Did the Indians get a raw deal by trading away Manhattan Island?

     The Canarsee Indians sold Manhattan Island for $24 in 1626 to Peter Minuit.  It is often alleged that the Indians got the worst of the deal.  But did they?  Had they invested that $24 over the next 380 years at the various interest rates listed below, we can see that they would have accumulated a great deal of wealth.   

2% $47,057

4% $88,858,584

6% $161,657,351,965     $24.74  for every person on the planet

8% $283,447,296,988,981   $43,376 for every person on the planet

10% $479,166,709,215,908,000    $73,327,124 for every person on the planet

   How much is too much to spend to save a life? 

     Estimates from a recent Harvard study conducted by Tammy Tengs estimates that one life could be saved if the Environmental Protection Agency implemented water standards to control Dichloropropane.  These costs are approximately $653,000,000,000 (that is $653 billion!).  If instead the government took the same $653 billion and used it to build prisons, they could house an additional 26,320 felons.  By having these 26,320 felons incarcerated society would be spared 1,034 murders, 586 rapes, 7,711 robberies, 658 kidnappings, 1,191 other sexual assaults, and 22,680 other violent crimes.  Which do you think is the better policy?

Source: (Journal of Economics 25(1): pg. 1-7) 

Ethanol vs. Gasoline

     With the high price of gas and global warming, there is a lot of discussion about ethanol as a substitute for gas.  We can use some basic physics and economic principles to understand the choice that is being made.  A gallon of ethanol fuel will produce 76,100  BTUs of energy while a gallon of gasoline will produce 115,000 BTUs (citation).  (if we use fuel that is 94% gasoline/6% ethanol, we get 111,000 BTUs)  Therefore, we will have to use 1.5 gallons of ethanol to have the same energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline.  But we can take the analysis one step further.  It takes approximately 131,000 BTUs of energy to grow and process corn into a gallon of ethanol and 22,000 BTUs to produce a gallon of gasoline (citation).  Therefore, by using ethanol, we are actually "losing energy" with every gallon of gasoline.  Furthermore, we can't use the argument that using ethanol is "good for the environment".  Driving the average car 10,000 miles per year would use 852 gallons of ethanol.  It would take 11 acres to grow enough corn to produce 852 gallons of ethanol.  These same 11 acres grow enough food to feed seven Americans.  If we were to use ethanol to drive all of our cars, 97% of all of the land in the US would be used to grow corn.  Since there are 3,537,441 square miles in the US, we would have only 106,122 square miles left over, about the size of Colorado, for cities, forests, to grow food, etc.  Let's not forget that growing corn drains underground aquifers, and produces lots of soil erosion and water pollution (nitrates).  Finally, the commercial fertilizers used to grow corn are derived from fossil fuels, such as the oil used to make gasoline, in the first place.  

Interesting Facts

     The United States has a population of 299,470,000 people and a GDP of 12.455 trillion dollars.  The state of California has a population of 36,132,147 and a gross state product of 1.62 trillion dollars.  In other words, 1 in 8 US citizens lives in California and almost 1 in 7 of every dollars worth of output produced in the US comes from California.  If California were its own separate country, it would be the world's 9th largest (Italy beats it out by 78 billion dollars).  If we include the top three most populous states, California, Texas (22,859,968), and New York (19,254,230) we see that 1 in 4 Americans lives within these 3 states.  When we combine the gross state product for Texas ($982.4 billion) and New York ($963.5 billion) we see that these three states produce 1 in 3.5 of every dollars worth of output produced in the US.  If these three states were a country, it would be the 5th largest economy in the world (beating out Germany, the United Kingdom, and France) 

More Interesting Facts

In a year, a typical American will

  • eat about 62 quarts of popcorn

  • eat 30 pounds of lettuce

  • use one tree 100 feet tall and 16 inches in diameter to fulfill their wood and paper needs

  • drink 23 gallons of milk

  • eat 23 pounds of pizza

  • eat 14 pounds of turkey

  • eat 19 pounds of apples

  • eat 125 pounds of potatoes

  • eat 53 loaves of bread

More Interesting Facts 2

One bale of cotton will produce 1,217 t-shirts.  The US produces enough cotton so that if all of it were used to make blue jeans, the United States would make over 5 billion pairs of jeans a year.  In 2002, the US produced 1,577,005,140 bushels of wheat on 45,519,978 acres.  Since one bushel of wheat will produce 73 loaves of bread, the US has the potential to produce 115,121,375,220 loaves of bread--Enough for every person on the planet to have more than 17 loaves of bread.