In modern politics those who have a lot of money are labeled as wealthy. Countries with a strong currency or a lot of gold are labeled as wealthy. But this gives people a false sense of reality. People need to put wealth in perspective before trying to understand to what extent someone is wealthy.
A prime example is Hetty Green, millionaire and miser:
Hetty Green made a fortune young. She inherited a few million dollars and gained the majority of her money through smart investments. By the time of her death she had amassed over 120 million (2.4 billion in 2012 dollars). Although a millionaire, Hetty spent her time cutting coupons and only wore old tattered clothing. She lived in a small house with worn furnishings. She didn’t pay for heat or hot water. Hetty spent countless hours in court fighting suits that she always lost. Hetty was so stingy she literally left her son’s leg go untreated rather than pay for medical expenses to fix it (some claim she procrastinated and tried home remedies). This resulted in amputation.
There we have it, the life of the richest woman in the world. While money might be able to buy people things that make them wealthy, money is not wealth in and of itself. More importantly than having money is having the things that money can buy. When America sends dollars to China, America gets actual products in return. Who then is richer, those getting pieces of paper or those getting supplies that people wish to use to enhance their own lives?
Likewise, rich people like Bill Gates might be 700 times richer than the average American, but he is not 700 times wealthier than the average American. Bill Gates does not travel in a car 700 nicer and 700 times faster than the average American. He does not wear clothes that are 700 times better made. His bed at home is not 700 times better than the average American’s. His house is definitely not 700 times as big or 700 times as hospitable. Wealth relates to human experience.
Keeping all this in mind, the average American, though having the net wealth 1/700th of that of Bill Gates, lives very close to his standard of living. We live in a world of amazing wealth.
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Follow the money. Average Joes and Janes are not the holders of the other side of complicated, over-the-counter derivatives contracts. Rather, hedge funds are the main holders. The bailout will involve a transfer of wealth — from the American people to financial institutions engaging in reckless speculation — that will be the greatest in history.