The truth is out there: 26/12/2009

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The Independent Online

One way or another it has been a year dominated by money; be it recession, expenses or bank bonuses, the media has fixated on finance. So here are some of the year's more unusual financial facts, fads and frivolities to feature in this most truthful of columns.

*Every recession has its surprising side effects. Vasectomies have shot up in response to the combination of tougher financial circumstances in which to raise a child, and a new urgency to get the procedure done before the company medical insurance gets withdrawn. One US provider reports a 48 per cent rise in consultations. And at least 50 per cent of patients worked in the financial sector.

*Since the beginning of the recession, China's Revolutionary People's Press reports, sales of Karl Marx's Das Kapital have risen from 1,000 copies a month to 5,000. A similar surge of interest in the philosopher has been witnessed in Germany: visits to Marx's birthplace have soared to 40,000 a year.

*Our own government's expenses woes pale in comparison to their American counterparts: ours, after all, are at least mostly confined to serving politicians. In the US, in contrast, Harper's tells us that last year's expenditure on former presidents – all four of them, since Dubya wasn't an "ex" then – alone came to $2.5m, of which $79,000 went on Bill Clinton's phone bill.

*And while the mother of Parliaments continues to stagger through the expenses quagmire, the Nepalese proved more decisive in dealing with corruption. The government issued pocket-less trousers to airport workers to prevent them taking bribes, reported AFP.

*It has long been assumed that recession leads to a spike in crime, caused by increased levels of unemployment. But, pointed out the Freakonomics blog, the fact that so many people are at home during the day now seems to be having the opposite effect as vigilant job-seekers deter burglars. Reports from Associated Press highlight the effect, pointing out a 14 per cent drop in burglaries in Phoenix, Arizona.

*Frankincense and myrrh are pretty special, of course, but they have nothing on gold. At the start of the year National Geographic estimated that in all history only 161,000 tonnes of gold had ever been produced – barely enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools. Per year that equates to about a 14 foot cube, or less than the size of most people's living rooms. And because of the instability of the global economy, that living room has risen in value from £8.7bn at the start of the year to over £11bn now.

*Every year a company called PNC Wealth Management compiles a cost-of-living tracker based around the 12 days of Christmas. This year, anyone who bought the five gold rings, four calling birds and the rest for their true love would be looking at an outlay of around £52,483.56 – up just one per cent on last year.