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.


  1. The BBC Radio 4 program "More Or Less" has some stats on this. YOU can get the podcast from iTunes or the BBC iPlayer.

  2. 1) Someone (it may have been Tim Harford, though my google-fu is failing) pointed out that a new born child is likely in the middle of these rankings of assets, since it has no assets, but is therefore above all those who are in overall debt.

    2) Read some modern monetary theory. With a fiat currency, taxes are not required to fund government spending. The choice of who and what to tax is entirely about achieving society's aims. Unfortunately, our society has been captured by the rich, so our policies (quantitative easing, not punishing bankers, ...) are driven by their desires.