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Posts Tagged ‘development

“There’s nothing in the world so demoralizing as money”*…


The beginning of a MUCH longer infographic

This infographic was initially created to show how much money exists in its different forms. For example, to highlight how much physical cash there is in comparison to broader measures of money which include saving and checking account deposits.

Interestingly, what is considered “money” depends on who you are asking.

Are the abstractions created by Central Banks really money? What about gold, bitcoins, or other hard assets?

Since we first released this infographic in 2015, “All the World’s Money and Markets” has taken on a different meaning to us and many others. It’s a way of simplifying a complex universe of currencies, assets, and other financial instruments in a way that people can understand.

Numbers represented in the data visualization range from the size of the above-ground silver market ($17 billion) to the notional value of all derivatives ($1.2 quadrillion as a high-end estimate). In between those two extremes, we’ve added many other familiar measures, such as the GDP of California, the value of equities, the real estate market, along with different money supply metrics to give perspective…

See the infographic in its entirety– and ponder such take-aways as that the total of all derivatives outstanding today exceeds the total before the crash of 2008 the led to the Great Recession— at “All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization.”

* Sophocles, Antigone


As we batten down the hatches, we might send careful-calculated birthday greetings to Amartya Kumar Sen; he was born on this date in 1933.  A polymathic economist and philosopher, he has made material contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, thinking on economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indices of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries.

Sen’s revolutionary contribution to development economics and social indicators is the concept of “capability” developed in his article “Equality of What”.  He argues that governments should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens. This is because top-down development will always trump human rights as long as the definition of terms remains in doubt (is a “right” something that must be provided or something that simply cannot be taken away?). For instance, in the United States citizens have a hypothetical “right” to vote. To Sen, this concept is fairly empty. In order for citizens to have a capacity to vote, they first must have “functionings”. These “functionings” can range from the very broad, such as the availability of education, to the very specific, such as transportation to the polls. Only when such barriers are removed can the citizen truly be said to act out of personal choice. It is up to the individual society to make the list of minimum capabilities guaranteed by that society. For an example of the “capabilities approach” in practice, see Martha Nussbaum‘s Women and Human Development. [source]

Called the “conscience of his profession,” Sen was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998; India’s Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his work in welfare economics; and in 2017, the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science.



Written by LW

November 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“To see a world on a grain of sand”*…


Sand covers so much of the earth’s surface that shipping it across borders—even uncontested ones—seems extreme. But sand isn’t just sand, it turns out. In the industrial world, it’s “aggregate,” a category that includes gravel, crushed stone, and various recycled materials. Natural aggregate is the world’s second most heavily exploited natural resource, after water, and for many uses the right kind is scarce or inaccessible. In 2014, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report titled “Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks,” which concluded that the mining of sand and gravel “greatly exceeds natural renewal rates” and that “the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth in Asia.”…

It’s one of our most widely used natural resources, but it’s scarcer than you think: “The world is running out of sand.”

* William Blake


As we think anxiously about the beach, we might spare a thought for René Just Haüy; he died on this date in 1822.  An ordained priest (and honorary canon of Notre Dame), he began his scientific career as a botanist, but detoured into geology when a specimen of calcareous spar caught his fancy.  It inspired him to undertake a series of experiments which resulted in his outlining of the geometrical law of crystallization now associated with his name.  As a result, he’s considered the Father of Crystallography…  a field that concerns itself with quartz, a major component of sand.



Written by LW

June 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Poverty is an anomaly to rich people. It is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell”*…



It’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of the world; but it does pay to stand back, look at the big picture, and check that pessimism against long term data… which is what our old friend Hans Rosling helps people do. A statistician who specializes in data visualization, here he uses snowballs and toys to explain (to the BBC) the state of income inequality:

Special bonus:  watch Dr. Rosling disabuse WEF-Davos attendees of their misimpressions about sustainable development.

* Walter Bagehot, English economist (1826-1877)


As we remind ourselves that regression can be a useful thing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition unloaded the first automobile in Antarctica (an air-cooled Arrol-Johnston two-seater).  Shackleton had hoped that the car would speed his progress to the South Pole; in the event, it didn’t perform in the extreme cold.

The expedition’s engineer, Bernard Day, testing the Arrol-Johnston on the Ross Sea Ice Shelf





Written by LW

February 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

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