Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week to strut his contrarian cred and ruffle some feathers. Problem is, he was just… plain… wrong.
It was great of him to appear on The Daily Show. It really humanized him in ways painfully few of the one-dimensional Fox News caricatures ever bother to.
Clearly well read in his particular field of re-assassinating Lincoln, Napolitano makes one particular claim that isn’t just absurd, it’s beyond the pale, even by Fox News standards.
In the clip below, watch Napolitano claim that Lincoln could have “bought out” the slaves. Why not, they were valued at only $750 each, which doesn’t sound so bad.
But it would have cost $3 billion… in 1865 dollars no less!
The actual problem was that, even with an offer like that, the southern states would not accept the deal.
But what if they had? How much is $3 billion after all?
As it turns out, it’s a metric crapload of money. See the image at the top of the article to see what $3 billion looks like in $100 bills.
What could you buy for $3 billion?
Or you could buy 3,000+ luxury Manhattan apartments, two SnackPack puddings for every human alive in 2014, or buy every human alive in 1865 nearly three items of their choosing from the dollar store in 2014.
That’s serious Johnny Cash no matter which century you’re looking at.
But, again, how much would it be in today’s dollars?
At 2% interest, it would be a paltry $57 trillion dollars.
Let’s see what this looks like.
Oh wait, that’s not it. That’s only $6 trillion smackeroos. Here’s the actual graphic for $57 trillion.
Those are pallets stacked double-high a good ten stories tall, and going back a solid ten thousand square feet.
$57 trillion would weigh 28.5 billion tons. The heaviest manmade item ever built was an oil rig in the North Sea weighing in at about a billion pounds. So that would be about 57,000 of those.
That would be more than one billion cargo containers loaded to maximum capacity.
If every single VLCS (Very Large Container Ship) vessel in the world were asked to move this cash, it would take them 680 trips per boat.
But we’re still only at 2% inflation, interest or appreciation. That’s paltry. Inflation ideally runs at 2%, though at times it’s been much higher, especially under Reagan. Normally, investors expect a 5-7% return on investment, and at times, even government bonds provided such rates.
At 3% it gets really, really ugly.
At 3% you get up in the $245 trillion dollar range. To move that kind of money, you’re going to need jumbo jets. Specifically, the Boeing 747 has a cargo capacity of 295,900 pounds, so you could just load 16,560 jets to the gills and send them off.
Bear in mind that since 1968, only 1,484 747s have been built, so each one since forever would need to average over 11-flights… full of $100 bills.
We’re looking at this all the wrong way
This amount would have been added to our national debt. At 1% growth, it still would take the $5.7 trillion debt at the end of Clinton’s second term and tripled it to $15.9 trillion.
At 2% interest, it’s uglier still. Instead of a $5.7 trillion dollar debt, we’d be facing that much, plus another order of magnitude, putting us at almost $65 trillion.
At 3% interest it would be $245 trillion, which is arguably more money than has ever existed in the history of the world.
Just for fun, at 5% and 7%, it would be 4.3 quadrillion and 71.6 quadrillion respectively. I won’t even bother to tell you how many Segway Scooters that would require to move that kinda loot around.
Bottom line: Slavery simply wasn’t ending on its own, and no earthly amount of money could have purchased the freedom those millions so richly deserved, and trying to say otherwise is… well, look at the charts above and you’ll get my point.
Thanks to PageTutor for unwittingly letting me repurpose their images for scale. You guys are the best!