Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

One great thing about internet is that it allows us to move the spotlight in geography. It's very telling, reading this, that (at least Western/North) Europe (and Japan and some other rich countries) are a much different place for "the poor" than the USA.

> bad housing (often infested)

That would generally be illegal and can be a penal offense (landlord goes to jail if conditions are unacceptable). Longer commutes, less comfortable, etc. are more striking differences.

> lower quality more fattening and processed food

That one is definitely true; cultures where cooking is well-spread and usually the cheapest way to eat (buy raw stuff, prep it yourself) are better off in that regard though. I'm not sure the 1% in America eat much better than the average French or Japanese or Swedish citizen for instance (although the USA is going fast towards a healthier culture, it's changing big time for the better).

> little exercise

That doesn't have anything to do with wealth but rather mindset. Also consider that poor people generally have to perform many more manual tasks themselves (e.g. no elevator, no fancy suitcase on-wheels, making furniture and DIY repairs because it's cheaper, generally walking A LOT MORE, etc).

> reduced access to medical care

While there is definitely inequality between public and private hospitals in terms of care (personel per patient, spaces, equipment, etc), the vast majority of people in rich countries are taken care of medically to a statistically decent level. The stats are along the lines of "90+% won't die of minor/preventable things that can be spotted early on like pre-cancerous masses; however once a fatal disease kicks in you'll live about twice longer as a rich 1% than the bottom 50%". There's still much progress to do, but nobody gets left behind if we can help it.

> understimulation

Definitely. No difference here whatsoever.

> a reduced sense of their role in the community

Can't argue against this psycho-social fact, it's been measured. It's however somewhat easier in economies where unemployment is a "structural" choice (too long to develop, but it means oscillating between 5-15% whereas other economic structures, other countries, would usually be between 2-8%). It's a mild consolation though, if at all.

> reduced freedom and energy

This is definitely true. Although, don't neglect the survival instinct. I'm living proof that hitting rock bottom in any domain of your life is a strong, strong incentive for change — and when you're there you suddenly hear all the great who basically arose from ashes.

> We've all heard the idea that everything is better for a poor person now than a king 1000 years ago but that idea measures embarrassingly revealing notions about human wellness held by the person doing the measuring.

I think the king comparison is indeed a very disingenuous way to make the argument. It lacks the nuance. The real fact is that we are all much better off today than 1000 years ago, it's a general progress. The rich didn't have TVs either in the 1920s before it was invented... So all the 'mainstream' things don't count much in relative wealth. Even 'bigger' 'better' ($2000 iPhone XS-XXL!21+Max versus decent $150 Android is less important than getting your smartphone-induced adrenaline fix).

TL;DR / conclusion: if our relative wealth is obviously the more socially salient in our perception, it's also good to remind ourselves that in absolute wealth terms, we are very fortunate to be born in our time compared to about all of known history.

Personally, I'm an optimistic kinda person so I always wonder if we're not just before the next great leap forward.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: