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Oxfam: Wealth of 8 = that of 3.6 billion

January 18, 2017

According to a recent well publicized report by Oxfam, the combined net worth of just eight men is equal to the collective total of the bottom 50 percent of mankind, 3.6 billion people.

Bill Gates (software), Amanci Ortega (fashion chain), Warren Buffett (stock investor), Carlos Slim Helu (diversified business owner), Jeff Bezos (on-line book seller), Mark Zuckerberg (social media programmer), Larry Ellison (computers), and Michael Bloomberg (financial news) possess, along with half the human species, a collective net worth of $426,000,000,000.

This is so outlandish it’s borderline funny! On one side of a finely-tuned scale we have eight proud men possessing an average wealth of $53.2 billion and on the other is crammed 3.6 billion people having an average portfolio of $118.38.

The well-heeled defenders of the status-quo, of course, aren’t laughing for to them inequality flows innocently and naturally from the workings of ‘liberal democracy’ / ‘market capitalism’. The professions of the eight, they argue, are harmless and certainly not the cause of the misery of others. Besides, even if we were to expropriate their wealth and distribute it to the bottom half, their wealth would rise to a mere $236.76.

Many will sadly accept this kind of argument but just a bit of reflection shows it completely misses the essential point. The real issue isn’t what these men do for a living or by what process they happened to have accumulated their wealth; it’s that they, along with their fellow tycoons, own the socioeconomic structure. A tiny minority controls the system; they are structurally empowered to decide what and how much to produce and do so according to a financial logic they and their forefathers have designed. They control the key levers of the state as well and, through their power, have an immense influence on our principal ideologies. 

The structure of minority power guarantees freedom for the owners, a freedom that can only come at the direct expense of a majority that must always be subservient and unfree. Poverty is its foundational logic.

Because we have a monetized system, we tend to measure inequality in terms of monetary wealth differentials. Money, though, is not in itself important—it’s a mere token having no value at all except to the degree it accurately measures power. That these eight men are enormously wealthy means that they have immense power over us. But they as individuals are irrelevant. Nothing of import changes if the eight become 16 or 32 or a few percent of the global population.

There’s only one fundamental problem on our planet and it’s this: a small minority rules over us and we therefore are not free.

From → Wealth & Poverty

  1. SapphireSpire permalink

    The problem is monopolism. Not the monopolization of entire industries but of art and technology. Artists and inventors deserve recognition for their work but exclusive publishing and production rights has nothing to do with recognition and everything to do with the disparity of wealth and widespread poverty. Free markets are based on an equal right of individuals to copy and produce whatever they think the can sell utilizing their land, tools, materials, and whatever knowledge they possess. That’s what maximizes competition which is what keeps quality up and prices down. The purpose of monopolism is not to benefit consumers or to promote the progress of art or science but to protect publicly traded companies and simplify the collection of income taxes. The same laws that protect companies from competition are what prohibit their employees from employing themselves and paying their own taxes.

  2. I argue that the root problem and evil of our world is the minority control of material power – inequality. I don’t see competition as the answer – I think the only possible solution is cooperation.

    • SapphireSpire permalink

      The only “material power” I’m familiar with is property. It’s the inequality of property rights that permits a minority of monopolies to dominate and control the economy. Monopolies are not natural. They get their power from laws created by the tyranny of corrupt legislators. Cooperation never defeat tyranny. Competition won’t either but wasn’t meant to. Tyranny can only be defeated by revolution and war. Competition represents the free market which is the only positive goal of revolution.

      • I’d revise your second sentence slightly to say: A minority of individuals dominate the globe via the material power of unequal property rights. It’s not that inequality permits domination, it’s that inequality is domination. This power long predates legislatures and those that have existed have consistently served as representatives of power. I’m more hopeful that the tyranny of inequality can be defeated via democratic action. In any case, violence is useless unless you have a majority on your side. I don’t see competition as the solution for long term prosperity and peace. For that, we need cooperation and a growing sense of egalitarian community.

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