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Commentary

Poor Americans Today Better Off than Billionaires in 1916

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It’s the kind of progress “progressives” never want to talk honestly about.

But at a time when hypocritical Democrats love to bray about “income inequality” and the fascist takeover of America that always seems to be right around the corner, it’s vital to remember that even for most of America’s poorest citizens, the United States is an astoundingly wealthy place.

So wealthy, the billionaires of only a century ago would have been envious.

An article published by The Atlantic two years ago compared the day-to-day living of 21st century Americans to the wealthiest class back in 1916.

It’s an eye-opener, detailing how much Americans from every economic class have benefited from the explosion of material wealth and medical advancements that have occurred since the U.S. became a dominant power on the world stage.

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And it’s all thanks to the miracle of human freedom that is the backbone of capitalism.

The Atlantic isn’t exactly a conservative bastion. It’s better known for articles like a 2015 profile of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates glorifying the hoax of “climate change,” for instance.

That means a piece pointing out the triumphs of modern living couldn’t be a straightforward praise of the American system (the article is actually framed as a snide rebuke of conservatives).

But Don Boudreaux, a libertarian economist at George Mason University in Virginia, used it to point out just how much better off Americans are today than only a few generations ago.

Do you think the left should be more grateful for modern America's standard of living?

In a blog post, Boudreaux listed some elements of modern living that were unavailable to even the richest of a century ago — antibiotics, dental care, cars, childbirth that didn’t involve an inordinate risk of death for the baby or the mother. All the money in the world couldn’t buy any of that in 1916.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire,” Boudreaux wrote.

“It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916.  And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.”

And considering the kind of living conditions Boudreaux talked about, it isn’t just middle class Americans who are richer than the billionaires of the past.

Given the amount of government assistance available to the poor, the lives of even those with considerably less income than the top-hat and tea set class of 1916 are immeasurably better off than the rich of the America who elected Woodrow Wilson president.

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And the main reason for that is America’s capitalist economic system, which makes it possible for human creativity to translate into real material advancement.

Liberals love to talk about the rise of the “progressives” around the turn of the last century as though they were responsible for the benefits and blessings Americans enjoy today. (As if it was the United Auto Worker, for instance, that created the American car industry, rather than the other way around.)

In reality, it was capitalism that birthed almost every advancement the Western world enjoys today.

It was capitalism and the astonishing industrial output of the United States that enabled it to defeat the socialist evil of Nazi Germany and Japanese totalitarianism in the Second World War. It was capitalism and the world class standard of living it bestowed (and military it supported) that enabled the United States to win the Cold War over the communist, totalitarian USSR.

And it’s capitalism that continues to make it possible for even poor Americans in the 21st century to live better in countless ways than the wealthiest did before the United States had even entered the First World War.

It’s the undeniable reality of contemporary America.

And it’s the kind of progress “progressives” will never talk honestly about.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.
Birthplace
Philadelphia
Nationality
American




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