Eighty-five people owning half the planet? Eighty five individuals being the financial equivalent of three and a half billion? It’s an astonishing claim. In its own way it is far, far more inflammatory than a “We are the 99%” slogan of the Occupy movement. These eigthy-five people would fit comfortably on that London bus above with space left over for a conjuror and a steel band.
But this is exactly the claim that Oxfam have made this week in their paper called “Working For the Few”. It is a fairly short piece, and you can read the whole of it comfortably at a coffee break.
The central part of the report reads as below:-
“Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent ofthe 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.
The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
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.
Wealth begets wealth, and once the political and institutional system is rigged in favor of an elite, the consolidation of their privileges cascades down through different mechanisms. This ‘privilege cascade’ affects elements that otherwise should be conducive to fair opportunities and protection for all members of society. What, by some measure, looks and sounds meritocratic is a result of rules that are biased in favor of the elite.
Good quality education and other public services overwhelmingly benefit the few, providing them with more opportunities for development.
Equality of opportunity is a central tenet of inclusive modern societies. It implies that a person’s achievements or outcomes should not be determined by their race, gender, family, or any other immutable characteristic.”
The United States has long recognised that economic cartels, such as the neo-liberal globalisation project which turns stones, trees and every person in the world into an economic unit suitable for exploitation, are at best unfair to the customers of the good or service supplied, ie the public, and have sought to strike down those they can reach through the likes of acts such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Acts. However, when it comes to cartels of political influence fuelled by these same cartels and thus exercising financial control of the democratic process, far from seeking to remove these in the name of their consumers – the electors – they rather entrench such cartels or oligarchies where they work together against the interest of the common man.
The American mythic tradition is that anyone born in the United States, from whatever background can, by dint of personality, sheer hard work, clean living and dedication rise to the highest office in the land or achieve the greatest financial reward.
Many still believe that America stands for the ordinary Joe’s of life, and that her political system purports to reflect this; and, as a natural progression, that she is right to take to herself the role of leader of the free world and the beacon of freedom and democracy.
Sadly Oxfam is proving this dream, is just that, a dream.
Which leaves us with the only outstanding question (well the main one anyway) is who are these suddenly shy nobles? Well the answer to that may be in a future post!
Copyright David Macadam 2014