Monday, April 11, 2016

Jason Hickel — Global inequality may be much worse than we think

It’s familiar news by now. Oxfam’s figures have gone viral: the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world’s population combined. Global inequality is worse than at any time since the 19th century.
For most people, this is all they know about global inequality. But Oxfam’s wealth figures don’t quite tell the whole story. What about income inequality? And – more importantly – what about inequalities between countries? If we expand our view beyond the usual metrics, we can learn a lot more about how unequal our world has become.

The first thing to say about Oxfam’s numbers is that they present a very conservative picture. Given that the rich hide so much of their wealth in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, it is impossible to know how much they really have. Recent estimates suggest that up to $32tn is stored away in tax havens – around one sixth of the world’s total private wealth. If we were to add that to Oxfam’s metrics, inequality would look much, much worse.
But that’s wealth. Many analysts object that we shouldn’t be measuring wealth inequality, but rather income inequality.…
The Guardian
Global inequality may be much worse than we think
Jason Hickel | Lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science
ht Don Quijones at Raging Bull-Shit


2 comments:

nivekvb said...

The rich talk about class envy, but no one envies the rich more than the rich themselves. Many are very competitive and they absolutely hate it if someone is richer than them.

I once read about an American magazine that printed who the ten richest people were in the US. The guy who was at number 10 very soon after got put in prison for insider dealing.

Reporters asked his wife about what had happened, and she said he couldn't stand being tenth on the list, i.e., at the bottom.

Tom Hickey said...

Reporters asked his wife about what had happened, and she said he couldn't stand being tenth on the list, i.e., at the bottom.

This is the adolescent behavior that drives inequality in capitalism. This is actually pretty well recognized in psychology and social science. Popularly, it is called "keeping up with the Jones's." Most people just want to stay at the same level as those they regard as their peers and ahead of those they regard as their inferiors. They aspire to join the ranks of their superiors.

But near the top, the battle become over relative position. This drives the impetus for increasing CEO pay, for example, and the battle for position on the list of the world's richest.

This what happens when self-interest meaning acquisitiveness and the desire to accumulate are made the drivers of an economic system, power is made the driver of a political system, and status the driver of a social system.

The result is predictably juvenile and leads to conflict.