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Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 7:46 pm
by kttopdad
geoffs wrote:One quick thought on modern average life style vs kings of 1850. I'm betting a king would be pretty envious of anyone with air conditioning on a hot summer day.
And all of his teeth. One of the most attractive features of a person in the mid-eighteen hundreds was if they still had a full set of teeth by the time they were 30. Few did, and all too many died from bad teeth.

I like the observations made about wealth vs. status and Iron Man. Today rocks! And tomorrow is looking even better. My kids are going to be casually powerful beyond my determined best. The fact that wealthy kids will be even more powerful than mine doesn't negate the fact that my kids are wealthier in real terms than those kings of yore.

The observation was made that wealth is but a means to power. I disagree with that entirely. Power is one end to which wealth can take you, but wealth is also a means to security, to health, to ease and to a great many other things.

I believe that the core of this discussion is that the standard of living has increased over time, and that in real terms we are wealthier now than our predecessors. I think this is an accurate statement. To throw in poetry about the relative wealth of kings of yester-centruy vs. retired engineers of today opens the discussion to interpretations of what "wealth" is. That's beside the point. Any economist will tell you that "real wealth" in this country has increased with time, and at an increasing rate for the last three centuries. How our society divides that increased wealth may be open to opinion, but the fact that the per capita GDP in this country has steadily increased is not.

My thoughts on wealth vs. power and the merits of dental hygiene.


Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:57 pm
by TallDave
Yup. The rare & hard to acquire versions that are available only to those of status.
I would reverse that and say that status is assigned to rarity and difficulty to acquire, because humans need to define status objects as part of our compulsion to seek higher status.

I think the perfect microcosm of this is World of Warcraft. There's a similarly arbitrary value in a rare "epic" WoW item that is difficult to acquire and a natural diamond.
More than symbols. Reality. Those with the markers will BE rich.
True, but increasingly only in the sense of being higher status rather than in any real sense of living standards, and how meaningful is that if even the poorest is wealthy beyond our dreams? Is status "reality," or just a human compulsion that has no intrinsic value, only the value we assign to it?

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 12:11 am
by MSimon
I read something a while back that the difference in living standards between the rich an poor in America is only 4 to 1.

The rest goes to money in the "bank" or status objects.

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 10:43 am
by olivier
Surprising! It would be interesting to know what they mean by living standard, that is, which ratio they actually measure.
In terms of income, you can have plenty of info there. The 10% richest / 10% poorest ratio in the US is 15.9, but it takes into account the money which rests in the bank or goes to status, which should explain the difference.
For the fun of it, the French tax on patrimony (rather small and above 1.2 MUSD, whatever you think of that) was established by a President who had many art lovers among his friends, which is why status objects (art or antiques) are not taken into account. My house and my bed can be taxed, not my Rembrandts (luckily I don't have any).

Statisticians seem to favor the Gini coefficient. The less one can say is that its distribution has not much to do with political regimes, except perhaps for Scandinavian countries which are all very egalitarian. See Venezuela vs. Columbia or China vs. Vietnam vs. Japan.