big externalities spending g's

This is probably belaboring the obvious, but especially in light of the prior post it is worth noting that there are large external benefits to a society that increases in total aggregate wealth even if that wealth is not equally distributed. This becomes obvious when, like Planet Money did, you ask people whether they would rather be rich 100 years ago or middle-class today. Of course you’d rather have an iPhone and antibiotics – having the ability to consume a high share of social output matters less when “social output” is mostly servitude and pheasant. The vastly increased volume, quality, and diversity of what we have now means that you can eat delicious food for $10 from your local Thai or Vietnamese or Burmese or Indian or Bengali or Japanese or Chinese or Korean or Mexican or Salvadoran take-out joint (just to name a few) that would have been mind-bogglingly exotic to the insanely rich American or European of the McKinley era. This also becomes obvious when you ponder whether you’d rather be rich today but in a poor country like, say, India. Being rich in India would be nice. There are amazing houses to live in and some really great shopping, and you’d get to consume a lot more servitude than a similar-rich American. On the other hand, major roads in India are still clogged by goats and cows. Take your pick.

This is likely what frustrated me so much about Mr. Money Moustache – not his own choices, which are his own, but his preachy self-righteousness. Mr. Money Moustache can live so well on so little in large part because the rest of us are working so much harder to keep streets clean, power running, vaccinating, fighting crime, and so on and so on. Mr. Money Moustache is massively benefiting from the positive externalities of living in the wealthiest society Earth has ever produced and is sufficiently oblivious to that fact as to suggest his own choices could and should be everyone’s simultaneously.

Without more commentary, it is also worth noting the latest research on happiness and income both across and within countries.