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Sunday, January 20, 2013

World's Top 100 Billionaires Increased Their Fortunes in 2012 Enough To End World Poverty

Oxfam:
Over the last thirty years inequality has grown dramatically in many countries. In the US the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled since 1980 from 10 to 20%. For the top 0.01% it has quadrupled to levels never seen before. At a global level, the top 1% (60 million people), and particularly the even more select few in the top 0.01% (600,000 individuals -- there are around 1200 billionaires in the world), the last thirty years has been an incredible feeding frenzy. This is not confined to the US, or indeed to rich countries. In the UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which are now the most unequal country on earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid. Even in many of the poorest countries, inequality has rapidly grown… There quite simply is a limit to how many luxury yachts a person could want or own. Wages in many countries have barely risen in real terms for many years, with the majority of the gains being to capital instead. If this money were instead more evenly spread across the population then it would give more people more spending power, which in turn would drive growth and drive down inequality. The top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012 -- enough to end world poverty four times over.
Steeply progressive income and property taxes to fund universal healthcare, education, housing, food, income, and equitable access to law is absolutely and obviously possible -- and since providing everybody the basic security and education from which to consent in legibly informed nonduressed terms to interpersonal commerce and remains perfectly compatible with the existence of personal fortunes for those lucky enough or pathetic enough to accumulate and maintain them, one could just as easily describe advocacy for these outcomes championing free enterprise as calling it socialism.

UPDATE, an exchange with "jollyspaniard" in the Moot to this post:
"jollyspaniard" commented: I've only one caveat to add when this stuff gets talked about. While the playing field should be leveled we can't fool ourselves into thinking that we can solve our problems by increasing consumption by us working class types. You're not mentioning it here but that's usually how this issue is framed when it's brought up. If we trade in billionaire's yachts in exchange for a surge of budget flight driven drinking on the beach holidays that may be more equitable but it isn't ecologicaly sound either. The political will doesn't exsist yet but I'm hoping we can use this idle capital to solve the world's energy and climate problems. And improve the lot of working class people everywhere in ways that don't involve increased ecologicaly unsound consumption.
I agreed and amplified: The 20C faith in perpetual growth and ever increasing consumption definitely hits hard ecological limits well before it eliminates poverty and exploitation in the world, hence redistribution and regulation are necessary to achieve the democratic value of equity-in-diversity. A burgeoning social science and psychological literature also strongly indicates that wealth accumulation beyond the meeting of basic needs does not yield happiness for anybody, and also that wealth concentration corrupts institutions tasked with enforcing meritocratic norms for everybody. It seems to me this research provides ample ground for a new social democratic case that the redistribution necessary for equity need not diminish happiness or prosperity or lifeway diversity. Since it would seem that sustainability and equity cannot be accomplished without such redistribution and regulation that seems a terribly welcome result. When I speak of "[s]teeply progressive income and property taxes to fund universal healthcare, education, housing, food, income, and equitable access to law" it is to create a security floor from which consensual equity-and-diversity can flourish, not to stimulate more consumption or fuel perpetual growth. Such stimulative arguments have a certain utility right now in defiance of macroeconomically illiterate elite calls for austerity, but I agree with you that planetary economics and ecologics ultimately trump these national/ international formulations.

9 comments:

Black guy from the future past said...

Absolutely despicable. I think on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday it is apt to say and take him up on his long delayed offer. We indeed and desperately need a revolution of conscience.

How is it possible that we have private holders of wealth, in which their sum total fortunes combined can obliterate poverty from the face of the planet earth, yet poverty still remains? How is it that the earth has produced great bounties for all living creatures and beings, yet we have unequal and criminal distributions of that bounty resulting in first worlds, third worlds and underworlds? This is not only a profound paradox but a crime against human capacity, potential and heritage. We are all inheritors of the planet earth. These facts reveal the indecency of our collective history as human beings on the planet, or as King called it "man's inhumanity to man."

