"The Great Horse Manure Crisis: A Pile of History and Lessons in Innovation"
It was 1894, and Britain was facing a crisis of epic proportions, or so it seemed. The headlines of the day screamed "MANURE CRISIS," and the problem was as absurd as it was pressing. Picture this: a booming urban population, limited space, and a transportation system powered by horses and horse-drawn carriages. What could possibly go wrong, you ask? Well, those 50,000 horses strolling the streets of London were each contributing a daily dose of 30 pounds of manure and a couple of pints of urine. Yes, you read that right! It's enough to make you wonder how Victorians managed to tiptoe through the tulips without stepping in something unholy.
The Manure Math:
Let's break down the manure math, shall we? In the late 1800s, the United Kingdom was at its "horse peak" with approximately 3.3 million horses, 50,000 of which were hoofing it in London. These four-legged commuters were each responsible for 15-35 pounds of manure daily. New York City was even worse off, boasting 100,000 horses, creating an equine excrement extravaganza of epic proportions.
As The Times ominously predicted, "in fifty years, every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure." But before you panic about London's buried streets, let's dive into history, innovation, and a hefty dose of humor to see how humanity found its way out of this, shall we say, "crappy" situation.
Prophets of Doom and Their Track Record:
Before we get into the mess (pun intended), it's essential to remember that history is full of predictions that never quite panned out. From 1930s forecasts of population decline to the infamous "64 kilobytes of memory is enough for anyone" prediction by Bill Gates, the crystal ball hasn't always been accurate. In other words, take predictions with a grain of salt—or in this case, a shovel of manure.
"Prophets of doom rely on one thing—that their audience will not check the record of such predictions. In fact, the history of prophecy is one of failure and oversight. Many predictions (usually of doom) have not come to pass, while other things have happened that nobody foresaw. Even brief research will turn up numerous examples of both, such as the many predictions in the 1930s—about a decade before the baby boom began—that the populations of most Western countries were about to enter a terminal decline. In other cases, people have made predictions that have turned out to be laughably overmodest, such as the nineteenth-century editor’s much-ridiculed forecast that by 1950 every town in America would have a telephone, or Bill Gates’s remark a few years ago that 64 kilobytes of memory is enough for anyone." -Steven Davies
The New York Dung Dilemma:
Across the Atlantic in New York City, things were even stinkier. More horses per square foot meant more manure per square foot. City officials were shoveling the mess into vacant lots, creating dung towers that soared to 40-60 feet in height. Now that's a view you won't find in your typical cityscape!
The Manure Summit:
Desperate times call for desperate measures. In a bid to solve the Manure Crisis, leaders summoned scientists, intellectuals, and civic professionals to a ten-day conference. But after just three days, they threw in the towel and went home—no solution in sight. It was clear that the fate of the cities would be left in the hands of the "lesser" people—the everyday folks who had to navigate the increasingly treacherous terrain of dung-covered streets.
The Solution: Innovation, Not Desperation:
But fear not, dear reader, for history has a knack for throwing unexpected curveballs. Enter innovation, the hero of our story. Henry Ford, with his affordable motor cars, revolutionized transportation. Electric trams and motor buses replaced horse-drawn counterparts, and by 1912, the seemingly insurmountable Manure Crisis had been averted. Horses were out, motorized vehicles were in, and urban civilization was saved from being buried under a mountain of manure.
Lessons in Innovation:
So, what can we learn from the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894? Two key takeaways emerge:
Human Ingenuity: Left to their own devices, people tend to find solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. However, these solutions often emerge when economic institutions, like property rights and free exchange, create the right incentives and freedom for innovation.
The Uncertainty of Predictions: History shows us that predicting the future is a tricky business. Just as the Manure Crisis didn't bury London's streets, other forecasts may fall flat as well. Diversify your investments, spread your bets, and be prepared for the unexpected, because in the world of manure and finance, anything can happen.
So, the next time you find yourself in the midst of a seemingly insurmountable problem, remember the Great Horse Manure Crisis. It's a testament to human resilience, innovation, and our ability to triumph over even the most absurd of challenges. And who knows, the solution might be just around the corner, waiting to be discovered amidst the heaps of manure or the complexities of modern life.
Photo: Some cheeky historians question whether the motor industry may have manufactured the Great Horse Manure Crisis to sell more cars
How can a Manure Crisis make us Better Investors?
What are the economic and investing lessons from the Great Manure Crisis? First, Human beings, left to their own devices, will usually find solutions to problems, but only if they are allowed to; that is, if they have economic institutions, such as property rights and free exchange, that create the right incentives and give them the freedom to respond. If these are absent or are replaced by political mechanisms, problems will not be solved.
Secondly, the sheer difficulty of predicting the future, especially when designing your investment portfolio for maximum growth. It's not a great idea to depend on one or two themes or growth ideas. You need to spread your nest eggs out between dozens of unrelated or uncorrelated great ideas. You need to diversify.
Our team at Maendel Wealth is always looking to (pardon the puns) harness the lessons of history, help you gallop to where you want to go, and avoid stepping in whatever could prevent you from realizing your goals. If you're tired of the "neigh sayers" and want to explore what's possible starting wherever you are right now, give us a call, email, or fill out the "ask a question" box found on most pages of our website at maendelwealth.com