THE BEAUTY OF NUMBERS
The beauty of numbers is in their precision. They express exactly how much, neither more nor less. Numbers reveal relationships more clearly and more accurately than any other language. Once numbers are correctly established, they eliminate all differences of opinion. Eight fingers are more than seven fingers.
Suppose that we are interested in contrasting employment practices in economically developed countries with those in underdeveloped countries. The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are good examples. A study of these two countries reveals a startling set of numbers.
Distribution of farm employment is by far the most surprising. Seventy-five per cent of all the people gainfully employed in China work on farms; only 4 per cent work on farms in the United States.
This is a fundamental distinction, for it tells us something of the effort necessary to stay alive in these two countries.
Farm employment in China is so high that only 15 per cent of the workers are available to carry on trade, commerce, manufacturing, and other special services. The same group of occupations in the United States is carried on by 85 per cent of the work force. These figures indicate that a well-developed economy places great emphasis on manufacturing, trade, commerce, and services.
The raw materials on which these functions are based are obtained efficiently with a small manpower commitment. Underdeveloped countries exhaust their manpower resources in the effort to obtain enough food.
The people who make life comfortable for the rest of us are the doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, artists, hairdressers, repairmen, cobblers, entertainers, civil servants, and military personnel. Imagine the price paid by the Chinese with only 4 per cent of their gainfully employed population working in service jobs! The same category makes up 24 per cent of the gainfully employed population of the United States.
That is quite a difference. Without manufacturing, trade, and commerce there can be little in the way of consumer goods available to the people. The United States was in this position in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At that time, the population was centered on the farms and forced to make many things for themselves.
This is exactly what we saw in China as the 1970s came to a close. Science, aided by a new technology, especially the availability of abundant farm machinery, will put an end to the China we once knew. The lesson here is not really one in economics. It rests with an understanding of numbers. Counting things gives reliable information and permits us to draw reliable conclusions.
There is a formal beauty and uncompromising power in measurement.
Mark the best choice.
1. Line 1, ‘precision’ means .
a) exactness b) establishment c) difference d) elimination
2. Line 14, ‘for’ means .
a) however b) moreover c) because d) therefore
3. Underdeveloped countries .
a) can get raw materials with little manpower
b) emphasize manufacturing, trade, commerce and services
c) employ only 4 per cent of their population in service industries
d) use a lot of manpower to get enough food
4. Which of the following is true?
a) China has been able to satisfy all its basic needs through food production.
b) In a few years, China will produce more farm products than the United
c) Science and new technology will change the job distribution in China.
d) The year 1970 was a turning point for the Chinese economy.
5. Which of the following is not true?
a) Correctly established numbers eliminate all differences of opinion.
b) In the eighteenth century, most Americans lived on farms.
c) More consumer goods are available in well-developed economies.
d) Twenty-four per cent of American workers work on farms.
6. The purpose of this text is to show that .
a) the U.S. is in a better economic situation than China
b) the information provided by numbers is dependable
c) many sciences, such as economics, are based on numbers
d) the economy of China is based on agriculture