Many of these wealthy uber elites form foundations and grants and other organizations claiming it is their solemn wish and intent to slay poverty and strife wherever it exists. However, in the midst of all these foundations and philanthropists, the ugly head of human suffering, anguish and destitution has grown four more horrific heads, like the resilient hydra of Greek myth. This seems to reveal to me that all these "efforts" are simply PR stunts with no bite. We need to face the inequality problem on this planet. We have to admit that certain peoples and nations through historic criminal acts have benefited disproportionately in relation to their peers around the world. We must admit this first and foremost, and then work to remedy and correct this abhorrent crime. Indeed that has always been the true and real battle of humanity from the beginning, inequality. Inequality of power.

jollyspaniard said...

I've only one caveat to add when this stuff gets talked about. While the playing field should be leveled we can't fool ourselves into thinking that we can solve our problems by increasing consumption by us working class types. You're not mentioning it here but that's usually how this issue is framed when it's brought up. If we trade in billionaire's yachts in exchange for a surge of budget flight driven drinking on the beach holidays that may be more equitable but it isn't ecologicaly sound either. The political will doesn't exsist yet but I'm hoping we can use this idle capital to solve the world's energy and climate problems. And improve the lot of working class people everywhere in ways that don't involve increased ecologicaly unsound consumption.

Dale Carrico said...

The 20C faith in perpetual growth and ever increasing consumption definitely hits hard ecological limits well before it eliminates poverty and exploitation in the world, hence redistribution and regulation are necessary to achieve the democratic value of equity-in-diversity. A burgeoning social science and psychological literature also strongly indicates that wealth accumulation beyond the meeting of basic needs does not yield happiness for anybody, and also that wealth concentration corrupts institutions tasked with enforcing meritocratic norms for everybody. It seems to me this research provides ample ground for a new social democratic case that the redistribution necessary for equity need not diminish happiness or prosperity or lifeway diversity. Since it would seem that sustainability and equity cannot be accomplished without such redistribution and regulation that seems a terribly welcome result. When I speak of "[s]teeply progressive income and property taxes to fund universal healthcare, education, housing, food, income, and equitable access to law" it is to create a security floor from which consensual equity-and-diversity can flourish, not to stimulate more consumption or fuel perpetual growth. Such stimulative arguments have a certain utility right now in defiance of macroeconomically illiterate elite calls for austerity, but I agree with you that planetary economics and ecologics ultimately trump these national/ international formulations.

jimf said...

> Over the last thirty years inequality has grown dramatically. . .

Sam Harris's take on the phenomenon:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-rich-is-too-rich/

...followed up by his description of the savage backlash to
that piece[*]:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-lose-readers-without-even-trying

[*] Consider the likely composition of the audience of Sam Harris's
blog -- it would seem that his suggestion that it is possible to
be "too rich" brought forth screams of agony from the right-wing (libertopian?)
contingent of the "militant atheist" crowd. How many of **them**
do you suppose there are? (And how many of them are also
transhumanists? ;-> ).

And how many of them are also the folks crawling out of the woodwork
on one side of the "Elevatorgate" debacle in the atheist
community, which continues to reverberate (most recently in
the form of the "Thunderf00t" brouhaha on Freethough Blogs (FtB)
and the acrimony between that gentleman and P. Z. Myers)?

(And what, if anything, does this have to do with the
Autistic Spectrum? :-0 )

jimf said...

> (And what, if anything, does this have to do with the
> Autistic Spectrum? :-0 )

Engineers are cold and dead inside, research shows
Unable to care or love, claims Swedish trick-cyclist
By Lewis Page
Posted in Science, 21st January 2013
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/01/21/engineers_cold_and_dead_inside/

;->

Are You On It?
If so, you're in good company.
By Benjamin Wallace
Published Oct 28, 2012
http://nymag.com/news/features/autism-spectrum-2012-11/
---------------------
“Is every man in America somewhere on it?” Nora Ephron
wondered about the autism spectrum in an e-mail to a friend
a few months before her death. “Is every producer on it?
Is every 8-year-old boy who is obsessed with statistics on it?
Sometimes, when we say someone is on the spectrum, do we just
mean he’s a prick? Or a pathological narcissist? I notice
that at least three times a week I am told (or I tell someone)
that some man or other is on the spectrum.”

jimf said...

