FORGET THE 1%. IT JUST TAKES ONE.
In the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, the topic of increased income inequality and the wealthiest 1% has moved front-and-center. But is the wealth of the millions in the top 1% really the issue? Consider:The world’s 1800 billionaires–the top 0.0002%–are growing their wealth much faster than the richest 1%. And in the past five years, the richest 100 people on the planet have grown their wealth by over 50%, to more than $2 trillion dollars.
The “solutions” typically proposed to close the income inequality gap–like raising taxes on the wealthy–are easily manipulated to preserve the wealth of the über-elite. And perhaps, even extend the gap between them and the 1%.
The first billionaires had no Internet, no globalized economy, and no worldwide media through which to wield influence. What happens when tomorrow’s trillionaires also have computing power faster than the human brain, cheap energy, a robotic workforce, and access to the riches of space?
Is the long-term threat in what several million one-percenters might do? Or is it a handful of future trillionaires, operating at the intersection of incredible wealth, influence, and technology?
VISIT A NOT–SO–DISTANT FUTURE OF TRILLIONARES
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THE RESEARCH BEHIND DARK MATTERS
All of the world’s private assets are worth about $250 trillion dollars, with estimates that this will grow at a rate of 2% to 4% a year.
In 2014, the richest 1% reached a significant milestone, owning more than half of all these assets, or almost $130 trillion dollars. And from 2009 – 2013, these wealthiest 1% captured 95% of all new wealth created.
But what about the richest 0.00002% – the world’s 1800+ billionaires? They own over 7 trillion dollars in personal assets, or almost 3% of the world’s private wealth. And their share is growing at a much faster rate than even the richest 1%. Clearly, the billionaires are doing to the 1%, what the 1% are doing to the 99%.
In the five-year period from 2011 to 2015, Credit Suisse estimates that worldwide wealth grew by less than 10%, from $230 trillion to $250 trillion. Over that same period, Forbes tells us that the world’s richest 100 individuals grew their total wealth by 50% – from about $1.5 trillion to over $2 trillion.
But the larger question, in my mind, is what can be done with this kind of money. Almost fifty years ago, the world’s first billionaire was made. But there was no Internet, no globalized economy, and no worldwide media as platforms to exert truly global influence. Today, we have a first generation of these platforms in place. But imagine, fifty or sixty years from now, when the world has its first trillionaires, along with a sophisticated, global Internet of Things, incredibly cheap computers that are more powerful than the human brain, efficient and renewable energy sources, and access to the mineral riches of space?
In this not-so-distant future of our children and grandchildren, what could a handful of trillionaires do?