Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's all relative

In the early 1960s, gasoline cost $0.25 per gallon and the minimum wage was $1.00 per hour.

Stated differently, you could exchange an hour's worth of minimum wage labor for 4 newly minted quarters, or 4 gallons of gasoline.

Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25, and gasoline is around $3.50 per gallon. An hour's worth of minimum wage labor can now only be exchanged for roughly two gallons of gasoline. Measured in gasoline, minimum wage labor has lost half of its value. Or, measured against the minimum wage, gas is twice as expensive.

That's not all. Until 1965, quarters were 90% silver and 10% copper. If you can find one of them, at current spot prices you can buy almost two gallons of gasoline, and nearly a full hour of minimum wage labor. Measured in gas, silver has nearly doubled in value. Measured in labor, silver has nearly quadrupled in value. Gas has lost half its value compared to silver. Labor has lost nearly 4 times its value compared to silver.

A quarter from 1963 was worth $0.25 at the time. That same quarter is now worth around $6.50, or approximately 26 newly minted quarters.

In other words, our currency has lost about 96% of its value since the early 1960s. That's scary. What's more, it's lost half its value against silver in just the last few months.

This is why higher stock prices are not all they're cracked up to be.

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