The “working rich” and the rest of us

By Chrystia Freeland
January 26, 2011

‘‘The next 10 years is going to be the most exciting time in our lives!’’ said Tejpreet Singh Chopra, an Indian entrepreneur. ‘‘The Indian economy will double! It will be incredible!’’

It was hot and humid  —  typical spring weather in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. It was also late  —  close to midnight. But the enthusiastic Mr. Chopra, dressed in a still-crisp light  shirt with blue and white stripes, navy trousers and blue turban, was on his way to yet another meeting.

Mr. Chopra was in East Africa last May as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, a sort of farm team for the full-grown global business elite that gathers every January in Davos.

As that meeting of the World Economic Forum begins, Mr. Chopra, 41, is among the 2,500 participants.

And intentionally or not, Davos will focus attention on one of the most striking consequences of the most recent technological revolution and the spread of globalization that has transformed the world economy in the past 30 years or so: the emergence of an international economic elite whose globe-trotting members have largely pulled away from their compatriots.

The trend is particularly stark in the United States, where from 1980 to 2005 more than 80 percent of the total increase in income went to the top 1 percent of the population. The gap there between the superrich and everybody else is now greater than at any time since before the Depression of the 1930s.

Income inequality has surged in much of the rest of the world, too: in Britain and Canada, to be sure, but in the  more egalitarian countries of Scandinavia and Germany as well.

While poor but resource-rich countries like Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have long been known for stark disparities in wealth and income, the divide is widening further in emerging markets, too, including India and China, which now has a bigger gap between the top and bottom than the United States.

But in contrast with the landed, and often leisured, aristocracies of previous eras, the elite now consists mostly of ‘‘the working rich,’’ in the words of Emmanuel Saez, an award-winning economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is one of the leading students of income inequality.

In 1916, Mr. Saez’s research shows, the richest 1 percent of Americans received only one-fifth of their income from paid work. In 2004, in  contrast, paid work accounted for 60 percent of the income of that same sector.

Mr. Chopra clearly belongs in this group. Born and educated in Chennai (formerly Madras, and also the hometown of Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of Pepsi, who will be one of the star speakers at Davos this year), Mr. Chopra’s first two jobs were working for Lucas Diesel Systems in Britain and France. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Cornell University in New York State, a member of the Ivy League, and spent the next decade at General Electric in Connecticut and Hong Kong before moving back to India.

Mr. Chopra met his future wife — a fellow Indian — while he was working in the United States. She has a law degree from New York University and handled mergers and acquisitions for the Wall Street law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

He was disappointed that she could not join him in Dar es Salaam, but she was attending another gathering of the global elite, the annual meeting of the Young Presidents Organization, a group of  leaders younger than 40, in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a more familiar watering hole than Tanzania for 21st-century business lions. Indeed, someone looking for a country that has not yet found its place in the hyperconnected, turbocharged world economy would find those of East Africa at the top of the list.

While Tanzania and Kenya are popular as tourist destinations for affluent Westerners seeking some of the last wild places on earth, Dar Es Salaam and nearby Zanzibar had their last moment of global economic relevance in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they were important entrepots in the spice trade. Since then, they have pretty much fallen off the world business map.

That was part of the reason Mr. Chopra was there. In anti-globalization circles, the World Economic Forum has become a symbol for rapacious international capitalism and the insular elite that benefits from it. The more complicated reality is that Klaus Schwab, the Swiss professor who created and masterminds the World Economic Forum, is a rather traditional European social democrat who aims to encourage among its participants a kind of noblesse oblige, or its modern equivalent, stakeholder capitalism.

Hence his summoning of the crown princes of international business to sleepy Tanzania, giving the country a national branding opportunity gratefully acknowledged in front-page coverage of the conference and the V.I.P. status accorded to its participants.

It was easy to see why the back-room boys at the Forum had tapped Mr. Chopra — ‘‘my friends call me T.P.’’ — as one of global capitalism’s dauphins. In 2007, when he was just 37, Mr. Chopra was chosen as the first Indian to run G.E.’s Indian business.

While there, he helped manage the creation of the Mac 400, a portable electrocardiogram machine made and designed in India. A cheaper, cruder, and lighter version of a  U.S. model, the  Mac 400 weighs one-fifth what the original does; its price is the equivalent of less than $1,000. Virtually all of the engineers who created it were based at G.E.’s Bangalore research lab.

