Jim Gray: A Parable About Income Inequality Courtesy Henry VIII, and His Six Wives

There is much talk today about the disparity of earnings between the “top brass” and the regular workers and, somewhat obviously, a lot of it is true. But if we think of it in a different fashion, we should have many fewer complaints. Put it this way: how many of us would trade places with Henry VIII?

Henry was the King of England for about 37 years. But he had undiagnosed gout, lived in a drafty castle, and if he wanted to travel he had to take a jolting coach ride by which he could travel only about 20 miles per day. And he died at the age of 55! (And who really would want to have 6 wives?)

So the point is that most people living in our country today have a much better life than Henry VIII. Almost all of us have better health, life expectancy, comforts and enjoyment of life by far than even the epitome of life in the 16th Century.

And the difference between today’s rich and “poor?” Your barber’s Timex watch keeps as good time as any CEO’s Rolex, his used Ford gets him here and there as well as the CEO’s Tesla, and his clothing is almost the same quality as the CEO’s designer brands. Plus today almost everyone has cellphones, big screen televisions, computers and access to healthy foods and medicines. Even airplane trips are available to almost everyone.

So even though there is a marked disparity in incomes, when it comes down to it, the difference between the lives of the wealthy and poor is so much closer today than it has ever been before. So look what liberty and the free enterprise system have done for us all! That is not to say that we should not work to narrow today’s disparity of wealth. But maybe along the way we should also focus on the life of Henry VIII, and be more thankful of what we have!

(Painting of Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, by Hans Holbein the Younger, Richard Greenbury, and others.)

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Judge James P. Gray (Ret.) was a judge on the Superior Court of Orange County, California for 25 years, and was the running mate of Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential contest, as well as the Libertarian Party's 2004 candidate for the United States Senate in California. The author of multiple books and a play, he is a critic of current American drug laws.

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  • Drew Clark

    I love this basic, and simple point that Judge Gray has written: Even the “peasants” of today are better off than the “royalty” of centuries ago. And the reason? Classical liberalism. It’s _very_ important to keep that in context.

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