Monday, March 4, 2013

How Rich are The Really Rich?

Forbes has published its lists of the richest folk in the world, and below are the Americans who made the Global Top 100.

Hmmm. Where to start.

There are 36 names on the list, and 12 of them are heirs: Wal-Mart (four times), Mars, Inc. (three times) and Koch Industries (twice). When one-third of the richest people in your country have inherited their wealth, it is safe to say your estate laws are fucked up.

Collectively, these 36 people are worth just north of ¾ of a trillion dollars. Since annual GDP is about $15 trillion, that means this crew — 30 friggin' 6 people — is worth 5% of GDP. Now this is impressive, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. So let's do one of those as well.

Credit Suisse estimates that the privately-held wealth in America at $62 trillion. (See page 46 of the PDF at the link.) That means that the folk listed above have 1.2% of the country's total wealth. Not bad for a group that represents 0.00000012 of the American population, or approximately one tenth millionth of the citizenry. 

Credit Suisse (in that same report) sets the median American wealth at a bit below $38,800. The median wealth for the group above is about $21.4 billion, or about 550,000 times the median amount for all us folk. That strikes us as just a bit unreasonable.

So we have a proposal for all the Americans fortunate enough to be among the world's 100 richest people. Take $1 billion each and put is aside. Then take whatever's left over and donate it to charity. Do some good with it. Right now, you're just running up the score. But if you guys could put $736 billion into play, odd are you could make a lot of people's lives a lot better. 

If you're one of the older-than-80-crowd (Buffet, Soros, Mars, Bren, Chambers,  Murdoch and Taylor), think of this a fuck-you to the government. You can keep your money out of their hands. If you're one of the younger group (Bezos, Page, Brin, Dell, Zuckerberg, Jobs), you're likely to live long enough to see your efforts achieve some real and substantial good. Not many people can do that.

And, at the end of the day, you'd still be billionaires. 

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