corn, rice, and beans [Re: FoRK digest, Vol 1 #1491 - 14 msgs]

Dave Long
Thu, 02 Jan 2003 10:52:32 -0800

> I anticipate that supporting people at a minimal level will become
> cheaper.  This already happens --- for example, in the US, you can buy
> enough corn, rice, and beans for a day for $1 (or, probably, much
> less), so a single entry-level computer programmer earning $1000/wk
> after taxes can feed 140 people.  

The average 1997-1998 US "consumer
unit" (something like a household),
spent about $13.25 a day on food, or
about $5.25 per person-day.

Shelter ran more like $12/person-day,
and those two categories made up close
to half of all expenditures.

If the same ratios between minimal and
average hold for shelter as they do for
food, minimal shelter might be had for
$70/month.  That's a big if, though --
anyone have a better figure? *

(don't look at Thoreau -- he cheated)


* Apparently one of the factors that
decided how much draft animals were
used in the ancient world was that a
hoofed laborer needed the equivalent
support of four manual laborers.  By
that figure, we could provide room
and board to people at $25/mo, which
sounds a bit too low for modern times.

(I once ran across an estimate that in
ancient economies, a single field hand
could feed two or three others; despite
all technological progress since, we're
still using a similar ratio of employed
workers in the economy.

Could it be that the ratio of eaters to
laborers reflects human herd structures
more than technological developments?)