Sunday, February 10, 2013

We are the 99 percent. We are the elite.


That's right. Economically speaking, YOU are the king of the jungle.

We may be the 99%, but here in North America we've already won the lottery.
The rich, obviously, have more money than the poor. That's what makes them rich.
The Occupy movement has made their point about being the 99% and drawing attention to the income inequality between the elite and everybody else. For the math on this, we could talk about the power law distribution and the Pareto principle, but that doesn't make for exciting reading.
Even with all the income inequality around here we are all among the global elite. It all depends on who you compare yourselves to.
As North Americans we live way beyond what would be considered typical in the rest of the world. $34 thousand/year after taxes (per person) puts you in the top 1% globally, according to a recent CNN Money article. (US dollars, but we're close enough for the point to still be relevant here.)
We're elite, but we feel like we're average: We don't compare ourselves to the past, or to people in the third world.
We compare ourselves to the people we see most often: our neighbours. These are usually people living near us, and with typical housing developments tailored to keep the values of houses pretty close within neighbourhoods no matter where you are, you'll feel average.
If everybody you know owns a million dollar mansion, yours won't feel particularly special. Same goes for a townhouse or a tarp. You'll feel average, because you're comparing yourself with your peers.
You're in the top 50% if you live on more than the world's median income of $1225/year. In Alberta, you can put yourself in the top half worldwide by working 3.5 weeks per year for minimum wage. Of course you probably work more than that and are better off financially than at least half the people in the world.
The points raised in the Occupy movement are still relevant. The relative poverty of the many could cause problems down the road, but that's not a solvable problem until we return to living on current solar income. But that's another story.
For now, enjoy the privileges that come along with being part of the global elite.
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