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Mapping the Greatest Empires of History

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Just like the stock market, the history of the greatest empires is cyclical in nature. Even the most powerful empires have crashed and burned – and it is this creative destruction that creates the next opportunity for new civilizations and cultures to rise.

At its height, the Roman Empire spanned across 5,000,000 km² with 70 million people within its borders. Yet, despite massive amounts of riches and its fearsome legionaries, Rome slowly but surely self-destructed. While there are many complex factors involved in this including the debasement the empire’s currency, this collapse set the stage for the next cycle.

The Byzantines would take over in the East, and centuries later the Holy Roman Empire eventually would emerge in the West. The nomadic Huns unified a formidable empire under Attila in the grasslands of the Western Steppe. To the south of the Mediterranean, the Umayyad Caliphate became one of the greatest empires ever formed.

Mapping the Greatest Empires of History

The following infographic from Just the Flight looks at the greatest empires of history, and their geographical and political footprints.

Mapping the Greatest Empires of History

What important lessons for business and investing can we take home from the cyclical nature of empires?

For one, even empires that once seemed impenetrable have fallen apart. We must be vigilant to spot cracks in our investments and business ideas at all times, because even the mightiest companies can bite the dust. The music industry was once a machine: there was an oligopoly of major labels that could produce radio singles and market them to rake in money. Many of these companies did not see the writing on the wall as it happened, and now Apple, Spotify, and other companies are eating their lunch.

Lastly, even in the wake of the worst crash, there are opportunities available to build something great. Things were gruesome for many of the empires that imploded, but there were certainly people that were able to prosper even in spite of the tough times. The “heroes” of The Financial Crisis such as Michael Burry and Steve Eisman were able to recognize a disaster, while making smart decisions to help them build their own empires and legacies.

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Politics

Mapped: The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

At the national level, Canada and China are top U.S. trading partners. While this generally extends to the state level, there are some surprises too.

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The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.

However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.

Who are the States Importing From?

The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.

The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.

Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.

StateTop CountryTotal State Import (Millions USD)Share of Total State Imports
Alabama 🇲🇽 Mexico$4,16116.3%
Alaska🇰🇷 South Korea$83635.0%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$8,97835.0%
Arkansas🇨🇳 China$3,16036.6%
California🇨🇳 China$130,29132.9%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$2,92824.3%
Connecticut🇨🇦 Canada$4,03122.4%
Delaware🇨🇭 Switzerland$1,92721.1%
District of Columbia🇨🇦 Canada$7413.7%
Florida🇨🇳 China$11,21214.7%
Georgia🇨🇳 China$20,19420.4%
Hawaii🇯🇵 Japan$29115.1%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,19521.7%
Illinois🇨🇳 China$48,32431.0%
Indiana🇮🇪 Ireland$11,55818.1%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$2,38726.6%
Kansas🇨🇳 China$2,06419.7%
Kentucky🇲🇽 Mexico$6,88212.5%
Louisiana🇷🇺 Russia$2,61112.6%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$3,16766.6%
Maryland🇩🇪 Germany$3,99313.0%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$7,77922.2%
Michigan🇲🇽 Mexico$47,47340.9%
Minnesota🇨🇳 China$7,57726.9%
Mississippi🇨🇳 China$3,93824.9%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,50024.0%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$3,44287.0%
Nebraska🇨🇦 Canada$87623.5%
Nevada🇨🇳 China$4,10831.8%
New Hampshire🇨🇦 Canada$1,39420.1%
New Jersey🇨🇳 China$14,30212.4%
New Mexico🇨🇳 China$1,49332.6%
New York🇨🇭 Switzerland$33,12621.5%
North Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$9,20815.1%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$1,78162.3%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$10,62416.2%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$4,35540.2%
Oregon🇨🇦 Canada$2,95117.0%
Pennsylvania🇨🇳 China$13,47015.9%
Puerto Rico🇮🇪 Ireland$9,06242.7%
Rhode Island🇩🇪 Germany$1,52517.3%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$6,22015.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$42833.9%
Tennessee🇨🇳 China$20,30524.3%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$88,72635.8%
Utah🇲🇽 Mexico$4,29427.6%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$1,67763.5%
Virginia🇨🇳 China$6,56622.7%
Virgin Islands🇵🇹 Portugal$17427.7%
Washington🇨🇦 Canada$12,77226.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,02535.2%
Wisconsin🇨🇳 China$5,55420.7%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$69563.7%

However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.

While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.

China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.

Who are the States Exporting to?

After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.

Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.

The only states that export their largest shares to China are:

  • Oregon – 38.1%
  • Alaska – 25.5%
  • Washington – 22.1%
  • Alabama – 18.1%
  • Louisiana – 18.1%

The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.

