Friday, December 9, 2011



Hal Pepinsky,,

December 9, 2011

Much as numbers are thrown about as news, I don’t think people who read or hear the news have the foggiest idea of the mathematical differences between thousands and millions, millions and billions, billions and trillions.

Let’s say you worked full time at minimum wage and took home $10,000 this past year. Someone who took home $1 million took home 100 times what you did. Someone who took home $1 million took in 1,000 TIMES less than someone who took home 1 billion. And a 1 trillion is 1,000 billion. Throwing out numbers in millions, billions and trillions numbs the mind.

One of my grandfathers was a math prof. His oldest child, my mother, raised me to celebrate an understanding of mathematical logic, although I never got beyond trigonometry in school. Still, I marvel at how our politics and news reporting spend air time on numbers compared to nothing. It amounts to political oblivion. I can prove that one person earning a million dollars equals how a thousand people live on a thousand dollars. I can prove that 1 person who earns a billion dollars equals a thousand folks who earn 1 million.

One trillion=1,000 billion

One billion=1,000 million

One million=1,000 thousand

One thousand=1,000 ones

In the face of our insignificance (I don’t even register to vote any more) one person has the capacity to improve the quality of single lives, which ultimately may create positive changes in political cultures. I learn more personal agency by sharing stories than by sharing social statistics, which as a young guy put it to me many years ago, are “mind-numbingly boring” distractions from discussing how we live our lives for better and worse. Spare me a focus on “the numbers.” I live in a different methodological world. Love and peace--hal

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