The power of diagrams

I was flicking through the programme from The Power of Yes over breakfast this morning and I found something interesting. It's a Billion-Dollar-o-Gram by David McCandless of Information is Beautiful (book coming out next year, hardback fans). What is a Billion-Dollar-o-Gram? Why, it's a visual representation of the amounts the US government spends. Of course. Idiot. The numbers we talk about are so staggeringly huge it's almost impossible to comprehend them in our humdrum lives, hence diagrams. (Diagrams are awesome.) You can see a version on his website, but the one in the programme is a bit clearer (there's also a UK version too, done for the Guardian.)

Some numbers (from 2006/07):

  • The New Deal, scaled up to today's prices, cost $500bn
  • Internet porn is worth around $97bn
  • $4bn is spent on erectile dysfunction
  • OPEC earns $520bn – and has a climate change fund worth $3bn
  • The yoga industry is worth $18bn
  • Africa's entire debt to Western nations is $200bn
  • Russian officials are estimated to have received $316bn in bribes
  • In 2007, the cost of the Iraq war was predicted to be around $3,000bn – from an original estimate of $60bn (if I had a builder whose costs escalated that much I'd sue him)
  • Total cost of the financial crisis to the US government to August 2009: £2,800bn. Worst case scenario? $7,800bn.

It looks even more impressive when it's all in comparatively sized squares. But I think some of those numbers speak for themselves.


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