Income Inequality and Luck

In January 2018 the very famous Oprah Winfrey received the very prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. To a standing ovation of who-is-who she gave a rousing speech.

The video of that rousing speech went around the world and created another standing – virtual – ovation. Let’s face it. It was a fantastic speech. Mrs. Winfrey is an accomplished entertainer, a great professional and an astute businesswoman. Along the way she helps many people and contributes massively to charity. Her story is the ultimate story from – not even rags – to riches. She was born in the South of the USA in a poor, black, and ultimate broken family. If that was not bad enough, all sorts of curses seemed to come down on that family. It is fair to say Mrs. Winfrey comes from the very bottom one percent and climbed up to the very top one percent of society. She started her speech with “In 1964 I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor to Sidney Poitier… a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door – bone-tired from cleaning other peoples’ houses.” Picture that miserable house with that crappy linoleum floor. Wait a minute… in 1964 a little girl at the absolute bottom of society had a TV? In 1916 the American John D. Rockefeller became the first dollar billionaire. That means he was not only a member of the one percent, he was the absolute numero uno of that club. And he didn’t have a TV. How unfair! What inequality! The reason for Mr. Rockefeller’s unfortunate situation is simple. The television had not been invented yet. A poor little girl in 1964 could possess something that the richest man in 1916 could not. She had it because she was born in an age where the norm was that living rooms were populated by television sets. To all those who are upset about inequality, if you got to be born in a developed country, it is your sheer luck. When most people around the world look at your lifestyle, even if you are middle or working class – it is as incredible to them as the lifestyle of the one percent in your country appears to you. The point is that inequality is relative to time and place. Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough – Oprah Winfrey. Published with permission from here. Featured image credit.

June 5, 2019

Bart Remes Bart Remes
Bart Remes is the founder of Economics in Action, an international coaching, training and strategy provider.


Related Articles