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Chart of the Week

2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

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Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

All major powers compared by GDP from the year 1 AD

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Long before the invention of modern day maps or gunpowder, the planet’s major powers were already duking it out for economic and geopolitical supremacy.

Today’s chart tells that story in the simplest terms possible. By showing the changing share of the global economy for each country from 1 AD until now, it compares economic productivity over a mind-boggling time period.

Originally published in a research letter by Michael Cembalest of JP Morgan, we’ve updated it based on the most recent data and projections from the IMF. If you like, you can still find the original chart (which goes to 2008) at The Atlantic. It’s also worth noting that the original source for all the data up until 2008 is from the late Angus Maddison, a famous economic historian that published estimates on population, GDP, and other figures going back to Roman times.

A Major Caveat

If you looked at the chart in any depth, you probably noticed a big problem with it. The time periods between data points aren’t equal – in fact, they are not close at all.

The first gap on the x-axis is 1,000 years and the second is 500 years. Then, as we get closer to modernity, the chart uses mostly 10 year intervals. Changing the scale like this is a big data visualization “no no”, as rightly pointed out in a blog post by The Economist.

While we completely agree, we have a made an exception in this case. Why? Because getting good economic data from the early 20th century is already difficult enough – and so trying to find data in regular intervals before then seems like a fool’s errand. Likewise, a stacked bar chart with different years also doesn’t really do this story justice.

We encountered similar historical data issues in our Richest People of Human History graphic, and at the end of the day decided it was primarily for fun. Like today’s chart, it has its share of imperfections – but ultimately, it provides a great amount of context and serves as a conversation starter.

Our Interpretation

Caveats aside, there are many stories that materialize from this simple chart. They include the colossal impact of the Industrial Revolution on the West, as well as the momentum behind the re-emergence of Asia.

But there’s one other story that ties it all together: the exponential rate of human economic growth that occurred over the last century.

World GDP per capita over time

For thousands of years, economic progress was largely linear and linked to population growth. Without machines or technological innovations, one person could only produce so much with their time and resources.

More recently, innovations in technology and energy allowed the “hockey stick” effect to come into play.

It happened in Western Europe and North America first, and now it’s happening in other parts of the world. As this technological playing field evens, economies like China and India – traditionally some of the largest economies throughout history – are now making their big comeback.

Editor’s note: We have adjusted the main graphic as of Sep 10, 2017 to change the description of the chart. It now says “Share of GDP (World Powers)” instead of the previous “Share of world GDP”, which was technically an inaccurate description.

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Chart of the Week

Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president? The tweets of U.S. President Donald Trump reveal a contentious relationship with the price of oil and OPEC.

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Visualizing Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president?

That is a question that both voters and leaders alike would love to know the answer to. As it stands, scores of pundits and analysts already dissect everything from the choice of a tie, to whom a leader sits next to at a state dinner, to glean the potential direction of government policy.

Financial markets rely on the accurate interpretation of government policy to guide investment decisions. But what happens when you’re faced with a world leader who broadcasts his unfiltered thoughts instantaneously and globally? It’s sure to stir up international attention.

This week’s chart is inspired by work done by John Kemp, an energy reporter for Reuters. Kemp tracked all instances of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets mentioning oil and OPEC, against the shifting price of oil.

Where’s Your Head At?

U.S. President Donald Trump has actively worked to tie the success of his administration to the fortune of the economy and stock market.

If the economy does well, Trump hopes cheap gas at the pump will help translate into votes at the ballot box in 2020.

The key to keeping the economy growing is access to cheap energy, and oil is the critical commodity that’ll keep a fragile economy on the road. This is a line of thinking that can be seen throughout Trump’s tweets on the subject.

Tracking Trump’s Tweets

This week’s chart tracks President Donald Trump’s tweets from April 2018 to March 2019 that mention oil and OPEC.

Pre-Sanctions

The tweets start five months before the deadline of sanctions on Iran. During this timeframe, speculation that Trump would place sanctions on the oil-producing nation drove up the price with the prospect of a restricted supply of oil and increased tensions in the Middle East.

Despite the implications of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Trump squarely put the blame on OPEC for this period of rising oil prices. Tweets such as “OPEC is at it again. Not Good!” or “The OPEC monopoly must get price down now!” can be seen in this period.

Whether these tweets had any influence on oil producers is unclear, but they certainly outline a policy preference for cheap oil and a general animosity towards OPEC.

Post-Sanctions

On Nov. 4, 2018, Trump did impose sanctions but excluded Iranian oil exports, deflating a speculative bubble around the price of oil, and the president’s ire towards the region.

In the aftermath of sanctions, repeated news of record oil production and growing energy independence in the U.S. helped drive the price of oil back down. Though the president’s mood lightened, he still persisted in his accusations of OPEC manipulating the price.

