This week Forbes put out its annual list of the World’s Richest People. The effect of this list is to make most people feel envious and poor in comparison. This measuring tool is not very helpful.
Let’s consider a different measuring tool. Take the entire world’s population of 6+ billion people and condense it into a village of 100 people. Six of the people in this village would own 59% of all the wealth, and that includes most residents of the United States and Canada. Only one of these people has a college education; everyone with a degree is a privileged member of the world community. In this global village 50 people suffer malnutrition, 70 cannot read or write and 80 live in substandard housing.
If this is true, how is it that we have convinced ourselves that we are just struggling to get by? I think it’s because we have expanded the definition of basic needs. For many, this includes considering such things as cell phones, paid vacations, one car per licensed driver and endless types of insurance to be necessities.
A glimpse at the big picture shows we are rich in material goods and in opportunities. This perspective may help us when we are inclined to feel deprived or want to whine about those who have more than we do.