How Wealthy We Are
In the latest episode of CBS Sunday morning is a 7+ minute segment on recovering bits of bodies from a military transport airplane that crashed in Alaska in 1952.
Probably most viewers will get out of it what the CBS producers wanted them to: how neat it is and important it is to the relatives to recover these bits of bodies. I don’t challenge their values; different people have different values. My own are quite different. When I arrived in Toronto in November 2018 to visit my sister and learned that she had died 2 days earlier, I had the option of going to the morgue and seeing her body. I chose not to. To me, that body wasn’t her.
What I got out of the segment was very different. It was an indicator of how wealthy we are. Various people with various values of time, some of them probably pretty high, go out each year to help recover possessions and parts of bodies. The cost of that in time value alone has to be huge. Which means the value is even huger, or they wouldn’t do it. (Unless, of course, they’re subsidized by the government but my sense is that subsidies, if any, are small.) So why is the value so high? Because we’re so wealthy. These kinds of activities are what economists call “normal goods.” We want more of them as our wealth increases.
Note: The pic above is of the C-124 Globemaster, the type of plane that went down in Alaska.