Yesterday’s NYT had an article about wealth that fell into several of the usual traps of this discussion. To his credit, David Leonhardt looked at a few aspects of the question. He did not manage to avoid two of the major traps when it comes to this discussion — the two sided nature of any temporal argument, and relative aspect of wealth as a concept.

Long time readers will recall we looked at the question What is wealth? back in 2004.

The Times uses Snow Blowers as an example, but any modern device or service would suffice:

"Yet the benefits of the snow blower, namely more free time
and less health risk, are largely missing from the government’s
attempts to determine Americans’ economic well-being. The same goes for
dozens of other inventions, be they air-conditioners, cellphones or
medical devices. The reasons are a little technical — they involve the
measurement of inflation — but they’re important to understand, because
the implications are so large."

As we noted last time out, all temporal arguments are two-sided. The lowest economic strata — with their indoor plumbing and their color TVs — are "wealthier" today than long
dead royalty of long ago. Thanks to Human ingenuity and the relentless progress of technology, the wealthy amongst us are inevitably poorer than people from the lower economic rungs 100 years
from now.

Sure, we may have Snowblowers, but we don’t go to Mars for vacations, or have nano-tech cholesterol bots keep our arteries clean, or the ability to carry the entire library of congress, every film, book or musical recording ever made in a device the size of a quarter. Hey, we don’t even have robotic servants to operate those snowblowers! Why, we are practically impoverished compred with people born merely 100 years from now.

Of course, that’s just as absurd an argument. Nobody today thinks to themselves: "Huzzah! I am wealthier than King Henry!", nor do they lament "Alas! I have less wealth than the poorest schlump to be born in the year 2200. . . woe is me.".

It is the nature of mankind is to
relentlessly raise his standard of living, generation after generation.
This has been especially true throughout history, with progress accellerating at an ever quickening pace. The overall trend has been upwards for a long, long time, and there’s no reason to think this will end anytime soon. This is a given of the human condition. Claiming this as proof of wealth merely reveals a fundamental lack of understanding as to the very nature of human existence.

Other than that minor shortcoming . . .

~~~

Regardless of the 2 sided nature of the historical/future argument, many observers have a fundamental misunderstanding about the conception of financial well being: Wealth is a relative concept.

Some people define wealth as having $100 more than what their
brother-in-law has. We try to "keep up with the Jones" because they are our contemporaneous, geographical peers. We Americans neither try to keep up with the Sultan of Brunei nor with a Chinese factory worker. 

We instead compare ourselves vis a vis local contemporaries.

This is why the price of Real Estate in Manhattan or La Jolla, CA. does not impact the price of Real Estate in Chicago or Nebraska. Its why Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs compare themselves with Bill Gates and the Google boys.

~~~

Tainting the overall discussion is the old economic saw, courtesy of the Boskin Commission, that claims the government’s measure of inflation overstates the case. This is one economic’s greatest absurdity, about on par with cold fusion and OJ’s trial. (The chart below pursues this absurd line of thought).
>

