We're Rich

Four months ago Meghan McArdle wrote in a Washington Post op-ed [1]:

The United States is an immensely wealthy nation, one of the richest in history. We can afford to sacrifice a substantial chunk of our gross domestic product to save a substantial number of lives. What better do we have to spend our money on?

If what we are doing is unprecedented, it is only because earlier societies simply weren't wealthy enough to manage it – as tragically, many developing countries still aren't. The last time we saw such a plague was 1918, when average household income was about a third of what it is today, in inflation-adjusted dollars. We could shut down the entire economy for four months, produce not one good or service, and still be, collectively, twice as rich as our ancestors who lived through the 1918 flu pandemic.

Actually, overall we're a lot richer than that: US National Wealth according to Wikipedia is ~100 T$ (100 trillion dollars) and has doubled about every 15 years, so the correct comparison is between ~2 $T in 1918 and ~100 T$ now. Per adult, the median wealth in the US is about 70 k$ and the mean is ~400 k$, though with huge inequalities of course.

Batman, when asked what his superpower is, replied "I'm rich." Likewise, if we can work together ...

^z - 2020-08-13