We humans like to measure things. Companies like Survey Monkey (which collects 16 million answers daily) will take nearly any business contact you’ve had and convert it into a number. Over the past week, they’ve hit me up for ratings on a hair salon, a cable provider and an auto parts store. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 10 = Strongly Agree, how do you feel about that?
Some numbers mean more than others. Back in the spring of 1896, Charles Dow was working as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and searching for a straightforward measure of stock market performance. He and his buddy Edward Jones decided to pick a dozen stocks that they thought would best represent the market and publish an average share price. The original twelve represented industries like tobacco, distilling, agriculture, utilities and coal. The idea had legs; today there are 30 companies in the Dow, and it remains a closely watched measure of how our economy is doing.
A dozen decades later the original dozen is gone from the list. General Electric Corporation recently became the last to be dropped. While there are no specific rules for inclusion in the Dow, it is generally assumed that the members should be large and well respected public companies. This measure of our economy is meant to reflect what we feel is important and therefore spend our money on.