"...stretch your arms to their fullest extent and imagine that width as the entire [4.5 Billion year] history of the Earth. On this scale...the distance from the fingertips of one hand to the wrist of the other is Precambrian. All of complex life is in one hand, 'and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history.' " (from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything)
Imagine people's height being proportional to their income, so that someone with an average income is of average height. Now imagine that the entire adult population of America is walking past you in a single hour, in ascending order of income.
The first passers-by, the owners of loss-making businesses, are invisible: their heads are below ground. Then come the jobless and the working poor, who are midgets. After half an hour the strollers are still only waist-high, since America's median income is only half the mean. It takes nearly 45 minutes before normal-sized people appear. But then, in the final minutes, giants thunder by. With six minutes to go they are 12 feet tall. When the 400 highest earners walk by, right at the end, each is more than two miles tall.
« Older The Weeklies | How I learned to stop worrying... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments