I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to respond to everything the next time I have a “debate” with a liberal. It doesn’t happen very often (the debate, that is), but it always frustrates me to no end. More than once I’ve had to deal with responses like, “You obviously know your facts and figures, BUT (there’s always a “but”) I’m happy that millions of people have insurance that didn’t have it before”. Or, “Obviously you’ve studied this at length, BUT I still feel good about __________ (insert your favorite liberal cause here)”.
So, the next time I hear about some program or pet project that will cause another increase in the federal debt (intentionally not capitalized), I will simply and succinctly answer, “16 trillion“. It will be confusing at first, but there is NO legitimate retort that can be made to that comment.
The problem is that we humans have difficulty with big numbers. It is said that before we, as a species, “invented” numbers, counting was accomplished using rocks or stones in a counting bag. The extent, for most individuals, was something like “One, two, three… many”. Many was handled for them using a counting bag (and then later using devices like the abacus).
Modern, educated individuals, even though we “know our numbers”, still have issues with very large numbers. To us it’s more like “One thousand, one million, one billion… a whole bunch”. We know that number is out there, but we just can’t wrap our minds around it. There is simply nothing to compare it with.
To illustrate my point I did a fun little calculation. A couple months ago I was visiting some relatives and a Brita water filter commercial came on TV. I’m sure you’ve seen it – it’s the one where they say that all the discarded plastic water bottles could circle the earth 31 times (at least I think they said 31). Almost immediately both my brother-in-law and father-in-law said, “I don’t believe that”. I said I did, but I couldn’t defend my position at the time.
So, here’s how to calculate and support the claim that Brita made.
First, the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. Taking that number and multiplying by the number of feet in a mile (5280) gives us 131477280 feet. Assuming the average water bottle is six inches, or a half a foot, we multiply by 2 and get the figure of 262954560. That should be the number of plastic bottles is takes to circle the earth once.
Seems like a pretty big number, right? But now we have to determine how many of these bottles are discarded in a year. A quick internet search reveals that 1500 water bottles are used in the U.S. every second. Wow. That’s a lot. Calculating that out (1500 x 60 x 60 x 24 x 365) = 47 billion water bottles are used each year! That’s billion with a “B”.
47 billion divided by 263 million = 179, a number “slightly” larger that what Brita came up with. Assuming that some bottles are larger, and that some bottles are not discarded, we can forgive Brita for being somewhat conservative in their estimate.
So, why are these numbers so hard to “get”? Well, as humans, we tend to just think about ourselves and our own little world – that part of life that has a direct impact only upon us. Our minds normally work with numbers in the hundreds or thousands – those numbers are easy to “get”. So what, you might think, I only use a couple bottle each day or each week. That can only add up to 50 or 100 bottles each year. And if I include my circle of family/friends/acquaintances, that can only add up to a few hundred at most. How can the world possibly use 47 billion (or enough to circumnavigate the globe several times)?
16 trillion is even harder. How many seconds have passed since humans have been civilized? About 315 billion. That’s not even a third of one trillion. “Modern” humans (homo sapien) have only bee around for maybe 2 trillion seconds. In fact, you have to go back in time a half a million years to reach 16 trillion seconds. A half a million years!
Is it any wonder we just kinda ignore the 16 trillion number? It’s quite simply unfathomable. We might as well be dealing with infinity.
- The $1 Trillion Platinum Coin(personalliberty.com)
- FAIL: Meet the Press Shows Debt Clock $3 Trillion Less Than Actual $16.4 Trillion Total(thegatewaypundit.com)
- This is what $16 trillion dollars looks like: $16,000,000,000,000(greginsd.wordpress.com)