wealth distribution; try again please

Dear Cecil,

You missed on the answer to the question about even distribution of the world’s wealth. You used GDP which is a measure of income not wealth. How about a follow-up.



A Google search provides an estimate (by Credit Suisse) of the world’s wealth at $241 trillion. Divide that by 7 billion and you get per capita wealth of $34,428.

The column in question: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3267/what-if-we-redistributed-all-the-world-s-wealth

I noticed a missing dash between “scenario” and “hell” in the last sentence: “…but it’s not exactly an ideal scenariohell, we’re on that road already.”

Have countries existed in a vacuum anytime in recent history?

As documented by unnamed paper in 2013 from NBER?

This paragraph is bad form. At least give the name of the paper so readers can look it up, or better yet link to it.

There’s an awful lot of money and it’s extremely unevenly distributed. I write from the UK where we’re taking in fewer refugees than the US, Canada and all the ‘real’ countries of Europe (you don’t expect Luxembourg and Monaco to take anyone - too wealthy, and no-one wants to end up there). Recommend this book by respected academics using existing data and concluding that more even distribution benefits the rich as well as the poor, based on present organisation of states, governments, tax systems: ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, 2009? 2010? Penguin I think.
Separate question: what does ‘middle class’ mean in the US? In the UK, ‘middle class’ generally means ‘reasonably comfortable’, or at least implies educated up to age 18, maybe a degree, have a roof over their heads (rented or mortgage). What used to be called ‘working class’ (by socialists and capitalists) has turned in government and press discourses into ‘poorer people’ or, since the Blair government, ‘working families’ (a term which excludes, though not explicitly, families of, say, working lawyers, doctors, senior managers, and irritates many because it also excludes single people and implies the families of unemployed adults are less worthy). But ‘middle class’ in the US seems to mean ‘poor’ - the same as ‘poorer people’ or ‘working families’ in the UK.

“Middle class” has changed its meaning over the centuries. It used to mean the handful of people who were neither aristocrats or laborers—chiefly doctors, lawyers, clergy, bankers, and merchant princes. When I was a child in America in the 1950s, it meant about 80% of the population—everyone who was neither clearly rich nor clearly poor. It still means that, but it’s down to about 49%.