in Culture

do voters not understand magnitudes?

Toronto’s municipal election will be held on October 25th this year. With sixteen days left in the campaign, I’m astonished that Rob Ford is the mayoral candidate leading the pack. For those of you not living in Toronto, Ford’s controversial record as a councillor stands on its own.

Ford, and many other candidates that run on a platform of cost reduction, rely on the fact that voters often can’t visualize the difference between $1M and $1B. Without a sense that these two figures are three orders of magnitude apart, it’s easy to think that halving the number of Councillors (which will save $2.25M per year) will have a significant impact on Toronto’s debt load (somewhere in the $3B range).

A while ago, while looking into the "quantitative easing" that the US Federal Reserve is engaged in, I came across the following excellent visualization of the difference between $1M, $1B and $1T dollars. Have a look.

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