In the October 29th issue of “The Economist” I read an article that asked the question, if you could be a resident of any place and time in history, which would you choose?” It’s an interesting question because not only do you think back to your high school and college history classes but you start to think about the world you live in now.
Still foremost on our minds is the economy. We don’t feel like we have what we once did but is that entirely true? According to a recent bankrate survey, 17% of Americans believe that they are better off this year than they were last year, and I’m thinking the mindset of Canadians is pretty similar. But to be fair to the 21st century, if we were to compare what we have now to the economies of old, what might we see?
It’s Easier to Get Stuff
We’re used to Amazon sending us anything we want nearly overnight but that wasn’t the case a few hundred years ago. In those days infrastructure wasn’t such that it was cost effective for the average working class citizen to buy “imports”.
We Aren’t Slaves to the Weather
From Mesopotamia to the Maya, thriving economies have been brought down by the weather. Droughts, floods, and other natural disasters still affect us today and they can have lasting effects but when was the last time you heard of a civilization going extinct because of the weather? A more diversified economic engine can be thanked for that.
Better System of Money
Inflation, deflation and stagflation are now controlled by typing money in to existence on a computer. We can debate the merits of such a system but in earlier times, when coins were used to pay for goods, inflation could be caused by not enough money being made—literally. If the silver supply was disrupted, because of war, weather, or anything else, the value of that currency was affected.
Let’s steer clear of debates over NAFTA and foreign produced goods for now. From a purely economic perspective, as more people compete for your money, they’re going to look for ways to give you more for less. Drug companies will compete for the best remedies for diseases that we hope to see eradicated. Globalization brings competition and products to us that weren’t possible hundreds of years ago.
The Best Time?
According to the author, the best time to live was 17th Century London. This was a time when the stock market was being conceived in a coffee house, the insurance industry was born from mathematic principals of probability, and you could walk through the streets and peek in on some of the greatest artists of human history painting their next piece of brilliance.
Even with the romanticism that comes from The Economist’s portrayal of such a time, I’ve witnessed a company called Apple innovate the world with a hand held computer called an iPhone. I remember the first time I saw the picture of an HDTV, and I remember the great musical artists of my era who, often driven by the pursuit of money, have left their mark on art history.
The economy kind of stinks right now but I don’t know that it’s that bad when I look at where we could be.