Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How much is $429 trillion?

Eat your peas. Forever.

Silver, at Claire Wolfe's blog, writes on derivative contracts:
If each derivative dollar is represented by a pea, how big is a pile of 429 trillion peas?

I won’t bore you with the math. The volume of the pile of peas is about 116 million cubic meters.

That’s clearly a lot of peas, but it still doesn’t give much feel for just how big the pile is. So let’s compare that pile with something really big that most people know about, the Great Pyramid of Giza. The stones in the Great Pyramid have a volume of about 2.6 million cubic meters. The Pyramid has a lot of chambers and tunnels; its total volume (calculated from the base and height of the present-day remains) is about 4.1 million cubic meters.

Dividing the 116 million cubic meters of peas by the volume of the Pyramid, I find that if every notional dollar in derivative contracts were represented by a peas, one could build 28 Great Pyramids of Peas, and make a good start on the 29th.

Imagine twenty-eight massive edifices of peas, stretching away to the horizon, while the financiers and fund managers of the world frantically create more peas from nothing, and shovel them into still more pyramids. If derivatives continue to expand at the 25% rate of January to March, by the end of June 1996 the line of pea pyramids will have grown to 44 or 45.

I'm not much of an expert on financial investments and economics, but I found this little exercise useful. That's a LOT of valueless paper being created out of thin air!