You’re in the 1 Percent

We can have policy differences while keeping perspective

The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” recently ran a piece titled, “What it’s like to be a part of the world’s richest 1 percent, in 15 incredible photos.” This features photos of a man floating in a swimming pool on top of a skyscraper, an in-home cinema, maids, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a patient about to undergo plastic surgery, a personal chef at a luxury lodge and a gated community.

The article is about a new photo collection which is attempting to draw more attention to wealth inequality. But those protesting about this issue in America may be surprised to find that they too are part of the 1 percent, that is, in terms of worldwide income distribution. Yes, the average "one-percenter" in the U.S. is exceedingly wealthy, but so is the average American compared to the rest of the world.

According to data from the World Bank, the annual income putting someone in the top 1 percent worldwide is $32,400. The author of the piece could have saved a lot of time by simply taking photos of people eating at Applebee's, strolling through Central Park, shopping at Wal-Mart or watching college football on their flat-screen TVs.

There has been a lot written in recent years on inequality and the wealth gap — some good and some not so good. Many people in America still struggle to get by and we should all work to create policies that improve their situation.

But at the same time, we should keep in mind a quote from the late science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people."

On a worldwide scale, it is countries that embrace free markets, entrepreneurship and private property rights that succeed in creating large amounts of wealth for people fortunate enough to be citizens of these countries (the same often goes for noncitizen residents, too). Let’s count the blessings we have and appreciate living in a country that provides opportunities for nearly all of its citizens to be counted among the world's one-percenters.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.