A lot of news recently has been dedicated to pointing out the wealth inequality gap. Some say it’s the highest it’s ever been (debatable). Either way, the gap between the 1% and the 99% is vast. There’s no denying that. But how does this affect you?
Answer: it doesn’t. Not really. Even though Elon Musk is raking in the dough, this fact has no effect on your life or anyone else’s. In other words, the wealth gap is a scapegoat.
The (Rough) History of Wealth
Mankind started in the Stone Age. We used sticks and rocks to hunt and fight for our survival. We lived in caves and were largely dependent on our environments to live. In time, we got a little bit smarter and learned how to craft sophisticated weapons. We also discovered how to more efficiently use the minerals around us to heighten our quality of life. Our ancestors fought with all their might just to stay alive. We were all relatively equal.
Eventually, we discovered metal and how to use it for weapons and tools. Enter the Bronze Age. Humankind building communities instead of following the herd for food. We established systems of trade as well. With trade comes wealth. The Bronze Age made our communities closer, but also introduced this idea of inequality. Some people provided more value to the community. These people were compensated as such. The more wealth we got, the more technologically advanced we became.
We started getting very sophisticated with our technology and headed towards the Iron Age. People became more specialized in their skills and these skills were passed on through their lineage. Sons of blacksmiths would be blacksmiths. Daughters of princesses would be princesses. For hundreds–perhaps thousands–of years this system existed. You were either born into greatness or poverty. There was no way to get around it. People just didn’t have access to the information to better their lives.
Jump to today–the Information Age. We live in the most prosperous time in human history. The quality of life is better now than it ever has been across the globe. We can have food delivered directly to our door within an hour. In less than a minute, we can connect with someone across the globe. There is a world of knowledge right at our fingertips, and yet there is so much complaint about wealth inequality.
Times of Inequality
It’s true that the wealth gap is vast and rapidly increasing. But is this really a problem? Jeff Bezos is worth roughly $200 billion, but what does that mean for the average person?
I would argue that it means absolutely nothing to the average person. Jeff Bezos could be worth $1 billion or $500 trillion and it wouldn’t make a difference to you.
Compare your life to a person in the Stone Age–where inequality was at an all-time low. All people were equal because they literally had to fight to survive. Everyone had to team up to fight the lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) or the whole tribe would be decimated.
Now, look at your life. Even if you are homeless and reading this publication at your local library, you are miles ahead of where people were 10,000 years ago. You no longer have to fight off wild animals to survive. Through charity and government support, you have the access to food and water without having to put your life at risk to get it.
Now compare your life to the people in the Iron Age. They had much less to worry about than our Stone Age ancestors, but there was still very little opportunity to transcend wealth classes. The son of a carpenter was a carpenter. The son of a king was a king. There was no opportunity to move up, and people at the top were protected from moving down.
Today, if your father was a carpenter, you could be a lawyer. If your mother was a secretary, you could become a doctor. With the amount of information and access to education today, you control your own destiny more than ever before.
Constantly Increasing Standard of Living
I think of it like this:
The gap between the highest and the lowest may be increasing, but that’s not because life is getting worse. Our baseline is continually improving as well. Life is getting better for everyone as a whole. In this study conducted at Stanford University, the minimum standard of living is continually increasing across the world.
By most measures here, the rates of change in the less developed countries in
the last half-century have substantially exceeded those in the historical experience
of western Europe. If there are limits to growth in the standard of living—an
imminent stationary state—it is not evident in the historical record.
We are continuously improving as a species, and there is no evidence to suggest that these improvements will stop. The human race has fought and improved its circumstances since the beginning of time.
The wealth gap is a distraction. There will always be people richer than you or more successful than you. Focusing on it keeps you from making a better life for yourself.
You’re Living the Good Life
You can argue until you’re blue in the face how things should be. That is not what this article is about. This article is about how things are. Abandon all hope of changing the world. It’s much easier (and more productive) to change yourself instead.
It’s the most peaceful time in world history. Access to food, water, and shelter are at all-time highs. You have access to thousands of hours of free education to improve your life and learn new skills. The stock market is history’s largest money-making machine, and it’s now accessible to anyone with some spare change and an internet connection.
If you are reading this, you have the power and the ability to improve your life. I believe in you.
Now ask yourself again… does the wealth gap really matter?
Thanks for reading!