Like a Commercial for Capitalism

This is awesome.

Note the wealth axis is logarithmic, so the rightward velocity is understated


  1. Roy:

    Pretty neat, indeed. If the income got displayed with inflation compensation, that would contract the bottom axis. But if then someone adjusted for what an hour's labor can buy that once did not even exist (what would cell phone ability be worth? nations would have expended billions of bucks and millions of lives for computer technology, etc), that would expand that same bottom axis (albeit by a subjective evaluation). But still very impressive display, making stats much more comprehensible...and socialism more obviously, errr, stupid.

  2. Shawnesy:

    What an inspiring video and I agree, it's essentially a commercial for the Industrial Revolution and Capitalism.

    In spite of this there are still far too many who think the world would be better off if the West was brought down instead of everybody else being brought up.

  3. Roy:

    Pretty neat, alright. Makes idiots of those who argue for socialism as a means to benefit people.

    Wish that the bottom axis had adjustment for inflation. That would contract the axis. Wish, too, that it had an adjustment (albeit subjective) for what both technological advancement and growth of enterprise brought that once was not, eg, light bulbs vs oil lamps, or laptops vs paper and pencil. This would extend that horizonal axis far more than the inflation adjustment would contract it.

  4. John Moore:

    It's also a good argument against damaging the economy in favor of "the environment" (trendy green causes). Damaging the economy demonstrably kills people - it's "trickle down death."

  5. Steve Burrows:

    If you haven't already, check out his talks on, all of them are just as fascinating. I agree with John Moore's comment above,but it seems real hard for the green types to comprehend.

  6. Kevin Jackson:

    It's fascinating that the first countries to break out of the poor and sick box did so to the right--that is, they became wealthy, and health followed. But the last countries did so out of the top. They are not wealthy, yet their health has increased drastically.

  7. Tom Van Horn:

    Kevin's comment is correct. The answer is that freedom, industrial progress, and capitalism allowed the Western countries to develop technology and work force transformation (farming->mfging->services) that improved wealth and then health. Technology and best practices moved around the world at an ever-faster pace, and that helped the "left behind" countries to gain better health even before they gained wealth. Once again, the West's gains became the world's gains.

    To put this in perspective and support the data shown here, remember this:
    US life expectancy (mean) in 1800 = 39, in 1900 = 49, in 2000 = 79. Also, historians estimate it was only 29 or so in 1700. So, we gained 10 years in a century from 1700 to 1800 and another 10 years from 1800 to 1900, despite the Industrial Revolution. But, in the 20th Century, we gained 30 years! And, this is even more amazing. In 1962 when I was born, the average life expectancy of a US man was 62. We gained about 16 more years (to 78) for a US man in the last 38 years of the century, almost 0.5 year per year. The life expectancy gain rate is accelerating.

    Some (like Ray Kurzweil) speculate that we will close the gap to 1 year per year and then exceed it during this century (through genomics, nanotech, cloning, bionics, etc.), and then we will have the option to live forever.

    Should be an interesting century...

  8. Foxfier:

    Kevin- it's the same effect you see when you have to get a group of folks to the top of the hill. One side is a cliff, the far side is a slope. Some go around the back and get to the top, then help folks get up from the starting point. Even if all they do is prove to be an example of what NOT to do, they help those behind.

  9. dagny:

    How about an anthem. Let us view a video that may help shape a better future. Go to and follow the link in the description box to help support this creative method for delivering a powerful message to those who would not normally pay attention!!! But do not forget to vote! You can see both the video and vote at

  10. Ulrik:

    @ John Moore:

    I beg to strongly differ. The most sudden changes are arguably caused by effects outside the realm of markets - as demonstrated by the impact of the Spanish Flu and World Wars. The impact of the environment, in which markets exist, ultimately determines the potential of capitalism, because the environment is our habitat. You don't seriously expect the same pattern of growth on Mars? Or put differently, in order to see the same pattern on Mars, what is the first thin that must happen? The environment must be suitable for human dwelling, for only then can capitalism exist.

  11. Brad:

    Tom Van Horn,
    Recent trends in US male life expectancy are not as straightforward as you indicate. LE in 1960 was 66.6; in 2010 it is 75.55, for a gain of 9 years over the past 50 years (Male LE in 2000 was 72.9, not 76.6, but LE in 1900 was 46.3, so LE rose 30 years in the 20th century; the greatest increases occurred in the 10s, 20s, and 40s - about 1 year of LE per 2 years of elapsed time). Census Bureau projections are that male LE will rise to 81.23 by 2050, a gain of roughly 7 years in the next 40, or about 1 year increase in LE every 5 or 6 years. Of course, there could be major breakthroughs that would propel LE upward more rapidly, but the trend line indicates a continuation of the modest, but steady, growth found since 1960. See:

  12. Bilby:

    First, this is the best way to present information I've ever seen in my career as a fisheries biologist. Congratulations! Excel should get tuned up with animation for a start.

    The information itself needs a little clarification although I cannot dispute the general link between wealth and health. Are the annual income figures in the x-axis standardized to account for inflation? Maybe $400 in 1850 might have equivalent purchasing power to $40,000 in 2009?

    The accuracy of life expectancy data could be very suspect, especially in the earliest years and in some countries. The team had to make assumptions and develop a protocol on how to fill the gaps, and this applies to the income data as well. A brief disclaimer on methodolgy would satisfy once the initial graph is presented to the audience.

    Is AVERAGE life span the best indicator of national health? During the Industrial Revolution period in London and Manchester, workers often died at 40-50 years old due to environmental conditions (coal smoke), yet the well-to-do typically lived to their 60s or more. This supports the overall thesis but the use of a simple average for Great Britain doesn't show the range and weighting.

    Use of the mean statistic is too common everywhere but can be a misleading indicator for certain applications; and this can be done intentionally, or not. Like crime statistics. Or, how much does Bill Gates'(and other super-wealthies) income increase the US average? Your excellent solution to this critique was to show the internal dynamics of the China average, by parcelling out the provinces separately, thereby showing range and weight within that national mean.

    Finally, the main data trend has been mostly upward and to the right over time but I doubt the upper limit of the Y-axis can be increased for the majority. Before the time when some of us could live forever, the world population will have depleted most world resources that maintain our human Economy, and in doing that, will strip away much of the planet's natural capital - that vast array of essential services we typically take for granted. The slow train coming round the bend could arrive earlier than anticipated.

    But, a really useful and wonderful presentation - thank you.