Prices continued to fall, plummeting to nearly $50 per barrel by the end of 2018. Cheap oil is a direct threat to the profits of OPEC nations, but higher prices can create an array of challenges for the U.S. economy.

So despite a U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, this is a natural tension baked into the relationship.

So, what would a U.S. foreign policy look like without dependence on the Middle East?

Shifting Sands

The Middle East has had a considerable influence on U.S. foreign policy since the harsh lessons of 1970s energy crisis. Multiple wars of intervention to protect Saudi oil interests—and in turn, ensuring continued American access to oil—have ravished the region and led to a state of dysfunction and constant tension.

However, with the recent declaration of American energy independence, this relationship may change with a renewed prospect for peace. Trump may work to further undermine the power of OPEC to control oil prices, as well as the Middle East’s influence on U.S. foreign policy.

American energy independence is already challenging established relationships around the world. For example, Ukraine just recently accepted its first shipment of American oil in a move to counter Russia’s influence in the region.

A New Era

Diplomacy by Twitter has yet to prove to be an effective bridge in sustaining good international relations. That said, charting the tweets of world leaders is a unique way to interpret government policy and energy economics in this new era of social media.

It seems that the next time you want to know what is going through a leader’s head, you can simply try checking their tweets.

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

These 10 countries hold 74% of the world’s $204 trillion in private wealth. How will this wealth of nations change over the next decade?

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Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

Just as there exists a longstanding inequality in the distribution of household wealth, so exists a considerable differential in the amount of wealth held by countries on the international stage.

Simply put, some nations are “haves”, while many others are “have-nots”.

“Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Ranking Riches

We previously showed you how the ranking of the richest countries in the world has changed over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2018).

Today’s chart keys on a slightly different question.

What are the wealthiest nations today, both in absolute and per capita terms, and how is this list projected to change over the next decade? Let’s see how the wealth of nations stack up.

Private Wealth: Now and in the Future

Using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, here are the 10 wealthiest nations both now and as forecasted in 2028.

RankCountryWealth (2018)Wealth (2028F)Approx. Growth
#1🇺🇸 United States$60.7 trillion$72.8 trillion20%
#2🇨🇳 China$23.6 trillion$51.8 trillion120%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$19.1 trillion$24.9 trillion30%
#4🇮🇳 India$8.1 trillion$22.8 trillion180%
#5🇦🇺 Australia$6.0 trillion$10.8 trillion80%
#6🇬🇧 United Kingdom$9.1 trillion$10.0 trillion10%
#7🇩🇪 Germany$8.8 trillion$9.7 trillion10%
#8🇨🇦 Canada$6.0 trillion$7.8 trillion30%
#9🇫🇷 France$5.9 trillion$6.4 trillion10%
#10🇮🇹 Italy$3.8 trillion$4.2 trillion10%

It’s worth noting that these figures are meant to represent wealth, which is defined as the total amount of private wealth held by individuals in each country. It includes assets like property, cash, equities, and business interests, minus any liabilities.

China has been the best performing wealth market in the last decade, and these projections show the country as continuing on that track. In fact, both China and India are expected to see triple-digit growth in private wealth between now and 2028.

As far as developed countries go, it’s not surprising that growth rates are much more modest. In Europe, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are only expected to add 10% to private wealth in 10 years, while Canada (30%) and the U.S. (20%) do marginally better.

One notable exception here is Australia, which is expected to add 80% to private wealth over the timeframe – and it will leapfrog both Germany and the U.K. in the rankings in the process.

Wealth per Capita

Here’s a look at the wealth of nations in a different way, this time with numbers adjusted on a per capita basis.

RankCountryEst. PopulationWealth per capita (2018)
#1🇲🇨 Monaco38,695$2,114,000
#2🇱🇮 Liechtenstein37,810$786,000
#3🇨🇭 Switzerland8,420,000$315,000
#4🇱🇺 Luxembourg590,667$300,000
#5🇦🇺 Australia24,600,000$244,000
#6🇳🇴 Norway5,258,000$198,000
#7🇺🇸 United States327,200,000$186,000
#8🇸🇬 Singapore5,612,000$177,000
#9🇭🇰 Hong Kong7,392,000$169,000
#10🇨🇦 Canada36,540,000$163,000

When using per capita numbers, it’s absolutely no contest.

Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, is a money magnet with $2.1 million of private wealth per citizen. This means the average Monacan is at least 10 times richer than the average North American or European.

Liechtenstein, a microstate that sits in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, also has a high average wealth of $786,000 per person. Like Monaco, its population is well under 50,000 people.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that three countries on the per capita list also made the overall list. Put another way, the countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States can all claim to be among the wealthiest of nations in both absolute and per capita terms.

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