Tag Archives: Inequality

“We define poverty in an opulent way”

The title is from a must-read at Pyromaniacs: Open Letter to the #Occupy Movement.  It highlights our covetousness and greed in how we compare our state to the wrong standard.  Why does the (alleged) 99% in the U.S. compare itself to the 1% and affix the blame for all their frustrations there?  Why not compare themselves to the real 99% — the rest of the world, most of whom would love to trade places with the bottom fifth of the U.S. citizenry?

 

But check it out: the line where you and I would say is the line which designates the poorest of the poor is well above the per capita income of more than 85% of the world’s population.  It’s a level of income 80% greater than the per cap GDP of South Africa, 30% greater than Russia, and six times greater than that of India.

That is: we define poverty in an opulent way.  Compared to the UK in 1800, we have defined the crown of Western Civilization to that time down to a dirty little country which we would be offended to live in.  The great part about this is the punchline: it’s because we’re greedy.

That’s right: the problem is not that “they” are greedy – whoever “they” are (the bankers, the capitalists, the stock traders, but apparently not the movie moguls, the actors, the politicians and pop stars) — but that we are greedy.  We want things we didn’t earn, and we can’t imagine that we might have to live on less than we think we are entitled to.  We certainly couldn’t live on what the average Englishman lived on in1800, and may God forbid we have to live on what the average Russian or South African lives on today.  There was a time when we would say it isn’t “fair”, but today we say it’s actually an injustice — as if “justice” has anything to do with us getting something we didn’t actually earn.

I encourage you to watch this amazing video.  Incomes and life spans have gone up dramatically around the world in the last 50 years. We should be celebrating, not coveting.