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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Economic damage from pandemic is severe and will continue to be severe.

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Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

We are starting to see some guesses about the economic damage from the shutdowns driven by the pandemic.

When you read about the 10 million people who have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks and consider there will be millions more and the unemployment will continue for another month or two, ponder the ripple effects.

That shock of unemployment translates into cars not purchased, summer & Christmas vacations not taken, conferences not attended, college enrollment delayed a year, fancy wedding receptions never planned, and house renovations postponed by a decade.

4/5/20 – Wall Street Journal – State Shutdowns Have Taken at Least a Quarter of U.S. Economy Offline – Study by Moody’s Analytics estimates that 29% of the U.S. economy has shut down. That is the estimated drop in output we have already seen.

Some of the staggeringly dangerous hits to U.S. output and wealth:

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Written by Jim Ulvog

April 8, 2020, 6:09 am at 6:09 am

Posted in Economics, Pondering

Total cost of Alexander’s rampage

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Tetradrachm from era of Alexander the Great. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

Tetradrachm from era of Alexander the Great. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

This will be my final post on the finances of Alexander the Great.

Professor Frank Holt’s book The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s Wealth Shaped the World explains the ancient record does not give us enough details to estimate the total expenses paid by Alexander as he rampaged around the world.

The total expenses based on identifiable items in historical narratives is aggregated by the professor in a formula as:

  • 189( X) + 69,176 talents

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Written by Jim Ulvog

September 1, 2016, 7:00 am at 7:00 am

Posted in Economics, Other stuff

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A few stray tidbits on the cost of Alexander’s military

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Ancient Greek coins. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Ancient Greek coins. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Professor Frank Holt’s book The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s Wealth Shaped the World explains there is little in the historical record on the cost or size of Alexander’s military. Here are a few tidbits which are visible.

Navy

Alexander learned to appreciate the value of a Navy. One data point is that in 334 BC he had 200 ships operating in the Aegean sea. No quantification mentioned of naval forces elsewhere at that or any other time.

Army

Figuring out how much Alexander spent to field his military forces is a game of stringing together many wild guesses. The author accumulated his own long string of guesses and assumptions for small units. He also quotes several other studies.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

August 30, 2016, 7:00 am at 7:00 am

Posted in Economics, Other stuff

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Some tidbits on the spending side of Alexander the Great’s reign

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Ancient Greek coin. Alexander the Great and Apollo with the chariot of the sun. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Ancient Greek coin. Alexander the Great and Apollo with the chariot of the sun. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I have been discussing Professor Frank Holt’s book The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s Wealth Shaped the World . You can find other posts on the ancient finances tag.

The second half of the book explores Alexander’s spending. There is even less historical information available on his spending than on his looting.

One part caught my eye.

Alexander built about 13 major cities according to the educated guess in the book. That doesn’t include dozens of small villages or all the sundry fortifications.

One of these cities, Ai Khanoum, had three miles of wall, which is guessed to have taken 3,000 workers six months to build.

How much would that construction cost? I will make a wild guess.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

August 13, 2016, 10:27 am at 10:27 am

Posted in Economics, Other stuff

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The incredible wealth of Mansa Musa, the ancient emperor of Mali

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Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.

Map of Mali courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.

Barron’s suggests Mansa Musa, the Emperor of Mali in the 1300s, was the richest man who ever lived.

Since I firmly believe that I am richer today than John D. Rockefeller was back in 1916, I would also insist that I am, right now, richer than Mansa Musa was in 1324. But that isn’t the point of the story. I’ll mention travel costs momentarily.

The 7/23 article from Barron’s gives a glimpse into ancient finances by wondering Who Was the Richest Person Who Ever Lived? / The Emperor of Mali lived on top of a 14th century Goldmine so prolific that it probably made him the richest person who ever lived.

Musa Keita I is referred to as Mansa, or Emperor, Musa. He was born somewhere around 1280 and died somewhere around 1337. He was the ruler of the Mali Empire which stretched across Western Africa.

Consider the economic resources in the area: gold and salt.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

August 2, 2016, 7:14 am at 7:14 am

Posted in Economics, Other stuff

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Guess on the value of all loot taken by Alexander the Great

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Tetradrachm from Alexander the Great. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

Tetradrachm from Alexander the Great. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

My discussion continues of how much wealth Alexander the Great looted while on his rampage around the world. These calculations are based on two books I’ve really enjoyed:

Loot from Persia

Prof Holt provides a couple of ancient estimates of the total haul in Persia. Here is a recap:

  • ?? Babylon
  • 50k talents – Susa
  • 120k – Persepolis
  • 6k – Pasargadae
  • 26k – Ecbatana

That gives a point estimate of 202k talents. Back out some poetic license exaggeration and add an amount at Babylon about equal to Susa (author’s estimate) gives me an estimate of about 225k talents, give or take. That is only the precious metals without art, statuary, spices, clothes, pottery, or gold inlaid stuff.

In addition, Darius fled with maybe 8,000 talents, Alexander paid bonuses of around 12,000 talents to his soldiers, with another 2,000 talents to Thessalain soldiers. There was enough stray coins found a century later to mint 4,000 talents of coins. That is around another 26,000 talents or so of additional bullion. Add in the unquantifiable amount soldiers looted and all the non-bullion treasures means there was an incalculable amount of wealth looted from the Persian empire.

I’ll work with 202K point estimate, plus 50K from Babylon, less 25K for poetic license, plus 26K sundry disposition. That gets to a point estimate of 253K, with my very wild guess of a margin of error of minus 50K to plus 100K.  Let’s work with a 250,000 Talent estimate. That means I’ll roughly estimate Alexander looted 250,000 talents of silver-equivalent from Persia.

Total haul during Alexander’s extended raid around the world

The total haul from looting is estimated by the Prof. Holt as 69( X) + 216,820 talents, where X is an unknown amount from one raid or battle. The total is unknown and unknowable.

Shortly after that estimate the author adds in tribute from conquered areas that were not looted in return for payments and loyalty.

Total proceeds from the wars is then estimated in a formula expressed as 81.67( X) +311,761.

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Written by Jim Ulvog

July 15, 2016, 9:52 am at 9:52 am

An indication of Persian wealth from the book of Esther

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Drawing of Persian daric gold coin. Alexander would have looted tons of these. Image courtesy of Adobe stock.

Drawing of Persian daric gold coin. Alexander would have looted tons of these. Image courtesy of Adobe stock.

The number two man in the Persian Empire offered a bribe of 10,000 talents to the king in return for permission to kill off all the Jews living under the authority of the king. Today’s question: what would the amount of that bribe be worth in today’s money?

The Old Testament book of Esther tells the story of Haman plotting to kill all the Jews living in the Persian Empire.  Esther then told King Xerxes about the plot. The King executed Haman and allowed the Jews to defend themselves from those planning to exterminate them. The Jews survived. Those who expected to slaughter them did not. That is the short version. For the full details, check out the book of Esther.

Hers is a wonderful story of realizing God put you in a place to do a job that only you can do. So many other delightful and encouraging aspects of the story. If you haven’t looked at it lately, check it out.

There is one particular verse in the story which overlaps my discussion of Alexander the Great looting the Persian Empire. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

June 23, 2016, 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm

Posted in Economics, Other stuff

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