click for larger graphic

Graphic courtesy of the NYT

>

In the past, we have beaten the inflation issue to death. If you believe the CPI — the core CPI, seasonally adjusted, hedonically altered, substituting chop meat for steak and removing energy and food — accurately reflects the cost of living, well, then you simply have not been paying attention. We are not the first to mention this;  John Williams created the Shadow Government Statistics to track actual inflation and GDP (See also this discussion by Martin Weiss);

~~~

Let’s all agree on two things: First, Human progress is inevitable, with each generation benefitting from improvements in medical care, technology, etc.; Second, there is a systemic bias built into the government reporting machinary that understates the declining purchasing power of the US dollar.

The more the Fed prints, the less its worth — that’s basic law of supply and demand at work. That’s something I would hope "one of the country’s leading macroeconomists" would understand.

Apparently not . . .

>

Sources:
Life Is Better; It Isn’t Better. Which Is It?
DAVID LEONHARDT
Economix
NYT, September 20, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/20/business/20leonhardt.html

What is wealth?
Saturday, May 22, 2004
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2004/05/what_is_wealth.html

The Boskin Commission Report and its Aftermath
Robert J. Gordon
Northwestern University and NBER, September 1, 1999
http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/economics/gordon/346.html

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

41 Responses to “What is Wealth, part II”

  1. christopherrobin says:

    futures this AM at 11725 … hope you have all been long since 10700 ….. no for anyone to be negative just yet ! this is crazy.

  2. jkw says:

    If the CPI shows no change in earnings, then the hedonic adjustments are correct for what they are supposed to be doing. They are supposed to remove improvements to quality of life from the inflation measure. Assuming the middle class is roughly a constant percentage of the population, the best measure of inflation after removing quality of life changes is median wages. The cost of a middle-class lifestyle will be the same as the earnings of middle-class workers for the most part. Periods of growing and shrinking debt are the only exceptions. So I guess that if median real wages are constant with debt growing, inflation is being overstated.

    An irrelevant technical point: people will not be taking many vacations on Mars until we have fusion working. The energy required to get there means that without fusion, it is a 6-9 month trip in each direction. Which means it isn’t worth going for less than about 2-3 years of time away from Earth. That’s a once in a lifetime trip, sort of like sailing around the world.

  3. knzn says:

    “The more the Fed prints, the less its worth — that’s basic law of supply and demand at work.”

    The basic problem here is, you’re only looking at one side of the supply-demand balance. The Fed prints more money: that’s one side. The economy becomes more productive: that’s the other side. Which side wins? That’s an empirical question.

    (Just to make this point clear, though: if the Fed didn’t print any more money, we would definitely have deflation, because you would have the same amount of money chasing more and more goods.)

  4. Gunther says:

    No question that the inflation as measured by the CPI is understated. Beside the theory there is anecdotal evidence everywhere. But for some people believing mainstream media this new measurement might seem to be accurate or at least prevent them from connecting the dots that everything gets more expensive but there is no inflation. Tn my view that is between propaganda and disinformation.

  5. cygnus says:

    So if the market creates new needs, such as iPods, cellphones, more luxurious automobiles etc. and I dont have enough additional income to buy all these newly created “needs” its because of inflation? This actually sounds alot like the reason for inflation that JK Galbraith attrributes in his book “the affluent society”.

    Sounds more like we have an issue of creation not inflation. Hedonic measures make sense to me.

  6. dryfly says:

    Great post – reducing ‘visible’ inequality matters. How much stock, money, bonds, gold they have doesn’t… it’s how they flaunt it that does.

    And surprisingly it should matter most to the wealthy who will lose their heads if the poor really get pissed. Its the way those things have always ended once irreversibly out of balance. Louis XIV, Romanov’s, Hapsburgs, Gulags, Killing Fields, Bastille… it just happens over and over through out history.

    I think we are a looooong way from anything close to that… and as long as everyone who wants a plasma can have a plasma we aren’t likely to be marching folks from the country clubs to the guillotines anytime soon.

    But I’ve said a thousand times on blogs like this… “good safety nets are the best insurance the wealthy keep their heads”… tell Kudlow that sometime when he’s railing against social programs on his show, my guess he drops his gap.

    Nice post, especially about the $100 & the brother in law – that just about sums it up.

  7. spencer says:

    I hate to get technical on you but in 1999 in the report you cited Gorden said:By now the Commission’s
    conclusion that the U. S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) overstated inflation by 1.1 percent per year in
    1995-96 has become familiar both within the United States and in the measurement community of
    other countries. Since the report was issued, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has moved rapidly
    to implement some of the most important of the Commission’s recommendations, so that the upward
    bias in the CPI is substantially less today than in 1996.

