It’s been many years in the making, but spending data from the U.S. Federal Government is now all unified in one source that can be accessed by anyone.
The significance of this cannot be overstated – every single department of the government is now reporting data to the U.S. Treasury in a common format, and this information is being published online at USASpending.gov.
The data puts records of accounts, budgets, grants, and contracts all in one place, and links this information together in way that has never been done before. Everyday citizens, journalists, and data scientists will be able to see how the government spends money with one consolidated view. Further, this harmonization of accounts will also help to boost transparency, making it easier to spot inefficiencies, waste, and fraud at the federal level.
Here’s an example of a “big picture” output – a view of all 2016 spending in one easy chart.
For the interactive version of the above chart that details $3.85 trillion of federal expenditures and what is included in each account, go to the USASpending.gov site. To dive deeper into millions of data points for each individual transaction record, you’ll probably want to access the API.
It’s Not Perfect, Yet
As with all large government projects, it’s probably not a surprise to learn that the project isn’t exactly working optimally yet. Upon mucking around on the site, certain maps are not yet generating, and the API site was down when we tried to access it:
Part of the problem is that the DATA Act of 2014, which laid the groundwork for the initiative, had specified a deadline (May 9, 2017) for all agencies to be reporting data in a unified format. Obviously, harmonizing thousands of legacy financial reporting systems from dozens of federal departments is not an easy task.
Deloitte, in a joint report with the Data Coalition trade association, recognizes these technical challenges, while also outlining additional problems that must be addressed with the DATA Act and corresponding systems by 2022.
Hudson Hollister, the Founder and Executive Director at Data Coalition, outlined the significance and challenges of harmonizing government data in a blog post today.
He also referenced something interesting, which is that this idea was outlined initially by Thomas Jefferson in the early 19th century. In fact, it was in 1802 that Jefferson wrote to his Treasury Secretary to tell him that the government’s finances were too convoluted for Congress to understand, and this complexity enabled debt and spending to spiral out of control.
His solution at the time? To harmonize all government expenditures in one place:
If to this can be added a simplification of the form of accounts in the treasury department, and in the organization of its officers, so as to bring everything to a single centre, we might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.
– Thomas Jefferson, Library of Congress (1802)
Hollister notes that it is only now that Jefferson’s vision has been realized.
Hopefully, with some refinement and continued buy-in from government and industry stakeholders, this means more transparent government finances for the foreseeable future.
Mapped: The World’s Oldest Democracies
This map shows the 25 oldest democracies in the world, based on how long current democratic governments have been in continuous power.
Mapped: The World’s Oldest Democracies
Which country today is the world’s oldest democracy?
It’s a loaded question — as you’ll see, there is plenty of nuance involved in the answer.
Depending on how you define things, there are many jurisdictions that can lay claim to this coveted title. Let’s dive into some of these technicalities, and then we can provide context for how we’ve defined democracy in today’s particular chart.
Laying the Claim
If you’re looking for the very first instance of democracy, credit is often attributed to Ancient Athens. It’s there the term originated, based on the Greek words demos (“common people”) and kratos (“strength”). In the 6th century BC, the city-state allowed all landowners to speak at the legislative assembly, blazing a path that would be followed by democracies in the future.
However, Ancient Athens wasn’t really a country in the modern sense. It’s also not around anymore, so that certainly disqualifies the oldest continuous democratic country today.
Iceland and the Isle of Man both have interesting claims to democracy. Each has a parliamentary body that is over 1,000 years old, making them the longest standing democratic institutions in the world. But Iceland only got its independence in 1944 from Denmark — and while it is self-governing, the Isle of Man is not a country.
Of course, when we’re talking about democracy today, we’re really talking about universal suffrage. New Zealand may have the best claim here — by 1893, the self-governing colony allowed all women and ethnicities to vote in elections.
A Common Set of Criteria
While many civilizations, institutions, and societies have a rightful claim to contributing to democracy (including many we did not mention above), measuring the world’s oldest democracies today requires following a common set of criteria.
In today’s chart, we used data from Boix, C., Miller, M., & Rosato, S. (2013, 2018), which looks at the age of democratic regimes for 219 countries since the year 1800. Countries are classified as democracies if they meet the following conditions:
The executive is directly or indirectly elected in popular elections and is responsible either directly to voters or to a legislature.
The legislature (or the executive if elected directly) is chosen in free and fair elections.
A majority of adult men has the right to vote.
