january1may wrote:Incidentally, when I first saw the title, I thought of a funnier idea: the root of the word "salary" is salt, as in NaCl (the stuff used in food). Essentially, it comes from some Romans at some point getting salt as their wage... no idea how that worked out specifically.
Now, the question: at modern prices, how much salt per working day would a minimum wage worker get if wages were given out that way? (You can assume the salt involved comes in plastic water bottles if it makes the question easier.)
Google to the rescue!
The bog-standard 26oz (737g) cylinder of Morton iodized table salt is about 75 cents at the local Target/WalMart/KMart.
I happen to have one of those here; it's 8.5cm across and 14cm tall, for a volume of ~0.8 L.
Min wage for a day is ($7.25/hour x 8 hours) = $58 = 77+1/3 salt cylinders.
So 61.9 L or 57.0 kg of salt per workday.
My salt container also claims to have 491 servings, and 4 servings is 100% of your recommended sodium intake (and 180% of your iodine intake). So every day you get enough salt to sodiumize yourself for (491 / 4 * 77.33 / 365) = 26 years.
"...every day you get enough salt to sodomize yourself..."
But when salt was used as pay, salt was much rarer and thus more expensive.
So...what type of salt are we talking about here? Because ordinary iodized table salt may be fairly cheap, but not all salt is created equal.
I love how the Internet has SO many lists of the "most expensive" variety of something. This page
lists what it claims are the ten most expensive salts; topping the list is Amethyst Bamboo Coarse Sea Salt
, a gray sea salt that's sun-dried and aged in bamboo with some special kind of clay. Anyway, you can get it at a discount: $36 for a taster, or $272 for a whole pound! What a steal!
The minimum wage earner would "gross" one pound, one ounce of this salt each week.
But is that really the most expensive salt?
The first food eaten on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts was...bacon. Bacon has a fairly high salt content...now, I don't know whether the bacon they ate was a low-sodium variety, but we can assume it wasn't for the purposes of this question. A slice of cooked bacon weighs about 8 grams and can contain nearly a whole gram of table salt...a ratio of about 1:10.
The whole Apollo 11 lander had a mass of 15,200 kg. It wouldn't be fair to count the entire cost of developing the Apollo program, but we can count the cost of launching the Apollo 11 lander: $1.75 billion after adjustments for inflation. That comes to $115,131 per kilogram...but since the salt was in bacon at a 1:10 ratio, the actual cost of the salt would be just over $1.1 million per kg.
Which means it would take a block of "moon landing salt" with the same weight as an adult elephant to pay Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg for a single year.