Global inequality: some mind boggling statistics

Some mind boggling statistics from a report by Oxfam called Working for the Few: political capture and economic inequality.

The one that I found hardest to conceptualize is that the wealth of 85 INDIVIDUALS equals that of 3.5 BILLION people.

Others include:

  • Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion.That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
  • The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
  • In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

These trends reflect the rise of a plutocratic elite class of the global mega-rich; largely detached from any political accountability.

I recently caught a fascinating and rather depressing radio documentary about London. Like other top global cities, it is becoming harder and harder for ordinary people to live in the city. Families with long roots in localities are being forced to move out due to spiralling property prices. Massively rich global investors are distorting the market in London and places like New York, San Francisco and others. The result is that these cities are beginning to struggle to have the necessary workers actually to run the city – nurses, teachers, service industry, etc

A piece of the Oxfam report: –

Extreme economic inequality is damaging and worrying for many reasons: it is morally questionable; it can have negative impacts on economic growth and poverty reduction; and it can multiply social problems. It compounds other inequalities, such as those between women and men. In many countries, extreme economic inequality is worrying because of the pernicious impact that wealth concentrations can have on equal political representation. When wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else. The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all. Unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise. As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.’
The response here in Ireland and Europe to the financial crisis of 2008 on is a good example of how the response of the elites is to favour the rich (the banks, the financial system) at the massive expense of taxpayers who did not cause the crisis.

The moral and democratic deficit at the heart of the European enterprise, where unelected bureaucrats in the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Commission now hold political power over locally elected governments, may eventually undermine the whole project.

Comments, as ever, welcome.