The world’s richest people and the Hall of Shame

Hobbes, it is that time of the year again and Forbes just released its ranking of the World’s Richest People.

This time around and based on Eduardo Garcia’s article in Sentido Comun (echoed in Time Magazine last July’s issue), I thought of crunching some numbers myself.

Interestingly enough, this year we find 3 more Russians (poor Mr Abramovich, London must be more expensive than he expected or was perhaps divorce the expensive bit?) and 1 more Indian in the ranking. Minority representation from Spain (Amancio Ortega, Inditex) and Canada (David Thomson and Family, Thomson Corporation) is fading down the ladder, probably thanks to the energy price surge and the growth strength of the Indian economy.

However, after applying Mr Garcia’s formula to the top 20 wealthiest people in the world, we can see very interesting facts. Pop culture talks non-stop about Warren Buffett, ‘the sage of Omaha’, and Bill Gates’s ventures and adventures, but together their net worth is just a tiny 0.87% of the USA’s GDP (official exchange rate, 2007 est.). If we cross the Atlantic, the Albrecht own the equivalent of 1.53% of Germany’s GDP.

In 2008’s Hall of Shame would include India, where the top wealthiest nationals have a net worth equivalent to a staggering 14.68% of the Indian GDP or Russia where 4 men have managed to get their hands on 7.27% of the country’s GDP, a fabulous task when the Kremlin is working overtime to re-nationalise the ’90s buy 3-4-1 sale for friends and family. But, hey! it might just come down to entrepreneurship and wise investment decisions.

Now, can anybody tell me how fair and just it can be when Mr Carlos Slim has a net worth of 6.77% that of Mexico, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud 5.61% of Saudi Arabia’s (all Islamic law abiding investments, yeah, sure, that’s a good one Hobbes!), an unexpected 7.18% for Mr ‘IKEA’ Kamprad and family (Swedish, resident in Switzerland, makes you think… and then Labour goes after non-doms… £30,000 per year they ask for, what’s for the Swiss? a one-off $50,000? I need to re-read The Sovereign Individual ) and a mind blowing 13.05% of Li Ka-shing’s Hong Kong (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter)? There is something wrong there.

I think that by now we can all agree that capitalism, aside from credit crunches, Internet bubbles and Alan Greenspan’s policies (god! somebody get him a pair of new glasses! and you, Warren, sage or not, you will be next!), it is the least bad way of running the show. However, when disparity is so huge… unhappy neighbours can get grumpy!

Envy is an intrinsically human feeling, but used positively can be motivational. In-your-face unfairness can only lead to dramatic consequences. If you work hard you should be rewarded by market forces. Meritocracy is the only way forward. Nepotism is penny wise, pound foolish.

Until tomorrow,

.Calvin

By the way, is a non-dom in prison a con-dom?

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