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I was perusing the U.S. Geological Survey publications and came across this:

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, 3,000 workers produced over 225,000 tons of salt in the United States. Today, there is a third more workers, but they produce 100 times more salt.

In other words, each salt worker in 1865 was able to produce 75 tons of salt each year. Today, each worker is able to produce approximately 5,625 tons of salt per year. Keep this in mind when you look at changes in measured money income over time. Since the Civil War, real per capita income has increased by about a factor of 10. But if salt was the only thing the economy produced, consumed and desired , “per capita income” would be improved by a factor of 75. There are a variety of reasons why measured income increases understate how rapidly our standard of living has improved, this is just one of them.

One Response to “A Pinch More Productive”

  1. Harry says:

    But if regulations were the only thing the economy produced, consumed or desired, we’d all be rich.

    This is not intended as a snide remark at Wintercow’s astute observations.

    Our standard of living has increased beyond our parents’ dreams, because of ingenuity in using resources, including all forms of energy.

    Readers should refer to Bastiat’s piece on the Negative Railroad, a great extended metaphor, and the train we are riding today. It is found in Wintercow’s archives, somewhere, and Wintercow might help us to click on the appropriate place.

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