Dear #OWS & your kin --
Back before my personal blog went on long-term hiatus, I presented this video, as provided by the BBC via YouTube:
Hans Rosling is one of those EuroIntellectuals who gets gigs at places like the TED talks and gets appointments from the UN, so his work on this sort of data ought to be of some interest to you as he is probably sympathetic to your points of view. The animated graphic he runs in this video is actually available on-line here, so you can play with it yourself and invent all kinds of stuff to argue with people about.
I have a specific point to make to you today using that data, and I hope you'll bear with me.
Here's the first stop on the tour of this data:
|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
This is Rosling's data at 1800 with the country with the highest standard of living called out. The UK in 1800 had a per capita GDP of approximately $2800.00 in adjusted US dollars. You can refute that any way you want, as this is Rosling's research and not mine. I'd call him slightly biased, and not in my favor, which is fine. But note this: in 1800, the UK's standard of living rendered an average life expectancy of 40 years.
Now, let's jump ahead 210 years:
I've left the pointers on the map for reference. In 210 years, controlling for inflation, there are still plenty of countries with a per capita GDP of $2800 or less. Let's call some out --
For examples, Ethiopia has a per capita GDP of less than $1000; Zimbabwe is less than $500; Nigeria is just over $2000; Ghana is in the middel around $1500. But here's the thing: all of these countries have a life expectancy greater than that of the UK in 1800, and their GDP per capita is lower -- meaning there is less overall income in these nations, and a greater expectation of longer life. Ghana's life expectancy is 50% greater than the UK's in 1800 -- and their people live today in what we would call abject poverty.
Someone a little more doctrinaire than I am when it comes to politics would now grandstand on the answer to the question, "How can this be possible?" but I have different objectives here. While this graph shows us a lot of things, there is something it does not show us -- and we need to interpose some other data to go there. Consider this:
The green line there is the median household income for the United States in 2010. If you have forgotten 6th grade math, the "median" in a series of numbers is not the average of the series: it is the number in the middle of the series. So if you lined up the incomes for all 113,146,000 households with incomes in 2010, the value in the dead center of the list is $ 44,389.00 This is an interesting number as it shows how incomes skew either to the high end or the low end of the distribution -- and given that the mean household income is north of $60,000, I grant you it shows that the household incomes in the U.S. skew lower than average.
But see here: that green line has a startling place on the graph of world economies. There are only 4 nations that have an average per cap GDP higher than our median household income -- so the median household in the U.S. has it pretty good. And that value has special meaning relative to Rosling's video: Rosling classifies income of $40,000 as rich.
Rich! Isn't that awesome? That puts your complaints into a certain light, but there's one more vertical line I want to stripe in here:
You may not be familiar with the quintile rankings for income, so briefly: if you took that list of 113,146,000 households again in lowest-to-highest rank, and broke them up into five evenly-sized groups, you would have quintiles of income. The break point between the 1st (lowest) and 2nd quintile is at $18,500 -- meaning the bottom 1/5th of households in the US have an annual income of under $18,500. That sounds pretty scary, right? That's the kind of thing you are out in the street trying to educate us about, yes?
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.
So I say all that to say this: your problem is not actually on Wall Street, or Atlanta, or San Fran, or any other city. It is actually in your own heart -- and your accuser is not me and my blog-audacity, but the billions who look at you incredulously and see you complaining that you have a silver spoon in your mouth rather than a platinum one. Your problem is the problem of all mankind, which is sin.
And the only cure for sin is repentance and faith in the only savior of men, Jesus Christ.
So today, when you read this, don't gird up your loins to context the data: repent. Turn away from your simplistic materialism and repent.