{de,in}flation [Re: The absolutist mistake in the Bill of Rights]

Dave Long dl@silcom.com
Fri, 07 Mar 2003 10:04:54 -0800


> "In Suits at common law, where the value in
> controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the
> right of trial by jury shall be preserved."
> 
> TWENTY DOLLARS? What were the authors of this
> amendment thinking, when they hard-coded a
> constant?!

They were probably thinking the currency would
naturally be a bit harder than it turned out.
Back then, it wasn't clear that prices didn't
go down as well as up. *

>From <http://eh.net/hmit/>, "How Much Is That?",
we can look at estimated purchasing power in the
colonies/US:

"Purchasing Power of the United States Dollar, 1665 - 2002"
1691:	$82.30
1791:	$100
1891:   $ 96.46

There are wild swings between, of course, but
no clear inflationary trend.  As a comparison,
it takes us under 10 years to beat those 200:

(having recalibrated)
1995:	$81.68
2002:	$96.46

>            That amount was sensible when it
> took a laborer months to earn twenty dollars.
> It stopped making sense more than a hundred
> years ago.

but even a hundred years ago maybe it wasn't
quite so ludicrous as it seems now:

"The Relative Cost of Unskilled Labor in the United States, 1774 - Present"
1791:	$  20

1891:	$  64
1902:	$  69

1991:   $4700
2002:	$6700

(I haven't been called for a jury for any case
where less than that last figure was at stake.
Has that only been luck, or are people usually
reasonable about litigation?)

-Dave

:: :: ::

* granted, the British Pound experienced a definite
inflation over the century prior to 1791 -- perhaps
averaging somewhat near half a percent per year.