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Barry Ritholtz

Rockefeller Really Was Way Richer Than You Are

Please stop comparing the average person of today to yesteryear's rich.
Yeah, I can pay my membership dues.

Yeah, I can pay my membership dues.

Source: Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images

Today's discussion involves a visit to the here-we-go-again files. The website Cafe Hayek, in a post titled "Most Ordinary Americans in 2016 Are Richer Than Was John D. Rockefeller in 1916," asks a seemingly simple question: What is the minimum amount of money that you would demand in exchange for going back to live as John D. Rockefeller did in 1916?

The obvious point here is that we are doing better than the richest man of a century ago. Yet there's a subtext (which becomes pretty clear by looking at the comments on the post): That all of this talk about wealth and income inequality -- an important theme in this year's presidential election -- can and should be ignored. After all, as some have noted, even many of the poorest Americans own a smartphone today, whereas a century ago not even the wealthiest person on Earth had one.