    Moreover, Census does not use the regular cpi to deflate the nominal income data. Rather it uses the cpi-rs that reconstructs the cpi history so it incorporates the Commission recommendations that in 1999 Gorden claimed made the bias substantially less.
    As a matter of fact the cpi-rs show that infltion has been about 0.5 percentage points lower then the
    regular cpi.

    But in the article Gorden says the cpi still over states the cpi by the same ammount that it did before the Boskin recommendations were implemented.

    So if you actually work out the numbers in the article it say just the opposite and shows that inflation overstated by rougly 1.5 percentage points annually.

    Which is right, Gorden in 1999 or Gorden now?

  8. kharris says:

    “…the wealthy amongst us are inevitably poorer than people from the lower economic rungs 100 years from now.” Inevitable? As Inego Montoya would say “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” There is a reasonable chance that human ingenuity will not be enough to assure material advancement, that human fecklessness and greed will undo us, that our ingenuity to date will have unintended consequences of an unfortunate sort. You do not know, and cannot know, that our descendants will be better off than we are. You have made a statement based on faith. At the end, you insist that we should agree on this point. This is a politician’s trick. There were long periods in human history in which material progress was the exception. There have been notable periods and locations when the human race has lost ground. You pull the same trick with inflation. It is your view, apparently strongly held, that official inflation stats understate inflation. There is another school of thought which holds that inflation stats overstate inflation. You just go ahead and say we ought to agree with you. Why ever should we?

    There is also a serious definitional problem whenever we talk about wealth. We can define wealth in various ways, but defining it to be synonymous with well-being impoverishes the language. To assert that being generally better off means we are “wealthier” is sloppy speech. If my knees stop hurting because I figure out that I should clean the kitchen floor standing up rather than kneeling down, I have improved my well-being through the acquisition of knowledge, but I am not wealthier. It is purely a definitional question whether I am wealthier because I have access to books to which my grandparents did not have access, though I am surely better off for it.

    The argument you are making asserts that wealth is a psychological construct. To be wealthy, we need to feel wealthy relative to somebody else. It is a useful point of view, but when we delve into relativism, we should also keep our ears cocked for irony. You offer your view as an absolute, but it is not absolute. The “given” is that facet of human thought which leads us to compare our situation to that of others. It is not a given that we must treat wealth in a way that relies on that facet of thought. We can define wealth as net assets. We can inflation adjust it. We can insist that wealth be defined as readily exchanged in the market place – clean arteries and a back that doesn’t ache cannot be readily exchanged.

    Argument by stealthy definition of terms is widely practiced, but doesn’t get us very far.

  9. Bill says:

    just curious: what is the rough representation in percentage points of taxes that we pay in the cpi?

    for example, in texas we pay school taxes and property taxes based on the value of our homes. in my case the tax i pay on my home has appreciated by 50 percent in the past 9 year.

    does somebody have any information on this?

  10. lurker says:

    Nice post kharris. I particularly agree with your cautionary words about our success as a species undoing the earth on which we live. Past performance is no guarantee of “progress” and even then it depends upon what past performances you care to examine.

  11. S says:

    Amaranth revised its loss to 65%. The bizarre thing is they want to stay in business. Bizarre because the high water mark virtually assures they’ll never qualify for a performance fee. Assuming some investors are willing to remain invested (which is probably a stretch), why wouldn’t Amaranth close the current fund and relaunch to eliminate the high water mark?

    Is it a case of attempting to regain trust/honor/reputation at the expense of greed? If so, they should be thrown off Wall Street forever. Their Master of the Universe union card must be revoked immediately. They have clearly lost their way. Greed must be the first priority.

    On a related note, anyone know how T. Boone Pickens is doing?

  12. hassie says:

    I feel wealthy specifically because I have more then Henry the V. I force myself to view life this way. And with good results too.

  13. wcw says:

    To add a little to knzn’s and spencer’s points: not only should we be suspicious of someone who sings the same song no matter what the orchestra is playing, but we also should be extra suspicious if that person does not draw the obvious conclusions. If CPI is overstated, then yes, median earnings are not doing as poorly as we think.

    Substantially more importantly, however, neither is productivity.

    Whenever I read a column about an overstated CPI that does not use the word “productivity” I simply ignore it. Its author does not deserve my attention, and to engage it on its terms would be to subtract knowledge from my mind.

    Feh.

  14. ticktock says:

    So, if wealth is all relative, then it seems to me we should be deriving the inflation rate plain and simple from the change in median income, (i.e. median real income stays constant).

    Wouldn’t this be more accurate and tamper-proof than applying subjective hedonics as well as the ever changing “basket of goods” approach to estimating CPI?

  15. kharris says:

    ticktock,

