In the 1980’s if I told you for only a few hundred dollars anyone could have a $1 million asset in their pocket you’d call me crazy. But here we are.
The chart above (actually a picture of a chart taken with my iPhone and uploaded to this blog with an app to further emphasize the point) is from the book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. It illustrates why I think worry about and policy efforts aimed at changing differences in income between rich and poor are dumb, destructive, and miss the point by being stuck in a dead paradigm.
The above chart only scratches the surface. It’s hard to comprehend just how much wealth (not income) we have today compared to 20, 30, or 50 years ago, let alone a century or two ago. Anyone who complains that income gaps are growing misses the miracle under their nose of wealth exploding, and more accessible to individuals at any income level than ever before in human history.
50 years ago, it could take a hefty sum to launch and run a basic advocacy organization, for example. You would need a secretary, long-distance phone line, office space, filing cabinets, a travel agent, a print shop that you’d have to visit to approve runs of literature (at least several thousand at a time), space to store them, shipping cost, etc. ad nauseum.
Today you can setup a WordPress website, bid out for design work on Fiverr or 99 Designs, get VistaPrint to run a few hundred after proofing a digital copy, book your own travel, store your own files, run email campaigns with MailChimp, etc. ad nauseum for a few hundred bucks.
Anyone can write and record songs, publish books, start businesses, sell goods and services, learn anything in the world, or meet people across the globe for free or close to it with a phone and some WiFi. These things are equally accessible to rich and poor. Wealth – as measured in opportunities and fulfilled desires, the real end of money – is greater than ever and flatter than ever.
The biggest obstacles are those erected by the wealthy to stymie competition from upstarts taking advantage of all this accessible capital. Licensing requirements, regulations, wage laws, tax laws, immigration restrictions, intellectual monopoly status on non-scarce resources, and subsidized education and idleness are the biggest hurdles to the poor seizing the newly available wealth and creating a better life.
It’s not about income or even net worth. It’s about what you can do and the value you can create and consume. The chart above and the world around us indicate that there has never been a more broad and deep spread of wealth.
GDP doesn’t matter. Neither does income. Opportunity matters. Value matters. Times have never been better across the board, which is exactly what most threatens those precariously perched at the perceived top.
Don’t worry about them. Let the doomsayers and wannabe warriors of equality clamber for an elusive goal that doesn’t make anyone better off. Take advantage of the exponential growth in opportunity all around you.