Selling Western technology and brands into emerging markets is an old story — even drowsy Dar es Salaam boasts international hotels like the Kempenski and Holiday Inn and billboards hawking Nokia cellphones. So is selling cheap labor to developed markets in the form of manufactured goods or services like call centers.

The Mac 400 is an example of the next stage: emerging market engineers, employed by a Western company, creating a product inspired by a Western prototype and redesigned for emerging-market consumers. Two years ago, in the Harvard Business Review, Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E.’s chief executive and now a top outside adviser to President Barack Obama, dubbed this process ‘‘reverse innovation’’ and said that without it Western companies like G.E. would be defeated by their emerging market competitors.

To be sure, the world’s most sophisticated companies, like G.E., Google and Goldman Sachs, are finding plenty of ways to profit from the great economic shift under way. But the greatest riches go not to institutions but to individuals smart enough and lucky enough to make it on their own. Just a few years out of college, for example, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is already challenging Google, prompting the recent management shakeout there.

Three weeks before the World Economic Forum’s conference in Tanzania, Mr. Chopra left G.E. to start his own company. Following the model of Nucor, which revolutionized the U.S. steel business by building minimills, Mr. Chopra has founded Bharat Light & Power, a clean-energy utility.

‘‘I’ve helped so many entrepreneurs when they just had a piece of paper, and I thought, ‘I could do that,’’’ Mr. Chopra said. ‘‘When you work in a corporation, when you retire, you only look back. As an entrepreneur, you are always looking forward. I wouldn’t be happy in my life if I was always looking back.’’

Mr. Chopra’s story reflects the spread of Western technology and the adaptation of U.S. management techniques to the global market. It is about making fancy medical devices available to the rural poor of India.

Mr. Chopra’s career — and it is just beginning — shows how a venerable behemoth like G.E. is adapting to the changing world economy and highlights the tremendous opportunities available to educated, risk-taking entrepreneurs.

But Mr. Chopra also embodies an uncomfortable paradox: Even as the gap between the advanced industrial world and emerging markets is shrinking, raising living standards for hundreds of millions of people, within individual countries,  the people at the very top are doing so much better than everyone else.

Robert Reich, a professor at Berkeley who is a former U.S. labor secretary, illustrates the disparity with a vivid statistic: In 2005, Bill Gates was worth $46 billion and Warren Buffet was worth $44 billion. That year,  the combined wealth of the 120 million Americans at the bottom of the pyramid, 40 percent of the population, was about $95 billion — barely more than the sum of the fortunes of those two men.

Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett are extreme examples, of course, but they embody a broader trend. The richest one-hundredth of 1 percent of American families — about 15,000 — accounted for less than 1 percent of national income in 1974. By 2007, the figure was 6 percent, according to Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University outside Washington. That difference translates into hundreds of billions of dollars.

None of this is a secret, but it does not get as much attention as many critics think it deserves. One reason for that may be that the plutocrats do not like talking about it very much. In a history of global income inequality published last month, Branko Milanovic, a World Bank economist, wrote that ‘‘studies of interpersonal inequality are not too popular.’’ That is because, he believes, ‘‘inequality studies are not particularly appreciated by the rich.’’

Mr. Milanovic recounted a discussion with the head of a prestigious Washington research institute, who told him that ‘‘the think tank’s board was very unlikely to fund any work that had ‘income or wealth inequality’ in its title.’’

‘‘Yes, they would finance anything to do with poverty alleviation,’’ he recalled, ‘‘but inequality was an altogether different matter.’’

One concern some economists express about the emergence of a global plutocracy is that it may be driven, not only by seemingly benign forces like the technology revolution and global trade, but also by malign ones, particularly the elite’s ability to shape government and other public policy activities in its own self-interest.

That is a point made by Ragharam Rajan, a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, the intellectual home of free market economics in the United States.

In 2008, Mr.  Rajan, who will be a panelist at Davos this year, delivered a stinging keynote address at the Bombay Chamber of Commerce. India, he said, risked becoming ‘‘an unequal oligarchy, or worse — perhaps far sooner than we think.’’

One piece of evidence Mr. Rajan cited was a spreadsheet compiled by Jayant Sinha, a classmate of his from the India Institute of Technology, the alma mater of many  Indian software entrepreneurs. Mr. Sinha had calculated the number of billionaires per trillion dollars of gross domestic product in a number of countries around the world. Russia, with 87 billionaires and a national G.D.P. of $1.3 trillion, had the highest ratio. India, Rajan said, was No.2, with 55 billionaires and a $1.1 trillion G.D.P.

