“According to Forbes (March 8, 2007), there are 946 billionaires, not counting heads of state. Last year there were only 793. What if –in the next several years– the number climbs to, say, 1,892? How would life be different for us then? — Author’s blue-collar neighbor
If you have a billion U.S. dollars, it’s in your debased financial interests for others not to know exactly how much a billion is, to not clearly understand the value of your billion.
And if you’re old enough, and have gotten to know enough people (well), you’ll easily see how having a billion bucks motivates billionaires to do anything to keep their goodies. Regardless of their PR image. That’s if you also know what a billion can buy.
Multi-billionaires? Let’s not go there.
What I’m saying about a billion in currency, btw, also applies to that number in people, budget allocations, etc. You name it. And –just as in the case of personal dinero– those in positions of power who want you to support doing this or that to/for a billion people benefit from your ignorance about the figure. Ditto for government agencies making public decisions regarding that amount. And so on.
So what IS a billion?
First off, you should answer the question on your own. THEN continue reading here.
Now that you’re back, let’s proceed to the Billion for Billions of Dummies section, and review:
1. If I am holding a billion dollars in my deep back pocket, I don’t want you to know how much that represents ’cause I fear you might want to…take some of it from me. Steal it. Whether or not you work for minimum wage, are homeless, or earn $100,000.00 per year. Or are independently wealthy.
2. If I’m a congressman and I want you to support a measure I intend to vote for which will pay a billion dollars to some corporation (supposedly) working for the public good, it’s probably in my interests for you to dwell in ignorance about the meaning of the amount…so that you don’t ask too many questions, for one. Whether or not the subsidy is in lieu of collecting taxes from said corporation. Feeding someone else from the public trough is always risky. Ditto all the above if you’re talking about a missing billion vis-a-vis an agency audit. Which happens regularly, btw.
3. If I want to trick my fiance by planning an unannounced “break” from my relationship with her (at some indeterminate time in the future), it would be good to draw a blank in telling her, “I’m just going to take a short ride of a billion miles into space to get some cigarettes.” Securing her blessings for such a jaunt would require zero knowledge of that distance on her part, of course.
And speaking of miles, let’s have you take a quick moment to tell yourself how many round-trips from New York to some point in California (2500 miles distant) it would take to eat up a billion dollar bills (laid length-wise on the ground). Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t think. Just –from the gut– write down the number of round-trips one could make with a billion dollars…if one were to place a billion singles along a path from coast to coast. How many times would the alignment travel back and forth from New York to California? Once? Twice? More? Would the billion dollars even cover the distance of one round-trip?
I’ll give you the answer shortly.
First, allow me to tell you what people said in a recent survey I conducted concerning how they would convey the “huge size of a billion” to young adults. I asked variations of “In a sentence, how would you describe ‘a billion’ so that young adults understood how big the number is?”
Typical was “A thousand million.” Other responses included, “Depends on what you’re talking about,” “There aren’t too many billionaires,” “McDonald’s sells that many burgers,” and other very uninspiring answers. Anyone who’s reading this who was part of the survey, however, should NOT feel bad. There were NO interesting descriptions. Nothing that would get across how large a figure is…a billion, like noting that a stack of crisp, new dollar bills would reach into the sky to the tune of twelve times the height of the Empire State Building (if one were playing Billion Dollar Baby). Which means zero if one has never been up as high as King Kong there in the Art Deco air.
So the priority here, for the moment, must be to zero in on what that means. That not a soul was sufficiently acquainted with the import of a billion. That the significance of the number could not be put adequately into words.
The power of a billion does not come across very well by merely citing other numbers, playing with words. And if one doesn’t get a billion, a “trillion” will slip right by…easily; that analogy with the crisp dollars above would have to be tweaked to accommodate a stack 3000 miles high!
To get the true gist of a billion (grist for the mental/emotional mill), one must provide images.
Sixteen round-trips is the answer to the query above. With enough bills left over after all those cross-country laps to travel to Mexico City (and back) from Manhattan.
Now that might not strike some as overwhelming. But anyone who’s hitchhiked across this nation can’t escape the monumental meaning of that answer.
And I highly recommend that readers get such an experience under their belt before talking too much more about anything like stars being a billion light years away. That’s much too advanced for anyone who doesn’t have a grasp of the dirty ground between the South Bronx and Compton.
Here, let me provide a shortcut. Imagine that you’re going to run over the bills with your hot feet until you cover the tracks of our cool billion. And let’s say that you’re not putting away a three-minute mile for each mile, but, rather, doing half that speed. For ten hours a day straight, no rests or breaks during running time. For the drama of it.
Figure it out. You’d cover a hundred miles a day at ten miles per hour. In twenty-five days you’d hit the California coast for the first time, taking fifty days to do one round-trip. We’re talkin’ 800 days with these numbers. And the last time I looked, there were only 365 of those (days) in one year. You should be in a daze by now, but stick with me.
Our South of the Border mileage is next.
Being well over 2000 miles one-way…we have to add a minimum of well over another month to our total thus far, bringing the Grand Total to well above 840 24-hour segments.
Things do not sit well when one starts to contemplate the meaning of people not knowing the meaning of a billion. Not well at all. In terms of waste and wasting away. And more.
Permit me, please, to cut not to THE Chase, but…alas…to one of the important chases.
One of my points: Imagine, not a billion bucks laid out, but, rather, a billion Muslims standing toe to heel across our so-called Great Nation. Imagine, if you can, actual people lined up to that degree. People with whom many Christians are conducting another Crusade of sorts.
Now…even if you eliminate Muslims from the lineup who are not out-of-their-mind infuriated with “us” beyond belief, or who haven’t come to reason their way into battle with “us,” you’ve still got quite a pool to pick from. A rather large number of individuals.
Or can’t you see that?
For those who can the questions are:
1. Where are they?
2. What do they look like?
3. Could there possibly be a typical “profile” for such a large group?
4. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to NOT do anything that might increase that number, especially considering that their religion is slated to comprise 30% of the earth’s population by the year 2025, expanding at a rate that is greater than the rate of our earth’s population explosion. Excuse the use of the word here, please.
5. Would it be a good idea to get proactive with toning down the tensions ASAP? In direct contrast with not only our current “momentum,” but with regard to momentum for the foreseeable future.
6. What about people like me who feel for the followers of Islam?
7. Is there a chance in H___ that…? I’ll let the reader complete that question.
There are not quite a billion reasons for working for Peace. But there are enough.
And enough is enough anyway.
ADDED NOTE: Originally, I was going to open this article with,
“LONDON (Reuters) - Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the ‘war on terror’ is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.” — Yahoo! News
Enough with the new billionaires. Increase the number a bit more, and what’s enough $$$ trouble already will become a zillion times worse. As the rich get richer (often from our wars)….
All of us get poorer.