Tuesday, January 20, 2015

That 1%

No doubt in common with many other people, I was struck by the recent Oxfam research predicting that by next year the richest 1% of the world's population will own over half the world’s wealth.
It led me to speculate how dispensing with that parasitical 1% would instantly make the rest of us twice as well off — an attractive, if somewhat provocative, suggestion — that is until I found myself thinking:
“1% of the world’s population - that’s 73 million people to be got rid of and, more crucially, can I be absolutely certain that I’m not one of them?”
So perhaps I’ll stick with the associated statistic - namely that the world's richest 85 people own more than the poorest 50%. When it comes to the risk of accidentally lining myself up for culling, I’d rather stay on the safe side.
It’s interesting though, the same analysis that underlies the Oxfam research could easily be adapted to support a phone app that would tell you how you rank in terms of the world’s wealthiest people. I find it impossible to imagine how I would score but I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find myself in the top 1%, simply on account of there being so many poor people. 
While we’re on the subject, here is Oxfam’s seven-point plan for reversing the accelerating slide towards dangerous levels of inequality (which thankfully doesn’t involve any culling):

  • Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.
  • Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.
  • Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.
  • Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.
  • Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.
  • Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.
  • Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

Christmas with the Ecclestones

My Christmas piece from Horsley's Over The Wall magazine

Despite the fact that, generally speaking, we are 'not at home to Mr Murdoch', there appears to be little I can do to prevent Santa from including a copy of Hello Magazine in Mrs Wormwood's Christmas stocking.
I pretend to be disapproving but, if I’m honest, I have to admit there's something strangely comforting about snuggling down after a good Christmas dinner to leaf through the pages of Hello and its parade of wastrels, poseurs, musk-cats and prick-me-dainties all set off against a backdrop of grotesque interior decoration.
And besides - it is good to be reminded that the people in Hello magazine have real human feelings and emotions just like the rest of us. So, for example, it’s lovely to know that Tamara Ecclestone and her partner, having decided to trade the British cold for the warmer temperatures in Dubai, chose to delay their Christmas Day flight till the late afternoon, simply in order to have the whole Christmas morning ‘chilling in their specially bought Christmas jumpers’.
It’s not like life at the top is all a bed of roses either. Articles in Hello magazine regularly include obscure references as to how so-and-so is ‘battling with demons’ - which doesn’t sound very nice. Mrs Wormwood tells me that this is not to be taken literally – as some sort of titanic struggle with the forces of Beelzebub – but is a figure of speech discretely hinting at a form of addiction or compulsive behaviour such as an over-fondness for Maltesers, excessive shopping or killing wild animals - all of which, nevertheless, must be very trying.
Whatever else we might think of it, Hello magazine serves a valuable and admirable purpose in helping raise our eyes above the tawdry and inconsequential trivialities of our own boring lives and encouraging us to aspire to better things. It is comforting to think that with just a little bit more effort and entrepreneurialism we too might enjoy a palatial home set in 900 acres of parkland along with a trophy ‘love of our life’ and an adorable baby. The people who already have these things come all too often from humble beginnings and if they can heave and claw themselves out of the common slime then surely we can too.
This year I found the touching story of Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis especially moving. After the sudden and unexpected death of her ancient husband, Gloria found herself threatened with the loss of her 500-room home. Employing what she describes as her ‘simple, motherly, household accounting brain’ and cutting down on the parties, shopping trips, African safaris etc., she set about ‘living within her means’ with exemplary and uncomplaining stoicism. Despite these admirable efforts, she was eventually forced to endure the indignity of auctioning off her jewels at Sotheby’s along with 75,000 bottles of vintage wine, just in in order to make ends meet. She now lives a life of austerity and selfless piety - starting each day with a personal Mass in her private chapel.
I confess, I found the whole piece immensely touching and a welcome reminder that, whatever our own difficulties, there are those who soldier on with a quiet, uncomplaining dignity - an example and inspiration to us all.