Brian MacMillan

If We’re So Rich Why Aren’t We Rich?

BM If We’re So Rich Why Aren’t We Rich?

If We’re So Rich Why Aren’t We Rich?

This post is be a pitch for an economics essay/newspaper analysis that seeks to answer the question “is the median American richer than s/he was in 1960 / 1970 / 1980 / 1990 / 2000?”

Since 1960 the GDP of the United States has increased from just under $2 trillion to just over $16 trillion in 2009 dollars (St. Louis Federal Reserve). Yet for some segments of our population standard of living is in many ways lower than it was for previous generations. This essay analyzes this apparent conundrum, examining issues like work hours, population growth, income redistribution, changing tax burden, and “externalities” like environmental degradation, which tell a different story than the top-line GDP numbers.


  1. The topline number: What is GDP and how is it measured?
  2. Inflation and technological change
  3. Income distribution
  4. Environmental degradation (and reclamation)
  5. Education and class mobility
  6. Technological change and quality of life
  7. The changing nature of work
  8. Externalities
  9. Intellectual property and other monopolies

Chapter 1: Introduction