Mr. Rajan assured his audience that he had nothing against billionaires per se. ‘‘We should certainly welcome it if businessmen make money legitimately,’’ he said. But he argued that India’s high ratio was alarming because ‘‘too many people have gotten too rich, based on their proximity to the government.’’ Instead of reflecting new software inventions or a thriving manufacturing operation, ‘‘land, natural resources and government contracts or licenses are the predominant sources of the wealth of our billionaires, and all of these factors come from the government,’’ he said.

‘‘If Russia is an oligarchy,’’ Mr. Rajan warned the assembled magnates, ‘‘how long can we resist calling India one?’’

The rise of government-connected plutocrats is not just a phenomenon in places like Russia, India and China. The generous government bailouts of U.S. financial institutions prompted Simon Johnson, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to compare U.S. bankers with emerging-market oligarchs. In an article in The Atlantic magazine, which he later expanded into a book, Mr.  Johnson wrote that American financiers had pulled off a ‘‘quiet coup.’’

Mr. Johnson, like Mr. Rajan, is a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He, too, will be on a panel at Davos this year.

Mr. Johnson is on the center-left. But his view is shared in part by Mr.  Cowen, a libertarian. Mr. Cowen argues that concerns about income inequality are overstated by some critics: Quality of life is rising, and the wealth of the elite, he argues, largely represents returns for hard work and talent. ‘‘If we are looking for objectionable problems in the top 1 percent of income earners,’’ he wrote in the current issue of The American Interest, ‘‘much of it boils down to finance and activities related to financial markets. And to be sure, the high incomes in finance should give us all pause.’’

A further, more subtle critique of the globocrats (a term popularized by The Economist magazine) has been articulated by another economist who will speak  at Davos this year. Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University in North Carolina, worries that too many public intellectuals and policy makers have an unconscious but powerful tendency to view the sorts of big social and political questions debated at Davos through the prism of the self-interest of the elite.

‘‘We are deeply social animals,’’ Mr.  Ariely said. ‘‘We see things from the perspective of our friends, not of strangers.’’

‘‘One of the things that inequality does,’’ he went on,  ‘‘is it creates not a single society, but it creates multiple societies. It might be that inequality is creating another layer of separation between the in group and the out group.’’

One of the functions of the annual Davos gathering is to define an in group. Indeed, ‘‘Davos man’’ has become a shorthand for membership in the global elite.

For the World Economic Forum, that has turned out to be a highly effective business model. But Mr. Schwab, also contends that the gap between Davos man (and woman) and the rest of us is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

‘‘Economic disparity and global governance failures both influence the evolution of many other global risks and inhibit our capacity to respond effectively to them,’’ the forum’s Global Risks report for this year’s conference notes. ‘‘In this way, the global risk context in 2011 is defined by a 21st-century paradox: as the world grows together, it is also growing apart.’’

22 comments

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Reminds one of C. Wright Mills power elite concept although here there seems to be more than one power elite described in the article.

Posted by buzzy123 | Report as abusive

Let them eat cake?

Posted by fromthecenter | Report as abusive

So it took 3000 words to say…. I’m still not sure. This is more a profile piece than really news or opinion; is the profile meant to reflect that global elites still mostly all train in America though they be more dispersed now? Is it that the widening divide between rich and poor is justified because the rich work harder than before? Maybe it’s a roundabout call for Americans to move to emerging market countries to take advantage of their underclasses rather than be the underclass here?

Some points I’d like to add: to have ANY super-rich is an abomination to moral and civil societies… even from a capitalist standpoint it is the greatest misallocation of capital possible! Frankly, from any ideological standpoint except the oligarchy, individuals that yield too much power (or corporations as well) are a threat to society at large. How can making any one person a billionaire help society in any way? How can a company that’s too big to fail be a benefit to society? Try tackling these questions instead of playing soft-toss with 3rd world oligarchs in the making pretty please!

Posted by CDN_finance | Report as abusive

Isn’t it an ironic fact, lost to the author and to the preceding commentators, that this article is proof that socially engineering the distribution of wealth through government intervention is a failure? The governments of the world confiscate wealth from their wealthy citizens by the trillions in an attempt to create classless societies and the result? The “super-rich” are richer, and the rich have a higher proportion of overall income. Furthermore, the idea that a certain level of wealth is moral or immoral is ludicrous. If you develop a product or service and the people of the world in return dump truckloads of money in your lap every day that makes you an abomination? If you believe that you have been successfully brainwashed by a government run education system developed so the politicians can continue to play “Robin Hood” and become rich themselves.

