Rising Equality

I can justifiably claim that equality is rising in the world. Meaning, the world used to be less equal than it is today, and that in the future it will become more equal than today. The reason that claim appears to contradict reality is that I have not specified the dimension for the comparison implicit in any measure of equality. When it comes to comparisons of material wellbeing, there are three distinct dimensions — consumption, income, and wealth.

My claim is that consumption equality is increasing, not wealth or income.

Here’s a trivial case that illustrates what I mean. Warren Buffet’s income and wealth is six orders of magnitude greater than mine. Meaning his wealth is measured in units of “000,000,000” and mine is measured in units of “000.” Billions as opposed to thousands. Similarly his income per year is measured in billions and mine in thousands. Certainly, compared to Buffet in terms of wealth and income, I am dirt poor. But I am not dirt poor compared to Buffet in consumption. Continue reading

Wealth and Poverty — Past, Present and Future

That’s the Ford Model T. The fanciest car that you, as a fairly well-off American, could have bought in 1925 — the year it went on the market. Pretty neat, eh? Well, not as neat as a present day BMW or Jaguar, or Benz, or even any average sedan or SUV. No billionaire of 1925 could have bought a Honda CRV even.

Just a 100 years ago, even billionaires could not afford any of the gazillion things we average folks can order from the comfort of our bedrooms and have it delivered the next day. We are immensely richer than even the richest emperors. The Palace of Versailles, the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, did not have air conditioning or refrigerators. No telephones. No surround sound, no 4K UHD video system. Not even ice cream in summer. I am richer than Louis XIV. [See note 1.] Continue reading