As a child, I did not have to work in the fields, or in a factory, or on the streets to make ends meet. I would do my homework and then spend my afternoons on the baseball diamond perfecting my batting and fielding abilities. I was given a car on my sixteenth birthday (which I still drive today, thirteen years later). I was given a cell phone. I bought a guitar with the money I saved from my summer job. I received an academic scholarship that covered my college tuition. My parents paid for my living expenses, including my entertainment, during my four years at the university. Relatively speaking, I had it pretty easy growing up.
I obtained a position as a consultant at a global risk management firm upon graduation and earned a salary that allowed me to purchase a house and travel the world. The opportunities and experiences I have been afforded in my lifetime would make the great rulers of history rile with envy. King George III would be jealous of my summer vacations to Europe, Asia, and Central America, not to mention, my ability to enjoy the best food from around the globe on any given night of the week at local restaurants.
Emperor Caligula, in all of his mighty extravagance, could not imagine the marvelous riches I command to my doorstep with a few simple keystrokes. Heck, even Alexander the Great who learned under the tutelage of Aristotle, perhaps the greatest mind in the history of the world, would be awestruck at the access to information that I possess. Not only do I own the Complete Works of Aristotle, I can access the planet’s greatest libraries from the comfort of my living room.
I am not royalty, but I live better than kings and queens of the past. I would much prefer my DVR to an entire court of jesters. Thanks to the incredible advances in technology, I get to watch my high-definition LCD television with better than 20/20 LASIK-corrected vision.
Kings and noblemen lived in magnificent stone castles. I have central plumbing and climate control. I wouldn’t trade my backyard for the gardens of Versailles if it meant an August without air conditioning and a February without heat. King Louis XIV can keep his royal carriages, too. I travel in airplanes and automobiles.
It is amusing to think how much better I am living than history’s ruling elite. My family is not ruling elite. I come from average America. The choices available to the average person in America today could not be imagined by the aristocracy of a century ago. Stories similar to mine are common for millions of people around the developed world. We live far more lavishly and have far more opportunities than most all people that have walked the earth at any time throughout history; including the present day.
Next week I will consider a few of the factors that make it all possible.