Democracies also have to be continuous in order to count. Although France has important democratic origins, the country is currently on its fifth republic since the French Revolution, thanks to Napoleon, Vichy France, and other instances where things went sideways.
While the above criteria isn’t perfect, it does create a stable playing field to assess when countries adopted democratic systems in principle. (However, the exclusion of certain populations, notably women and specific ethnicities, in being given the right to vote, or to be elected to legislative assemblies, is another story).
The Oldest Democracies, by Number of Years
Using the above criteria, here is a list of the world’s 25 oldest democracies:
|Rank||Country||Age of Democracy (Years)|
|#1||🇺🇸 United States||219*|
|#3||🇳🇿 New Zealand||162|
|#5||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||134|
|#16||🇸🇲 San Marino||74|
|#21||🇨🇷 Costa Rica||70|
* The data goes back to 1800, so U.S. democracy can be considered at least 219 years old.
Using this specific criteria, there is only one country with continuous democracy for more than 200 years (The United States), and fourteen countries with democracies older than a century.
As you’ll notice in the data, many countries became democracies after World War II. The Japanese Empire, for example, was occupied by Allied Forces and then dissolved. It then regained sovereignty afterwards, emerging as a newly democratic regime.
Final notes: The data here goes back to 1800, and we have adjusted it to be current as of 2019. One change we made was to Tunisia, which is listed as the 24th oldest democracy in the data. Based on our due diligence on the subject, we felt it was appropriate to leave it off the list, given that most experts see the country as only achieving the status in 2014 in the post-Arab Spring era.
All the World’s Carbon Emissions in One Chart
Just 15 countries are responsible for almost three quarters of the world’s carbon emissions. But what does this look like per capita, and over time?
All the World’s Carbon Emissions in One Chart
Two degrees Celsius may not seem like much, but on our planet, it could be the difference between thriving life and a disastrous climate.
Over two centuries of burning fossil fuels have added up, and global decision-makers and business leaders are focusing in on carbon emissions as a key issue.
Emissions by Country
This week’s chart uses the most recent data from Global Carbon Atlas to demonstrate where most of the world’s CO₂ emissions come from, sorted by country.
|Rank||Country||Emissions in 2017 (MtCO₂)||% of Global Emissions|
|🌐 Rest of World||10,028||27.7%|
|#2||🇺🇸 United States||5,269||14.6%|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||635||1.8%|
|#9||🇰🇷 South Korea||616||1.7%|
|#14||🇿🇦 South Africa||456||1.3%|
|🌐 Top 15||26,125||72.2%|
In terms of absolute emissions, the heavy hitters are immediately obvious. Large economies such as China, the United States, and India alone account for almost half the world’s emissions. Zoom out a little further, and it’s even clearer that just a handful of countries are responsible for the majority of emissions.
Of course, absolute emissions don’t tell the full story. The world is home to over 7.5 billion people, but they aren’t distributed evenly across the globe. How do these carbon emissions shake out on a per capita basis?
Here are the 20 countries with the highest emissions per capita:
Source: Global Carbon Atlas. Note: We’ve only included places with a population above one million, which excludes islands and areas such as Curaçao, Brunei, Luxembourg, Iceland, Greenland, and Bermuda.
Out of the original 30 countries in the main visualization, six countries show up again as top CO₂ emitters when adjusted for population count: Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Russia, and Germany.
The CO₂ Conundrum
We know that rapid urbanization and industrialization have had an impact on carbon emissions entering the atmosphere, but at what rate?
Climate data scientist Neil Kaye answers the question from a different perspective, by mapping what percentage of emissions have been created during your lifetime since the Industrial Revolution:
|Your Age||% of Total Global Emissions|
|15 years old||You've been alive for more than 30% of emissions|
|30 years old||You've been alive for more than 50% of emissions|
|85 years old||You've been alive for more than 90% of emissions|
Put another way, the running total of emissions is growing at an accelerating rate. This is best seen in the dramatic shortening between the time periods taken for 400 billion tonnes of CO₂ to enter the atmosphere:
- First period: 217 years (1751 to 1967)
- Second period: 23 years (1968 to 1990)
- Third period: 16 years (1991 to 2006)
- Fourth period: 11 years (2007 to 2018)
In order to be a decarbonised economy by 2050, we have to bend the (emissions) curve by 2020… Not only is it urgent and necessary, but actually we are very nicely on our way to achieving it.
— Christiana Figueres, Convenor of Mission 2020
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