As I’ve blogged about before, many Americans are in denial about having a disproportionate amount of wealth. And, when confronted with the issue, they create clever loopholes to avoid any responsibility associated with this privilege.
One of the most common dodges is the “cost of living” loophole. The conversation often goes like this:
“Did you know that people in Africa survive on a dollar a day?”
“Yeah, but it’s not the same thing. A dollar means a lot more over there. They have a much lower cost of living.”
That’s called a non sequitur. It’s when you make two statements, and you pretend the second one is supported by the first, even though it’s not.
In this case, I’m pointing out that it’s not true that a “lower cost of living” indicates that “a dollar means more.” Or, put another way, a dollar means the same thing regardless of the cost of living.
If prices are higher in a certain country or city, that’s not arbitrary. Prices are higher because those are nicer places to live.
Here are a few things a higher cost of living might get you access to:
- Better public education
- Lower crime rates
- Superior law enforcement
- Higher paying jobs
- Jobs with more upward mobility
- Highly educated neighbors
- Stable government
- Reliable utilities (internet, electricity, water etc.)
- Well stocked grocery and retail stores
Complaining about a higher cost of living is often complaining about access to a massive amount of wealth and privilege. The reason that the cost of living is so much lower in sub-saharan Africa is because the residents there aren’t getting access to the 9 things on that list.
So the next time someone wrongly cites “cost of living” as an excuse, you should point out that a dollar means the same thing everywhere, and a higher cost is simply the price of living in a mega-affluent society.