To be in the top one percent of earners in the United States, an individual must make a gross income of $421,926. That is quite the sum, and an individual mired down in the lower quintiles will of course feel some degree of envy at the lifestyle of such persons. But this is a rather narrow scale with which to weigh the relative wealth of two individuals. If we are concerned with absolute inequalities, why stop the analysis at the borders of the United States?

On a global scale, you are almost certainly in the one percent. Pretty much every citizen of the United States is in the one percent. If you make a little over $30,000 a year, you are a part of that same group you may have recently denigrated as out of touch, greedy, or hoarding the wealth that could do more good in someone else’s (presumably your) pocket. In fact, we are so much of an outlier on the world stage in the United States that the average high school student in the America, who works 15 hours a week for minimum wage, is in the top 20% of income earners in the world. This is the relative equivalent of earning over $100,000 a year, if the area of study is confined to the United States. Stop for a second to take that in. Every single teenager with a part-time job is to the rest of the world, in terms of relative income, what a second-year associate at a law firm in a large metropolitan area is to us in the United States.

And we are not just dramatically wealthier than the vast majority of the planet, we are also far richer than our past selves. Americans used to spend 65% of their waking hours to afford essentials like food and shelter. Today, it is only 25%. A little over half our time is spent on leisure, and all but the most destitute among the poor in the US have flat screen TVs, refrigerators, air-conditioning, and cell phones.

This is emphatically NOT to say that the poor of America are living large, but is meant merely to emphasize the incredible fortune of those of us lucky enough to be born in the United States. And that is just what it is, right? Luck? That is certainly the argument behind the Rawlsian “veil of ignorance” idea that so many who favor radical redistribution of income within the borders of the nation cling to in support of their moral foundations.