Allen Guelzo in his fantastic book, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

Here is the most amazing part:

Overall drop in cost to transport freight with canals, steamboats, and railroads (location 641):

  • 95%

I want to accumulate some of these tidbits since I’m amazed at the radical change created by technology.

Transportation time and cost

Consider:

Travel by stagecoach: Continue reading “Transportation costs dropped 95% in the 1800s”

At $15.62 an hour you are in the top 1% of earners

Admit It: You’re Rich is a discussion from Megan McArdle.

If you are making more than about $16 an hour, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If your time horizon is the last few thousand years of history, sitting in the lower end of middle class or perhaps working poor, you would be in the very tip-top of the 1% for all of history.

She is on the story of why people living on either coast are complaining they can barely get by on $350,000 a year.

I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you. The global elite to which you and I belong enjoys fantastic wealth compared to the rest of the world: We have more food, clothes, comfortable housing, electronic gadgets, health care, travel and leisure than almost every other living person, not to mention virtually every human being who has ever lived. We are also mostly privileged to live in societies that offer quite a lot in the way of public amenities, from well-policed streets and clean water, to museums and libraries, to public officials who do their jobs without requiring a hefty bribe. And I haven’t even mentioned the social safety nets our governments provide.

So how is it that everyone who is making more than $33K a year doesn’t feel like they are incredibly, wonderfully, amazingly blessed to live a live of such luxury and comfort and ease?

Continue reading “At $15.62 an hour you are in the top 1% of earners”

Would you rather be in the middle class today or the richest man in the world in 1836?

If it was possible to choose, would you prefer to live life in the middle class, struggling to get by in a lousy economy with an uncertain retirement, or would you rather live the life of Nathan Rothschild, who was the richest man on the planet when he departed this life in 1836?

John Kay discusses this idea in his article, Precise inflation figures ignore evolutions in product quality and consumer choice.

Mr. Kay points out that Mr. Rothschild was richer than either John D Rockefeller or Bill Gates. He was the second richest man in all of history.

Before you say you’d rather live his life than yours, consider this:

Continue reading “Would you rather be in the middle class today or the richest man in the world in 1836?”