King Tut: Nice Mask, Bad Health Care
Scientists now think that King Tut may have died of malaria. As the fellow who sent me the link dryly noted, King Tut did not have good comprehensive health insurance.
All kidding aside, this is a good excuse to meditate on just how rich we are. King Tut was probably the wealthiest man in the world during his time. He died of something that wouldn't kill the most abjectly immiserated welfare mother in the United States today, because of a combination of public health efforts, and cheap antimalarial drugs.
You always need to factor in things like this when you talk about changes in living standards over time. All the positive changes in society mean that the absolute difference between the income of Bill Gates and the man who valets his car is larger than it has ever been in history. But the actual difference in comfort between the two of them is probably much smaller than the difference between JP Morgan and his stableboy. And both Gates and the valet are almost immeasurably better off than their predecessors.