"When quants and engineers are ascendant, when algorithms
trump the liberal arts, when Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber
tweet about the death of Steve Jobs, when the hyperspecialist
has displaced the generalist and everyone is Matrix-ed
into the Internet, it’s [the armchair "spectrum" diagnosis is]
an Other-deriding tool to soothe our cultural anxiety about
the ongoing power shift from humanists to technologists. As
the coders inherit the Earth, saying someone’s on the spectrum
is how English majors make themselves feel better."

( http://nymag.com/news/features/autism-spectrum-2012-11/index1.html )

Well, golly!

jimf said...

> (And what, if anything, does this have to do with the
> Autistic Spectrum? :-0 )

A definitive statement on the issue:

http://www.psychforums.com/asperger-syndrome/topic51525.html#p372444
-------------------
I f***ing hate those who claim to be both AS and a
liberal(US hjacked sense)/socialist/communists/progressive/social democrats
and all other crap(Today I discussed with a self-declared left-wing
libertarian..LOL what a f***ing Oxymoron)

YOU CAN'T BE BOTH AN ASPERGER AND A LEFT-WINGER TYPE BECAUSE LIBERTARIANISM
IS BASED AROUND LOGIC WHILE LEFTISM IS ROOTED IN EMOTION

We asperger are Ultra-logic types so the only one thing that make sense
is to be and acts as Libertarian

If someone claims to be on the ASD and voted Obama or believe in
Human made Global Warming and all other sh** ...HE is not an
Asperger but a neurotypical loser
-------------------

;->

jollyspaniard said...

I heard about the Sam Harris brouhaha and was instantly taken aback by it, not by the reaction but in how inept this author is in realizing who his audience is.

jimf said...

> I heard about the Sam Harris brouhaha. . .

P. Z. Myers chimed in on the Sam Harris article:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/08/26/tax-the-rich/
--------------------------
Sam Harris is bemused: he made the simple, obvious statement that
the US needs to tax the rich more, and furious readers of his blog
stomped off in a huff. He has discovered an easy way to chase away
readers!

I fear it won’t work as well here, since my anti-libertarian views
are already well known. . .

But Harris has doubled down. Now he’s pissed off the Randroids. . .

This could get interesting, if only Harris allowed comments on his
blog — I believe he has just pushed the button on the foreheads
of the True Libertarians labeled “Frappé” and we can expect some
delicious brain smoothies to be dispensed out of their ears
any moment now. . .
--------------------------

Harris also managed to piss off some autism advocates (at least
the people who do not outright **embrace** the notion that
autistic-spectrum hews to libertarian "logic"):

http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com/2011/08/is-objectivism-autism-rebranded-nope.html
--------------------------
Autistic people do not make a religious fetish of selfishness
or dismiss altruism or compassion as character flaws. I'd think
that a neuroscientist might be aware of what underlies autism
and how it is manifested, but evidently, that is not the case. . .
--------------------------

Some commenters on the above wrote:

"I've been collecting examples of Autism As Metaphor for my blog ---
I find it being used over and over to describe selfish, regressive
political philosophies. . ."
[ http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/27/ ]

"He should have used the word "narcissism" instead of "autism,"
because that seems to be the intent of his meaning. . ."

"M. Scott Peck was another impressively enlightened person who
really insultingly/unfortunately conflated narcissism and autism.
[Above commenter]'s right--he means narcissism. . ."

At any rate, Amor Mundi has been down this particular rabbit-hole before,
and Dale has repeatedly indicated that doesn't like to go there, so
I should probably apologize for stirring this particular pot once again.
See, e.g.,
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2011/07/libertopianism-as-autistic-outlook.html
(containing Anne Corwin's frustrated remark
"Oh good grief, not this business again. . .")