    If you think that wealth is an appropriate benchmark for inflation, then go right ahead. However, since standard thinking about inflation has to do with prices of goods and services in this period relative to some prior period, you are going to have to do a lot of convincing to switch to a wealth-based definition.

  16. ticktock says:

    That doesn’t answer my question.

  17. M1EK says:

    The biggest problem with these sorts of smug claims that today’s two-job holding single-mother is better off than King Henry is that they’re ridiculous on their face.

    Many of the inventions which didn’t exist back then substitute capital for labor or other forms of capital. If you were rich enough to be able to afford the labor, you still had it pretty good.

    For instance, ask me if I’d rather pay my air conditioning bill, or be able to afford a summer home somewhere where I don’t need air conditioning. Ask me if I’d rather have a washing machine, or be able to afford to pay a couple of servants to wash my clothes by hand. Etc.

  18. Insights says:

    Nearly 10% of all African American men ages 25 to 29 are in prison. The U.S has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Over 2 million people are currently behind bars in the U.S..

    Have you seen the state of public schools in Baltimore, D.C., Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York or even inner-city Lincoln, Nebraska?

    The U.S. infant mortality rate ranks down there with Croatia and Cuba.

    Each month Americans roll an average of $10,000 in credit card debt at 17% interest.

    The U.S. National Debt is over $8 trillion dollars.

    40 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever.

    2,691 U.S. Dead in Iraq
    20,000 U.S. Wounded in Iraq

    George Bush is advocating changes to the Geneva Convention Article on torture.

  19. Bill says:

    Lack of Insight:

    3000 US dead at WTC
    19 US dead and 200 injured at Khobar towers in SA
    17 US dead on USS Cole

    We’re fighting back.

    If there’s a better place to live than the US, name it.

    btw: if socialism has all the answers then why doesn’t Cuber have a low infant mortality rate?

  20. VoiceFromTheWilderness says:

    The fact that Invidious Comparison is ignored in modern economics, while ‘Free Market Capitalism’ is invoked as a banner of political movements, and apparently actually believed in by vast numbers of people who think of themselves as intelligent tells you all you really need to know about 1) the relationship between truth and popularity, 2) the real causes of the problems in america today.

    The fact that what I just said will strike many (most?) as obscure, only proves the point. I wonder how many people even know why mentioning Thorstein Veblen in any way relates to the original post.

  21. Brian says:

    3000 US dead at WTC

    What’s that go to do with Iraq?

  22. Lord says:

    The problem I have with all these improvement arguments is they are all myopic and one sided. Where is the loss of buffalo roaming the plains? What is the price of polar bears only existing in the zoo?

  23. Norman says:

    100 years ago food, the most basic of staples, cost 43% of the average income; today it is 10%. Think of the pressure on a family in 1906 just to eat. Today, our poorest people are fat. Slice and dice with snowblowers, food in a nutshell is the sign of wealth generation.

  24. John F. says:

    Lemme see if I understand your argument. The Fed’s statistics are no good. We know that the CPI is not keeping up with the cost of living. But wealth is a relative concept anyway.

    So which is it? Either we try to include externalities in our measures of inflation and wealth (these include factors like avoiding the risk of being shot in one’s neighborhood as well as keeping up with the Joneses), we don’t, or we develop a full-bore ontology of wealth which we try to quantify: happiness surveys, longevity and health, free time, etc.

    At the risk of being presumptuous, I get the impression your inner philosopher is trying to break free of your economist shell. Until you do, you’ll continue arguing apples against the oranges of the mundane technical chore of managing the financial markets’ expectations.

  25. douglas says:

    The best measure of wealth is the basic liquidity ratio.

  26. muckdog says:

    Thought provoking column, BR. Technology and productivity have evolved to the point where we have more leisure time.

    We work harder trying to figure out our Fantasy Football line-ups than providing for the basic needs of life…

  27. kckid816 says:

    there is no best measure of wealth. It is entirely subjective. you can define wealth however you see fit, but that doesn’t mean your definition is the same as mine.

  28. calmo says:

    My goodness, ontology makes a sudden appearance. Can epistemology be far behind? Behind those polar bears in the zoo, I bet. Just when I think the best thing about blogs is the variety, I feel the urge to throw over-ripe fruit indiscriminantly, you? [That my friend is wealth: a good store of ammunition and the ability to impale your hair-brained neighbour with it.]
    This sends me screaming off to my Python collection for a ‘you think you had it tough’ refresher.

  29. tyoung says:

    I’ll tell ya what wealth is not.
    Rising house prices!

  30. Bushnomics: deflation news

    Did you expect me to say inflation? No, Im saying deflation. As some well-known economists are worried about inflation, Im worrying about deflation.
    What  happened just this week is amazing:

    M-1 money supply is on decline

  31. Steve-O says:

    I the salient issue here is that you can’t measure personal well being in economic terms. There is a book titled The American Paradox (among many other sources that do the same) that points out that after people have their immediate needs satisfied, their level of happiness plateaus as measured by surveys asking as much. When it’s all said and done, regardless of whether our real earnings are rising or falling is irrelevant since niether our level of wealth or our advanced technology makes us feel any better about life. I’m not saying technological advancement is an unworthy cause, I’m just saying evaluating society’s level of wealth is irrelevant if that measure has no correlation to society’s perceived level of happiness.

