In an popular article Thomas Woods describes a “thought experiment” proposed by Donald Boudreaux: “suppose an ancestor from the year 1700 could be shown a typical day in the life of Bill Gates. He would doubtless be impressed by some of what makes Bill Gates’s life unique, but”

a good guess is that the features of Gates’s life that would make the deepest impression are that

he and his family never worry about starving to death;

that they bathe daily;

that they have several changes of clean clothes;

that they have clean and healthy teeth;

that diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, tetanus, and pertussis present no substantial risks;

that Melinda Gates’s chances of dying during childbirth are about one-sixtieth what they would have been in 1700;

that each child born to the Gateses is about 40 times more likely than a pre-industrial child to survive infancy;

that the Gateses have a household refrigerator and freezer (not to mention microwave oven, dishwasher, and radios and televisions);

that the Gateses’s work week is only five days and that the family takes several weeks of vacation each year;

that each of the Gates children will receive more than a decade of formal schooling;

that the Gateses routinely travel through the air to distant lands in a matter of hours;

that they effortlessly converse with people miles or oceans away;

that they frequently enjoy the world’s greatest actors’ and actresses’ stunning performances;

that the Gateses can, whenever and wherever they please, listen to a Beethoven piano sonata, a Puccini opera, or a Frank Sinatra ballad.

Woods concludes: “In other words, what would most impress our visitor are the aspects of Gates’s life that the software giant shares with ordinary Americans. When you consider the differences that characterized rich and poor prior to the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, the ‘capitalism-promotes-inequality’ myth is further exposed as the ignorant canard that it is.” In short, that Gates can afford a private island and most of us cannot is too trivial an annoyance to write a book about.


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