OMG: Do a Million Americans Really Have no Toilet?

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OMG: Do a Million Americans Really Have no Toilet?

November 24, 2015

The Drudge Report today features the headline this morning “BUST: 1.1 million Americans don't have a toilet…”

Drudge then links to today's article in The Week where the headline blares “A shocking number of Americans don't have a toilet.”

I have been accused of being a perma-bear, and I admit I like to click on any link declaring “BUST,” but this is one indicator of our declining standard of living that should be ignored.

Thanks to markets, capitalism, and the massive amounts of wealth that has been generated in the US over the past 200 years, virtually everyone who lives anywhere near a city in the US has easy access to toilets.

Historically, it has not always been so, of course, which is why the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has a measure in its “Better Life Index” called “dwellings without basic facilities.”  Naturally, when it comes to constructing measures of quality of life, having a functioning toilet around is something people figured was worth measuring. So, the OECD measures what percentage of the population has an indoor flushing toilet. (Out houses don't count.)

Critics of the US economic system love to make comparisons that make the US look poorer than the rest of the “developed” world. I have address several of those issues here and here and here.

But how does the US stack up in the OECD's measure? Do we have a good quality of life as measured in toilets?

We're doing fine.  In fact, the US is probably fourth best in the world:

So, while Drudge's headline is good for a laugh, it tells us very little about the direction the US economy is headed in. The US progressed far beyond the toilet scale decades ago. Thanks to the immense amounts of capital produced by American workers and property owners, want of a flushing toilet is not a problem we face. Like cell phones and televisions and air conditioning, flushing toilets are among the amenities generally enjoyed by even the poorest Americans.

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