  32. Snyder says:

    You are mistaking wealth for income, which tells me that you haven’t even taken a basic accounting class. Income is flows, wealth is stocks (by which I do NOT mean equity but rather accumulated flows).

    Money exists on three levels. One is the things it will buy. That’s how most people view it. In fact, I’d say that anyone who views it that way is, by definition not wealthy. The second level is freedom. Once you have enough money to buy everything you’ll ever want for you and anyone you care about, you have freedom. I’d say no one is wealthy until they have their freedom.

    Past the level of freedom, money is power. By which I mean their decisions on deploying it will directly determine how someone unrelated to themself lives their life. Be sure to read what I wrote slowly. I’m not talking about determining which college your kid attends, etc. And I’m not talking about owning a small portion of a company’s equity and therefore having a theoretical vote. I’m not talking about a consumer’s dollar “vote.”

    I’m talking about someone who has enough money that, by virtue of making a decision on how it’s deployed, will one way or the other cause the lives of strangers to move in a particular direction. The more money, the more power. This is why the rich have resoonsibilities, even though relatively few of them ever realize it. They are trapped in the things/freedom view of money, or in some cases they are simply sociopaths who don’t care what happens as the result of their decisions.

    Underlying all of this is that money is a claim on labor. Materials are extracted from the environment, and their value represents the labor associated with extraction. Beyond that, money pays for the labor involved in design, assembly, delivery and so on. Therefore, even at the lowest levels, money is about labor, and wealth is a measure of who works for whom.

  33. Snyder says:

    Additional thoughts:

    Therefore, money is exclusively a scorekeeping mechanism. It has no independent existence, regardless of its form. Debates over whether money should be gold or paper are beside the point. One thing we can be sure of is that money’s “value,” i.e., the amount of dollars or yen or Euros that will buy a unit of labor, will constantly change. This is because governments and financial institutions owe much of their power to such changes.

    But in the final analysis, money is still a claim on labor, and wealth is the balance of those claims for every entity in the economy. The rate of inflation of currencies a financial issue that people use to discount the ability of currencies to buy labor.

    Wealth has nothing to do with any absolute standard of living. It is purely a balance of claims on labor. This is why any material definition of wealth cannot last. Pinning wealth to a particular standard of living is a fool’s errand. A wealthy man is a free man. A powerful man is a free man with so many claims on labor that he can’t avoid exercising them.

  34. Eclectic says:

    On Money and Power:

    Money is the coercive or compelling force that ordinarily facilitates cooperative exchanges of labor, goods or services in any combination.

    Power, in the sense of being a controlling influence, is a greatly dissimilar and more efficient force that is yet a further abstraction of money and drives money’s uncooperative exchanges.

    The conventional nominal money used in modern societies is for the most part fiat money, and it exists in its static condition entirely as a derived element of power.

    Fiat money therefore derives its value from its representation of power, not from some other representational value marked-to-market against other commodities that have real value independent of power. Gold, silver, corn and many other commodities used as money do not require power to have value, either real or monetary. Fiat money must be supported with power in order to have any monetary value. It can have no real intrinsic value beyond the mere pittance of its compositional material cost.

    Money and power are component expressions of the same philosophical entity. In this sense the relationship of money to power is analogous to the relationship of matter to energy.

    On Labor and Productivity:

    Labor is in all cases the ultimate currency of exchange since the coercive or compelling force of money is executed via labor.

    Productivity is a natural byproduct of the improving efficiency of labor that is derived from intellectual learning. Therefore labor may exist in either mechanical or intellectual form, but both forms are philosophical expressions of intellect.

    Requiring the use of intellect is not consumptive and can never reduce pure intellect. Pure intellect is a qualitative infinite; intellectual labor is simply the flowing of intellectual force that can be begun and stopped at will. Intellectual labor is to mechanical labor, in magnitude of relative effect, as power is to money.

    On Wealth:

    Wealth is a qualitative abstraction. It is the status of continuously possessing sufficient coercive or compelling force to cause the execution of marginal labor to satisfy marginal demand.

    Being rich is the status of possessing great relative quantities of assets denominated in nominal money value. It is necessarily a connotation of wealth, but only in real time present value. Having wealth is, however, not necessarily a connotation of being rich, because the status of having wealth may require very little, if any, nominal money value assets.

