Oxfam’s new economic report contains a shocking statistic — the combined wealth of the world’s richest eight men is now equal to the resources owned by the poorest 50 percent of earth’s population. Calling it “beyond grotesque,” Oxfam blamed the increasing inequality on labor theft, tax dodging, and the sheer greed of profit seeking at any cost.
According to The Guardian, this outrageous display of resource hoarding by the richest eight men is “beyond belief,” with the unbridled greed of a handful of men currently posing “the greatest threat to the global economy.”
“Today nearly 800 million people – one in nine – across the world will go to bed hungry or undernourished. The adults will wake up uncertain when they will next eat, whether they will have work, fearful for their health and the costs that illness in the family might bring. The eight men – yes, they’re all men – and their fellow billionaires will wake up having slept rather better, and their wealth, invested across the world, will have increased by countless millions even as they slept.”
Last year, Oxfam reported that it took the combined fortunes of the richest 62 billionaires to equal the poorest half of the globe. This year, that number has shrunk to just a handful of obscenely rich men.
With a net worth of $75 billion, Microsoft founder Bill Gates tops the list of the world’s wealthiest men. The combined wealth owned by Gates and his seven fellow billionaires comes to $426 billion, a staggering number equal to the amount of wealth owned by the poorest 3.6 billion people on the planet.
According to Oxfam, the majority of people in the poorest 50 percent face daily struggles just to survive. Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring stated, “This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before. It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.”
“While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”
The Oxfam report pointed out that the richest one percent of the global population has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet combined since 2015. It also estimated that over the next 20 years, more than $2.1 trillion will be inherited by the offspring of just 500 people, an amount greater than India’s annual GDP, where the population includes approximately 1.3 billion people.
The enormous amount of wealth being hoarded by the world’s eight richest men is almost incomprehensible without putting it into perspective. A quick breakdown of these astronomical numbers shows the absurdity of allowing these men to continuously accumulate resources on such a massive scale. For example, to spend just one billion dollars, you’d need to shell out almost $55,000 every single day for 50 years.
For the poorest billionaire on the list of the world’s wealthiest eight men, Michael Bloomberg – who has chalked up a net worth of only $40 billion – the daily spending amount would need to be increased to $2.2 million to disperse the entire amount in 50 years. However, at 74 years old, Bloomberg probably doesn’t have that much time left, so he could safely spend $4 million every day for the rest of his life, while still leaving behind a generous amount for his heirs.
Of course, the net worth of these eight richest men isn’t made up of just cash. Technically, to spend their entire fortune, assets and investments would need to be liquified. However, that caveat works both ways, since this type of wealth – that is, wealth rich with assets and investments that return huge dividends – ensures that the fortunes of the richest men in the world will continue to grow exponentially larger every day. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, Bill Gates, who has repeatedly been praised for his charitable donations, has seen his net worth increase steadily over the years despite donating large sums to charity. In 2016 alone, Gates added a massive $15 billion to his already plentiful fortune. In other words, Gates’ money now earns more money than Gates ever earned from his own efforts.
Encouraging and rewarding innovation is important. However, at a certain point, vast inequality begins to exploit and rob individuals and communities of opportunity. Although Gates undoubtedly made great contributions to technology, he didn’t do so alone. He was able to build on the advancements of those who came before him, and he continues to benefit disproportionately from the labor of those who work under him.
Furthermore, since modern technology relies on the extraction of raw materials from the earth, Gates has also benefited greatly from the monetization of a shared, natural resource. Reporting on an investigation by Amnesty International, the Guardian explained the life-threatening conditions suffered by people, including children, who are paid almost nothing to mine the raw materials needed by major technological companies like Microsoft.
“The report says that child miners as young as seven carried back-breaking loads and worked in intense heat for between one or two dollars a day without face masks or gloves. Several children said they had been beaten by security guards employed by mining companies and forced to pay ‘fines’ by unauthorized mines police sent by state officials to extort money and intimidate workers.”
It’s time to begin seriously examining whether any individual contribution is worth more than what that person can spend in several lifetimes. The exploitation of natural resources and powerless individuals should not be excused or forgiven simply because the beneficiary donates to the needy or makes pledges to charitable organizations. It’s time to recognize the rights of all humans to be paid fairly for their labor and to put a limit on the amount of resources that can be accumulated and hoarded by a single individual.
According to Forbes, these are the eight richest men and their estimated fortunes.
- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, worth a cool $75 billion.
- Amancio Ortega Gaona, founder of fashion company Zara, worth $67 billion.
- Warren E. Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, currently possesses $60.8 billion.
- Carlos Slim Helú, telecommunications tycoon, $50 billion.
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, $45.2 billion.
- Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, $44.6 billion.
- Lawrence J. Ellison, founder of Oracle, $43.6 billion.
- Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg L.L.P., $40 billion.
What do you think? Is it reasonable for these eight men to possess as much as 3.6 billion people?
[Featured Image by DNY59/iStock]