Posted by beofaction | Report as abusive

I agree that there is inequality in income of people.But the basic thing is if rich is becoming richer by helping other low income people to become rich parallely , then there is no problem.
Everyone is free to have there own ideas and ability to grow and there is no one who is stopping them to reach their dream of becoming rich.
What i think is if you want to achieve something then go for it,dont think of otheres what they are doing(rich becoming richer etc).Yes plutocracy is there ,oligarchy is there but it is not the matter of concern for you just give from your side and others do what they want to do.
There is a current example of the facebook which got more number of hits(access) than the search engine giant Google, this year.

More than the inequality in income i think we should talk about the inequality of the standard of living,the ineqality in the services provided by the government to its citizens.

Posted by maa124 | Report as abusive

Wealthy corporations and wealthy people measure their success by percentage comparisons to the previous year year, to the same quarter during the previous year, and to the same holiday period during the previous year. They also measure their success in percentage of market share.

If a percentage comparison ever fails to show an increase, the performance is considered a failure. If it ever shows a decrease, the performance is considered an abject failure.

The limited availability of energy, capital, water, raw materials and other scarcities will eventually make it impossible for the wealthy 1% to achieve widespread success.

If “failure” is unacceptable to them at that point, what will they demand? Will they orchestrate a situation where the masses shall conduct a war on behalf of the 1% or will the 99% recognize that the 1% are in fact the enemy?

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

all that evil needs to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing

Posted by hairy2xs | Report as abusive

Terrific. So what’s the solution? It’s not like anything explained here is not common knowledge. Now that the wealthy control governments and the policies they make, how long before we return to the feudal system where we are all serfs? I am so tired of this intellectual exercise by economists about income disparity. Seeing as they are all employed, with relatively secure retirements, it is easy for them to pontificate. What would be more helpful is if they could actually predict fiscal catastrophes (i.e. 2008) and offer solutions. Both areas that they have failed at thus far (I say let’s outsource their jobs. I’m sure we could find equally incompetent economists in India who could do their jobs for half the cost). The plutocracy needs to remember that without the proles, they wouldn’t have the wealth that they now enjoy. There has to be a market for all that cheap crap. If no one has the money to buy all this stuff, they stop making money. The current business policy being followed by these uber elites is not sustainable. There situation in some ways could be viewed as a bubble. What do they care? They have theirs, the hell with everyone else.

Posted by BB1978 | Report as abusive

Thanks for voicing concern Chrystia.

It must be in our DNA to create pecking orders and work tirelessly to keep yourself on top by pecking below.

Honestly, a lot of the ‘working “rich”‘ are very poor people who are rich with friendship and community. Some of the happiest people I know are Brazilians with very little financial wealth.

Also, the most miserable person I know is rich financialy, however has no deep social ties and is always paranoid and greedy.

The global economy really helps maintain pecking orders and makes it extremely difficult for any individual group or government to control. Mega corps cross all boundaries and are not bound to any idividual government laws. They also are able to lobby and change laws where needed.

The new feudal/lord system has found it’s place and already second and third generation family appointees are finding their way into the boardrooms.

It’s exhilerating the access to information is still open to all. Hopefully the forward looking individuals can unite before these portals are closed by the mega elites maintaining this new tougher pecking order.

Never got it before – however now really understand the mentality and tenacity of the hackers. They have the kindred spirit and are for the better part fighting for freedom in foxholes all over the world.

Their fight is against the “Terminators” (the new mega feudal lords) wanting to keep a really large divide between them and the serfs.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

From my point of view there is major problem – super-rich and TNCs (even when they play fair) radically limit possibilities for new busyness, either because they can “asphyxate” competitors like certain fast-food network did (by overcrowding niche) or as they can afford to put huge amount of money to activities in the court thus being virtually untouchable by anyone not from goverments or other mega-corporation. And in some moment they’d just become “too big to fail” like certain car manufacturer…

So by this they radically change landscape – drastically cutting possibilities to reproducing middle-class.

And of course there is “small” problem that many CEOs function is to enlarge short-term profit of shareholders (sometimes by enlarging capiralization of company even if really company loses money) and not moderate but steady long-term profit by ensuring that company will have real plans,strategies and funds for the future.