    An island chieftain several hundred years ago may have been relatively as wealthy as the King of England was at the same time, and yet the chieftain’s wealth may have resided in the command of the labor and services of his subjects and little more, without his possessing riches equal to that of an ordinary London merchant.

    Too, average individuals in modern society, without possessing great riches, are yet wealthier in real time present value than ancient kings were in their capacities to cause the execution of marginal labor to satisfy marginal demand, when those capacities are viewed in the present day.

    If the reader doubts this, I invite the submission of an example of an ancient king who, though he may have commanded armies and possessed kingdoms and chambers piled high with gold, silver and precious jewels, could have realized the benefit of a heart bypass operation, or could have experienced the convenience of flight or the almost priceless utility of the Internet.

    While it is true that each of these services would have had philosophically infinite costs for such a king, because they were obviously unavailable to him, that fact alone does not obviate the present day average individual’s possession of a greater capacity to afford them than the king had in his day.

    It is because human productivity is not a philosophical arbiter of the availability of goods and services in any specific time, but merely a real arbiter of cost… in real time present value.

    On Commodities:

    All animal, mineral and plant material, whether found on earth or in its seas, whether naturally occurring or requiring collection, cultivation, mining, breeding, husbandry or other operations for gaining the control and possession thereof, are commodities. Commodities are natural storehouses of money and power, although labor and thus intellect are required for obtaining them.

    Some commodities exist only as Inherent Commodities and can not be possessed in the form of a titled asset. Some general examples of these would include: solar energy and the machinations of weather, tides, magnetism, gravity, and many other naturally occurring compounds, powers, functions and forces. All these things have the capacity to facilitate the unassisted production of various commodities that can be owned, titled, stored and exchanged as money.

    However, having the capacity to produce titled assets does not, in and of itself, constitute a titled asset. For example, solar energy can not be titled, but it can produce corn, timber, electricity and a geographical presence of enjoyment, and all these can be titled.

    Inherent commodities therefore in one sense have infinite value; in another sense they have zero money exchange value. This is because they are preexistent elements of attained infinite productivity in terms of human perception and are therefore both priceless and universally owned.

    In a similar fashion human productivity, when taken philosophically to infinity, ceases the existence of all money exchange value, because the agent of money’s exchange execution, labor, is therefore obviated. At the point of infinity all non-inherent commodities become inherent commodities. Inherent commodities and pure intellect are the only permanent investments of abstracted wealth.

    In this sense, wealth at the point of infinity in human productivity may be thought of as being analogous to electronic capacitance; the coercive or compelling force of money is similar to voltage; labor therefore functions as amperage; and productivity is the element of charge. If a capacitor is charged to peak and has no means of discharge, then amperage will drop to zero.Voltage is then an orphan force (or potential) with neither the means of, nor the need for, execution.

    I submit that, though it may be difficult to conceptualize philosophically, very nearly 100% of all aggregate wealth is already vested in pure intellect and inherent commodities. The marginal fractions of wealth that are not yet vested this way represent the entire spectrum of aggregate economic endeavors undertaken by mankind. It is only within this tiny spectrum that the abstraction of money in every sense and form can exist.

  35. Danielle says:

    Actually the Dark Ages were so because civilisation didn’t advance much and actually regressed when compared to the early Romans.

  36. donna says:

    “He who knows enough is enough, will always have enough”.

    True wealth is the ability to do what you want, when you want. “Power” may not necessarily equal real wealth. Bill Gates cannot walk down any street he wishes unprotected; I can. ;^)

    As to infant mortality rates:
    http://www.alternet.org/story/40951/

    Infant mortality rates, which reflect the health of the mother and her access to prenatal and postnatal care, are considered one of the most reliable measures of the general health of a population. Today, U.S. government statistics rank Canada’s infant mortality rate of 4.7 per thousand 23rd out of 225 countries, in the company of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, and Denmark. The U.S. is 43rd–in the company of Croatia and Lithuania, below Taiwan and Cuba.

    So, what nation is truly “wealthy”? And what person is truly “wealthy”?

  37. dd says:

    goes to show you that all of that money wasted on the inner-city has done absolutely nothing after all these years

  38. steve says:

    It’s amazing how all of those Canadian citizens keep coming to the US for health care after all of these years because they don’t want to wait in line for rationed care ….. how we subsidize their system is a farce

    Boston has more MRI machines than does all of Canada

  39. Bob A says:

    while they may not give enough MRI scans in Canada, they give way more than necessary in Boston.

  40. Bob A says:

    “all of that money wasted on the inner-city has…”

    and I would add that even a Yale education and all the money in the world can’t make some rich kids smart.

  41. wasted $$$ says:

    great comeback Bob