Admit It: You’re Rich is a discussion from Megan McArdle.
If you are making more than about $16 an hour, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If your time horizon is the last few thousand years of history, sitting in the lower end of middle class or perhaps working poor, you would be in the very tip-top of the 1% for all of history.
(Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because this discussion has so much to say about the radical economic progress that has taken place over the last 100 and 250 year timeframes.)
She is on the story of why people living on either coast are complaining they can barely get by on $350,000 a year.
I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you. The global elite to which you and I belong enjoys fantastic wealth compared to the rest of the world: We have more food, clothes, comfortable housing, electronic gadgets, health care, travel and leisure than almost every other living person, not to mention virtually every human being who has ever lived. We are also mostly privileged to live in societies that offer quite a lot in the way of public amenities, from well-policed streets and clean water, to museums and libraries, to public officials who do their jobs without requiring a hefty bribe. And I haven’t even mentioned the social safety nets our governments provide.
So how is it that everyone who is making more than $33K a year doesn’t feel like they are incredibly, wonderfully, amazingly blessed to live a live of such luxury and comfort and ease?
She suggests it is by having the wrong perspective.
Out of focus perspective
We don’t compare our life to our grandparents, our far distant cousins still barely staying alive in the old country, or
… a Tanzanian subsistence farmer who labors in the hot sun for 12 hours before repairing to his one-room abode for a meal of cornmeal porridge and cabbage.
We compare ourselves to our neighbors, what we see on TV, or what we read in the papers.
And we are upset that we don’t have a brand new car every two years or live in as big and fancy and nice a house as that guy. Remember
the old joke that a rich man is one who makes $1,000 more a year than his brother-in-law.
We used to call that envy – being upset because someone else has something you don’t.
We call than entitlement when we see it in somebody else – I obviously deserve, just by the fact that I’m breathing, just as much stuff as you do.
We used to call that greed – Gimme, gimme, gimme.
The Bible says those are sins.
Our society says comparing your situation to a carefully chosen neighbor (make sure you don’t pick someone who is making less than you!) is the way to look at life. The constant, everywhere message from everyone is: That’s the way to go. That’s how you should look at the world.
The Bible still says that is envy, and it is still sin.
We have life amazingly good and comfortable compared to the vast majority of people today and especially compared to essentially every person on the planet over the last 10,000 years.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we should consider ourselves incredibly blessed.
There is no better time to be alive than right now.