. . . . This gets to the heart of a long-running debate between left-leaning and right-leaning economists -- namely, are living standards getting better or worse? The Right says they're getting better -- we've got the internet, and iPods, and all sorts of awesome, dirt cheap consumer goods. The Left says that that may all be true, but housing, and education, and health care, and fuel -- the big ticket items in our lives -- are getting far costlier, and incomes aren't keeping pace.
They're talking about two different things. I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security. So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper, more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people, particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The trappings of our wealth are all around us.
Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. . . .