Big number games

Unless one grew up in Italy when prices were in large numbers in Lira, large numbers require getting used to. Being confronted by them in headlines makes us switch off.

But comparing big numbers is possible. For example, the Wikipedia entry on the public debt in France mentions:

  • 1 457 billion Euros of public debt in 2009
  • 252 billion Euros of tax income in 2008.

The government had 5.8 times more income from borrowed than from taxing.

The American budget and national debt consist of big numbers, too:

  • the national debt is $12.3 trillion
  • interest payments in 2009 consisted of $383 billion
  • these payments are 32% of the debt!

Here’s the page where I found the data. It contains one chart, a few pithy explanations and lots of links. Plus the quote by Thomas Jefferson: “Information is the Currency of Democracy.”

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