Billions, Trillions, Some Perspective

Over the course of my lifetime, we have seen the global money supply and global debt continue to expand endlessly. In the days of old during my youth, people worried that some day the total US debt might reach as high as a Trillion dollars. As you can see from this historical chart, total US debt edged up over time from around 250 Billion starting in the year 1950 to a little over 500 Billion by the year 1975. By this time people my age were about 20 years old and the idea of Billions in total debt seemed normal. As we can see from the chart, total US debt did not hit the Trillion dollar mark until 1982 when people around my age were approaching 30 years old. This seemed like a big deal at that time as we moved in "the Trillions" for the first time.

Of course now we look book back at a one Trillion dollar total debt as mere peanuts. Trillions have become quite acceptable in the public mind and no longer concern most people as we move well over the 20 Trillion mark in total US debt. Trillions for people today seem like Billions did to people when I was growing up. Clearly, the total US debt is headed much higher in coming years and these days no one seems very concerned about that. Every now and then a politician or financial analyst will act concerned about it; but we all know nothing will actually be done to stem the rising tide of debt unless there is no other option available to keep extending the debt. These days, it is even fashionable to promote the idea that debts don't matter at all and that all that matters is that we can pay the interest and roll over the debt. 


With this background in mind, I though it might interesting to try and offer some perspective on the difference between the numbers one million, one billion, and one trillion. If we look at how long each of these numbers is in terms of seconds of time:

1 million seconds is about equal to 11 and 1/2 days 

1 billion seconds is almost 32 years

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