A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Thursday, May 20, 2004
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE Tech Central Station has an amazing article. The claim of the article is that:
Whom do you picture as the wealthiest one percent? ...

Carl Haub, senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., has estimated that 106 billion humans have been born since Homo sapiens appeared about 50,000 years ago. That means that the richest one percent in history includes 1.06 billion people. There are currently 6.2 billion humans alive, leaving approximately 100 billion who have died. Who among the dead was rich by today's standards? Not many. Royalty, popes, presidents, dictators, large landholders, and the occasional wealthy industrialist, such as Andrew Carnegie and Leland Stanford, were certainly rich. All told, it is difficult to imagine more than 20 million of these people since ancient Egyptian times. This leaves 1.04 billion wealthy alive today, or 17% of the world's population...

The poorest of the poor, more than 1.2 billion, live on less than $1 a day. Now that's poverty... The poor in the United States, by contrast, live on up to $23.50 a day. Except for the few hundred thousand who are homeless, the Americans whom the U.S. government defines as poor live exceptionally rich lives. In most ways, their lives are better than those of kings and queens just 200 years ago. Consider the quality and quantity of our food, clothing, refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, stereo systems, and automobiles. King Louis XIV of France had a greenhouse so he could eat oranges. The poor in this country can eat an orange every day, regardless of season...

Count yourself as one of the luckiest and most successful humans ever. Celebrate your wealth and ignore politicians who preach the gospel of the haves and the have nots. They try to divide us when in fact what we have in common exceeds our differences. While you're counting your blessings, take a minute to honor the system that created it: the system of property rights, free markets, low taxes, and the rule of law. And if you want to help people who are in the bottom, then urge your politicians to stop blocking imports from India, Kenya, Peru, Cuba, Bulgaria, and other poor countries around the world. While charity has its place, few of the wealthiest one percent got rich from charity, and neither will today's poor. We moved from poverty to wealth through economic growth. Let's allow the rest of the world's poor to do so also.

That sound you here is the sound of my jaw dropping.

I want to make three points on this:

1. It might be helpful to look at standards and costs of living in comparing US citizens with those folks in less developed countries. I know lots of people who can make it in New York city on $23.50. That is positively luxurious! My goodness! What I can buy with $23.50 is just...
2. We could consider that someone who has some things like a broken down TV set is particlarly well off, by past standards, but given the country they currently live in, they might consider themselves quite poor, given the spectacular way that other folks live in comparison to them.
3. This might seem trite, but I will point out that the bulk of the people that
Messers David R. Henderson and Charley Hooper write about as being poor, really don't care one way or the other. Why?

Because they are dead.

And dead people can easily live on $23.50 a day, or even $1 a day for that matter. In fact, if I were to take this further, I could take this argument to its logical conclusion--namely that as long as I am alive, no matter how grungy or desperate my situation, I should be thankful! Even those poor folks in less developed countries currently suffering from malnutrition, as some folks in the USA (who are not homeless) currently do should also be thankful (even if we could help you some by allowing your goods into our country at fair prices). After all, you are alive, and that is a priceless and royal gift indeed. Now sod off and be thankful, and keep away from me, you lucky duckies.
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Blogs I Read


Mike Spenis

Megan McArdle

Juan Cole

Joshua Micah Marshall



Emperor Misha I

Andrew Sullivan

Bob Somersby

John Quiggin

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