StateTop CountryTotal State Export (Millions USD)Share of total State Exports
Alabama 🇨🇳 China$3,10218.1%
Alaska🇨🇳 China$1,17625.5%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$3635.5%
Arkansas🇨🇦 Canada$1,14822.1%
California🇲🇽 Mexico$24,07815.4%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$1,27815.4%
Connecticut🇩🇪 Germany$2,18915.9%
Delaware🇨🇦 Canada$61915.8%
D.C.🇶🇦 Qatar$89932.4%
Florida🇧🇷 Brazil$3,5387.7%
Georgia🇨🇦 Canada$5,14613.3%
Hawaii🇦🇺 Australia$5115.8%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,18434.8%
Illinois🇨🇦 Canada$13,26124.8%
Indiana🇨🇦 Canada$11,08031.4%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$3,46027.4%
Kansas🇲🇽 Mexico$2,07820.0%
Kentucky🇨🇦 Canada$6,55026.5%
Louisiana🇨🇳 China$10,77918.1%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$1,22952.8%
Maryland🇨🇦 Canada$1,58112.5%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$2,74611.0%
Michigan🇨🇦 Canada$17,34139.4%
Minnesota🇨🇦 Canada$4,82824.0%
Mississippi🇨🇦 Canada$2,08220.3%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,45334.9%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$54437.9%
Nebraska🇲🇽 Mexico$1,63923.5%
Nevada🇨🇭 Switzerland$2,25621.8%
New Hampshire🇩🇪 Germany$75113.8%
New Jersey🇨🇦 Canada$7,22919.0%
New Mexico🇲🇽 Mexico$2,19759.5%
New York🇨🇦 Canada$13,77322.3%
North Carolina🇨🇦 Canada$5,88120.7%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$4,38884.6%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$17,27338.4%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$1,45227.0%
Oregon🇨🇳 China$9,52238.1%
Pennsylvania🇨🇦 Canada$9,69925.9%
Puerto Rico🇳🇱 Netherlands$2,88917.2%
Rhode Island🇨🇦 Canada$41017.1%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$4,08213.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$52438.0%
Tennessee🇨🇦 Canada$5,81820.7%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$89,04631.9%
Utah🇬🇧 United Kingdom$8,90650.3%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$91838.3%
Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$2,71716.5%
Virgin Islands🇳🇱 Netherlands$9015.2%
Washington🇨🇳 China$9,12622.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,28328.1%
Wisconsin🇨🇦 Canada$6,22630.4%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$22519.3%

Trade Going Forward

The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.

These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.

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Money

Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

There are over 18 million living veterans in the U.S., but how many are ultra wealthy? This visual ranks the richest veterans in America.

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Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

The U.S is home to 724 billionaires, many of whom have taken on immense risks in the financial world. 16 of these wealthy individuals have also taken on the risks that come with serving in the U.S. military.

These veteran billionaires are worth a collective $81.4 billion and have served in posts ranging from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to infantrymen in the Second World War. This visual, using data from Forbes, ranks the richest living American veterans.

This visual categorizes the individuals by either the military branch or war served in depending on what was applicable or determinable.

I Want You for the U.S. Army

According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, there are around 18 million veterans in the U.S. Of these 18 million, less than 0.01% can claim the title of billionaire.

NameNet Worth (Billions, USD)Industry War / Unit Served
Donald Bren$15.3Real Estate Marine Corps
Edward Johnson III$10.3Finance & InvestmentsArmy
Ralph Lauren$7.1Fashion & RetailArmy
Richard Kinder$7.0EnergyVietnam War
Charles Dolan & family$6.1Media & EntertainmentWWII, Airforce 
Fred Smith$5.7Logistics Vietnam War, Marine Corps
Charles B. Johnson$4.9Finance & Investments Army
Ted Lerner & family$4.8Real Estate WWII
Julian Robertson Jr.$4.5Finance & Investments Navy
John Paul DeJoria$2.7Fashion & Retail Navy
H. Ross Perot Jr.$2.7Real Estate Airforce
Bob Parsons$2.2Technology Vietnam War, Marine Corps
David H. Murdock$2.1Food & BeverageWWII
S. Daniel Abraham$2.0Food & BeverageWWII, Army
Charlie Munger$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII, Army Air Corps
George Joseph$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII

Six of the above veteran billionaires served in WWII. They are some of the last surviving veterans of the historic war which was fought by 16 million Americans—today, only around 325,000 WWII veterans are still alive.

George Joseph, of Mercury Insurance Group, piloted a B17 Bomber plane in WWII, and completed around 50 missions. Warren Buffett’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, served in the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s.

Richard Kinder (Kinder Morgan Inc.), Fred Smith (FedEx), and H. Ross Perot Jr. (Hillwood Investment Properties) each served in the Vietnam war.

One notable figure, Ralph Lauren, whose name is synonymous with his clothing products, served in the Army branch for two years in the early 1960s.

Taking on Financial Risk

Billionaire wealth continues to grow in America. Most of these veteran billionaires saw their net worths increase from 2020 to 2021, as, typically, wealth begets wealth. Here’s a look at the changes in net worth of the top five richest veterans who experienced increases:

  • Edward Johnson III: +$4.9 Billion
  • Ralph Lauren: +$1.4 Billion
  • Richard Kinder: +$1.8 Billion
  • Charles Dolan & Family: +$1.5 Billion
  • Fred Smith: +$3.0 Billion

The majority of these veteran billionaires are in the finance industry and some are tied to well-known companies, but they didn’t always have billions on hand to help them exponentially grow their fortunes.

David Murdock was a high school dropout, and after serving in WWII, had no money to his name. He took over a failing company called Dole, and eventually gained the moniker of ‘pineapple king’ after reviving the business.

S. Daniel Abraham, who was an infantryman in WWII, went on to found Thompson Medical. Their main product was Slimfast, which he later sold to Unilever for $2.3 billion in cash in the early 2000s.

Bob Parsons, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, started out his professional career as a CPA. He later founded the enormous domain giant, Go Daddy. He has claimed that his time in the military helped him succeed in business.

Peace and Prosperity

We currently live in one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history, with wars like WWII feeling to many like a story from the past — but for others these conflicts were defining moments for their generation.

While many veterans struggle to readjust to civilian life, on average pre-9/11 veterans have reported fewer difficulties compared to post-9/11 veterans, and some have even managed to reach the highest levels of financial success.

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