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Category: Economics

What is the What

The government burned the villages to punish them for supporting the rebels. It’s very easy to kill a town, yes? Harder to kill an army.

—Dave Eggers

FTFY, Internet

As anyone who’s stood within earshot of me for more than 45 seconds can tell you, I tend to be supremely annoyed by “when I was your age” anecdotes about how much things used to cost, particularly when people use nominal dollars instead of real dollars. Since I’ve seen half a dozen instances of this stupid image over the past couple of days, and I expect to see it about a billion more times as the new year approaches, I thought I’d fix a few things.

While most of the figures on this page seem spurious at best, I went for the low-hanging fruit and just adjusted the prices for inflation to give some context. Feel free to contact me with correct data (sourced, of course) and I’ll be happy to update this internet nonsense.

For what it’s worth, I found it vaguely interesting that Mechanical Engineers make a lot less now than they did way-back-when, but I’m sure there are a butt-ton more engineers competing in the marketplace these days. And dentists make a lot more, which makes sense considering high-tech dental equipment in 1915 consisted largely of a shot of whiskey from a dirty glass and a length of twine attached to a horse.

Also, after a century, sugar is still about $1 a pound, except now I can clickity-click and have it delivered to my frigging front door in less than an hour by a beardo in a Prius. Now that’s what I call progress.

P.S. See edits below image…


Edits as of 29 Dec 2015:

  1. Life expectancy in 1915 was 54.7 years
  2. The first fuel filling stations popped up in 1906-1907
  3. By 1915 approximately 30% of homes had telephones
  4. The US flag had 48 stars as of 1912
  5. As of the 1910 US Census, the population of Las Vegas was already 937
  6. The earliest forms of crossword puzzles date back to the 1790s
  7. Iced tea dates back to the 1870s
  8. The high school graduation rate in 1915 was approximately 15%
  9. The homicide rate in 1915 was 5.9 per 100,000 residents. With a US population of 105 million, that works out to about 6,195 murders

This is Where I Leave you

The thing about people who work in finance is that they consider their job infinitely more important than anything or anyone, and so it’s perfectly legitimate to tell everyone else to fuck off because they have a conference call with Dubai. Billions of dollars are involved, so things like a kid’s birthday or a wife’s dead father are simply not at the top of the agenda. Barry is almost never around, and when he is, he’s on the phone or scanning his BlackBerry with the furrowed brow of one who is dealing with shit that dwarfs your shit exponentially. If Barry was sitting next to the president of the United States during a nuclear attack, he’d still be staring down at his BlackBerry with his default expression, the one that says You think you’ve got problems?

—Jonathan Tropper