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Friday, September 01, 2006

Billionaire Boom - (but a billion isn't what it used to be...)

Forbes has updated its report on billionaire sightings on the planet. In spite of global warming, the war in Iraq, 33 other armed conflicts, a record breaking hurricane season and other bad news - there was a bumper crop of new billionaires in the last year (perhaps because of these things in some cases).

There are now 793 individuals on earth who have a billion or more each, for a combined total wealth of $2.6 trillion. American richies account for just under half of this amount, proving again that George Bush's policies are indeed working out very well (for oh... about half of 793 people...).

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are still number one and two, even after lumping about $65 billion together and putting it into the Gates Foundation. Bill is worth about $50 billion now and Warren a paltry $42 billion.

Proving that money doesn't only flow to those in wealthy neo-conservatively managed (former democratic society) nations... the youngest new billionaire is a Lebanese woman, 22-year-old Hind Hariri, who inherited $1.4bn from her assassinated father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. I hope she wasn't vacationing in South Lebanon in July.

About a billion of us live in abject poverty, including a greater number of Americans every year.

I wouldn't want to make a judgement here - I will only say that a free market, based on exploitation of natural resources and poor workers, supported by tight military and corporate security systems, linked to an erosion of human rights and a distinct decline in intelligent discourse - seems to be working very well.

What do you think?

i looked that definition up in my reverse dictionary and it suggested the word ''capitalism''.
(now, a reverse dictionary, wouldn't that be a money spinner?!)

yes, well what can you do? i guess there was no limitation switch on the survival gene - another indictment of intelligent design. ;o)
It's very troubling to me. No matter how hard people work, they don't seem to be able to get ahead anymore. I am not sure how to break the cycle, but this isn't the way to do it.
I think you're THE MAN! That's what I think.

Yep, working really well--for a select few.
I think we're teetering on the edge of a global calamity. It's madness, completely unsustainable. And it's very, very difficult to unwrap our minds from the whole monetary structure that promotes it.
Its a waste of money. Studies show that money can only buy happiness up to the point where you don't have to worry about money... the surveys put that figure at about $50,000 a year. In my part of the country, it'd be a LOT lower. Once you have what you need, the rest is gravy. I would say wasted gravy if you're not using it for bettering the world.
I must have billion excuses for not exercising - doesn't that make me a billionaire of sorts??
Can someone do the math please?
If there is 793 people with $2.6 trillion (trillion?) assets, could we theoretically make every citizen of this planet a millionaire ... or at least stinky wealthy if those funds would be distributed differently?
$393.93 each (based on US definitions of billion and trillion - world population at 6.6 billion)
In one of the least regulated economies now, such as Russia, you witness a sudden unbelievable growth of billionaires. What this indicates is that even where the initial conditions are very simple any system will produce highly complex behaviour and without a form orf regulation, the ensuing complexity enables the winners to takes a grossly disproportionate share. Contrary to perceptions, business does not like competition, quite the reverse, since it makes it harder to achieve margins and profit. But you need regulation to ensure there is fair competition, a fair balance of minimum standards and a refection of community values.
But the greatest trap of all is the lack of sustainability accounting. Standards need to be laid down for carbon tax trading to eventually eliminate emissions and pollutions. And to be sustainable on planet earth.
Sustainable competition will provide a more even and fairer distribution of resources.
It requires a lot of imagination and intellectual effort, most difficult for all those busy hard working newly created billionaires!!
After all they may only be good at one thing that is making money!!
best wishes
Brilliant comments, all. Lindsay, I find your analysis interesting, especially the point that those benefiting from a 'free market' actually prefer it less free (from comptetition that is). Microsoft, Walmart, Russian oil kings... and more, all love to have full control over their markets.

Zee and Ian - about a billion people live on less than $1 a day - maybe the math works better by figuring out what it would take to provide them with a different life. Interesting...

Miss Cellania - I've reviewed the money=happiness studies (from a health outcome point of view too). You're right - it always comes down to happiness is hard to have without some level of security and affluence...but after that, the curve is very slow at best. I am certain that right now there are far too many people with 'more money than they know what to do with' - I'm serious. There are people in this part of the world building 12,000 sq. foot recreation homes - for 2 people.
Dear Gary,
a very informative post.
I live in the city that has more than 40 of them according to the last survey. I wonder though how do they travel in this city as to reach anywhere in time you must park your limousine and take the metro. I guess a middle path must be worked out to ensure the prosperity of the billion poor and also the well being of the planet.
yes, gary, i was going to add that they would be welcome to my 300 bucks because it won't make much difference to me - it'd probably be taken away from me on day zero by the first new billionaire wannabe anyway! ;o)

it's a wonder though that they can live on a dollar a day. i mean, could you or I live on a dollar a day? money makes no sense; it's madness. not that I'd want to trade places but how can the cost of living be a dollar a day and here it's probably ten, twenty times that?! what's gone wrong with our economy? have we just accepted things increase ad infinitum?

another question for you: how many women make up the list of billionaires? and should all couples be co-named as joint billionaires rather than just the guy?

of course, in our house it's always the wife's money - even though it's a joint account and my wage packet is the greater. like, it's the daughters always owe her money and such-and-such cost her X quid. see, it doesn't matter a jot who brings it in but who spends it! so, imo, it is the wives who should be named in most cases... ;o)
Ian - I when I lived in Sudan, my daily per diem for food (above salary, accommodations, benefits etc) was $35. A monthly wage for a Sudanese work was the same.

I hired a handful of workers and found interesting things for them to do - out of my own pocket money. Perhaps guilt, but also just a practical way to use my relative wealth.

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