If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a report by Oxfam showing that just 85 of the richest people in the world own more than half the wealth of the entire world. No, that’s 85 people -not percent. If there is a more poignant example of world wealth inequality, I can’t find it.
After getting over the shock -and the understandable urge to shout something really reasonable about sharing, I had a question. Where is all that money?
Probably in some bank account, right? Well… no, actually. Yeah, a lot of these guys have more money in their bank accounts than you or I will ever think about having. But having money just lazing in a bank account is not their style -besides, it’s very easy for some government to come along and tax it there.
No, they hide their money right under everyone’s noses: the companies and corporations they own. Like Bill Gates owns (part of) Microsoft. That’s where all his money is; he owns the business that makes crappy operating systems that virtually everyone is using. He owns the company that makes X-Boxes, and the servers that millions of people use each day to play games. Of course people have to pay to use them.
Do you know what millions of people use every day for free? Google. Where do you think Larry Page has his $23 billion squirreled away? In the programs and servers that you probably use everyday. You’re using his wealth. And Mark Zuckerberg’s when you use Facebook servers to share pictures of those adorable little kitties.
You’d be surprised just how much of the richest people’s wealth is around you, but even more shocking is how much of it you already use. Of course you don’t own it, and Zuckerberg can come along at any moment and change the configuration of facebook any time he wants. But he doesn’t use the millions of facebook pages out there; we do.
So should the really ultra rich share their wealth? Yeah! The thing is, they kinda already do. Not in the fairest way possible, of course: we can do a lot to improve wealth distribution as the Oxfam report clearly shows.
The thing is, before we start advocating taking from the 1%, we have to make sure the 99% aren’t already using it.