Saw this on BoingBoing today.
Do you remember when video cameras were the size of shoulder-fired Stinger Missiles? Those were the days. But, we’ve moved on.
Now, anywhere you go, you can bring a much better videotape recorder — and it doesn’t even use tape. What’s the point in bringing this up? We’re much better off than we were so long ago. Do you have any idea how much a video camera like this cost in 1967? How many hours would one have to work to purchase such a product?
Now, you can get one of these newfangled smart phones for low prices like $180.
In 2012, a worker earning minimum wage would have to work for 24 hours to purchase the equivalent of a portable radio, walk-man / CD player, home phone, still (film) camera, tape recorder, and videotape recorder. And, it has the ability to send unlimited free letters, transmit media (forgoing printing costs), and send telegraphic messages or fax equivalents.
That is an amazing deal. These services would have costs probably tens of thousands of dollars in the ’60s and ’70s.
CafeHayek’s Don Boudreaux routinely breaks out vintage Sears catalogs to show people how much better our standard of living is today.
For example, in this catalog, Boudreaux notes that a “Sears Best motion-picture camera (no sound; but it did have 8X zoom!),” would cost $197 in 1975. In today’s dollars, that would cost $697, or 96 hours of minimum wage work — before taxes!
With all of the focus on claims of “income stagnation” and a “shrinking middle class” few in the media ever seem to focus on things other than straight dollars, as adjusted for inflation (and sometimes not adjusted correctly.)
If you focus exclusively on what people make, not what people can buy with that money, focusing on those figures is both deceptive and pointless.
“What people can buy” does not refer exclusively to inflation — which is silent theft. In my usage of it, I’m talking about how time saving, labor saving, or entertainment enhancing things have become more affordable over time. In short, the things that we might use to measure a standard of living.
Many models just measure income or inflation-adjusted income. Such models are incomplete, as they don’t tell the real story of how people are able to live with those greenbacks.