Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Income of Americans is Rising (despite the statistics)
Mike Rappaport

Steve Landsburg discusses how significant technological progress has been (and the fact that the means we use to measure per capita income significantly understates the benefits of such progress):

As far as the quality of the goods we buy, try picking up an electronics catalogue from, oh, say, 2001 and ask yourself whether there's anything there you'd want to buy. That was the year my friend Ben spent $600 for a 1.3-megapixel digital camera that weighed a pound and a half. What about services, such as health care? Would you rather purchase today's health care at today's prices or the health care of, say, 1970 at 1970 prices? I don't know any informed person who would choose 1970, which means that despite all the hype about costs, health care now is a better bargain than it's ever been before.

The moral is that increases in measured income -- even the phenomenal increases of the past two centuries -- grossly understate the real improvements in our economic condition. The average middle-class American might have a smaller measured income than the European monarchs of the Middle Ages, but I suspect that Tudor King Henry VIII would have traded half his kingdom for modern plumbing, a lifetime supply of antibiotics and access to the Internet.

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Mike Rappaport


Excellent points.

I attended an upper middle-class high school in the early 50s. The typical home was about 1,200 sqft or less; the average family had one bath-room; no air conditioning (Florida); the boys invariably shared a bed-room. Many families had one car which Dad usually took to work. If there were two teen-aged boys you fought or took turns over who got to use the car on weekend nights (girls waited to be picked up on things called dates). Mother never had an automatic dish-washer (she had the kids but we were far from automatic); she did not have a freezer; I don't think she had a washer and dryer.

We thought we were living well after the struggles during WWII; and we were.

My own children and grand-children cannot even relate. Nor could we relate to the early lives of our parents and grand-parents.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 27, 2007 12:44:56 PM

Glad to see other.

Posted by: Piton | Sep 9, 2007 5:36:29 AM

This is super.

Posted by: Max | Sep 9, 2007 8:51:45 PM

Is cool and to say hello.
Its the second time.

Posted by: Tory | Sep 20, 2007 6:25:47 PM