Posted by chyron | Report as abusive

Inequality is the source of all our problems.

When we take a look at the statistics for negative social phenomena such as increased crime, drug abuse, depression, divorce, domestic violence, etc. we see some interesting results.

It turns out that these problems are almost nonexistent in poorer countries. When offered antidepressants, people in countries with a higher level of social equality would not understand what you are talking about. However, in societies where there is more social disparity, taking antidepressants is commonplace and many people have their own personal psychologist or therapist.

So it turns out that the problem is not poverty but the different standards of living and especially: how I assess myself in relation to others and the inequality between us.

The time has come for us to start living according to the global laws that all humans have in common.

Equality is a law of Nature, so the less balanced a society, the more problems it has. Where people have a similar standard of living, there are less.

You can live in a cave and be happy, or you can live in complete prosperity without any problems whatsoever – as long as everyone in your society lives in the same conditions. Problems only arise from inequality, since it is actually the lack of balance that is the root of all evil.

Bringing people to equality is no simple task though because it contradicts our basic egoistic nature.

Society is already beginning to understand that inequality breeds evil, since it opposes the main force of Nature that is in perfect balance. We receive fulfillment from infinity which exists in absolute equality and perceive anything opposite to it as bad.

The place where all this is about to explode is Europe because on the one hand they made this union recently through the EURO, and on the other the disparity is growing … rapidly.

I see a lot of reporters distracted by these new players at Davos coming in from the East but they are really not the main issue.

Major shifts in our evolution have pretty much always taken place in Europe.

Posted by JosiaNakash | Report as abusive

It’s difficult not to suspect that extremes of inequality aren’t yet another form of bubble, defended as the ‘natural’ and ‘inevitable’ course of things and ‘different this time’ until, in the fullness of time, the bubble bursts.

We have seen a financial bubble burst only to see, in turn, that it’s creators, the ‘stewards of capital’, so to speak, maintained and indeed improved their positions and their control explicitly at the expense of the vast majority of the population.

It’s likely, that as in the course of all such precedents in human affairs, this social bubble of concentration of power will yet more extreme until it collapses into the chaos of social disintegration and the accompanying risks of coups, revolutions, etc.

There is, after all, a reason it’s called The Human Comedy.

It’s just that sometimes it’s humorous only when viewed from a Divine or Alien perspective – at ground level it’s not so pretty.

Posted by CaptainSnark | Report as abusive

Thank God there’s someone writing about all the hard work and turmoil the “working rich” are doing while the rest of us take it easy and sponge up their genius. If only I wasn’t so lazy and stupid, I’d be a billionaire too! God bless these demigods, and may he smite all that try to drag them down with petty concepts like “equality” and “social responsibility”. If we don’t have a society that resembles a reverse pyramid, with the few at the top holding the rest of us by the ankles and scooping up the change that falls out of our pockets, than we’ll never be free. Hopefully one day those poor, oppressed elite will finally shake off the shackles of fairness and common sense and be able to walk the streets with their heads held high. Anyone who doesn’t accept feudal serfdom is a communist.

Posted by Shamrock21 | Report as abusive

This is the problem with misleading statistics. You write:

“Robert Reich, a professor at Berkeley who is a former U.S. labor secretary, illustrates the disparity with a vivid statistic: In 2005, Bill Gates was worth $46 billion and Warren Buffet was worth $44 billion. That year, the combined wealth of the 120 million Americans at the bottom of the pyramid, 40 percent of the population, was about $95 billion — barely more than the sum of the fortunes of those two men.”

This may be accurate in terms of the wealth, which is a result of savings, of the bottom 120 million people. If you look at income, which is a better indicator of how people actually live, we get a more accurate picture. (120 million times $1,000 equals $120 billion. So Robert Reich’s statistic merely states that the bottom 120 million people in America have accumulated savings of less than $1,000 per capita. Students, children, young workers, sure…) Income per capita is a totally different story. If we assume $10,000 per capita income for the bottom 120 million (men, women, children, students), we get $1.2 trillion in annual income. If the bottom 120 million were to save even 10% of this annual income it would equal Gates-Buffett wealth in just 1 year.

Any glaring statistics pointing out disparities in wealth in America and compares this to wealth disparities in India are missing a fundamental point: In America, the fat people are poor. In India, there is no such thing as a fat poor person. On an absolute basis, the bottom 120 million in America live better than the top 10% in India.

Posted by bhu | Report as abusive

Until people realize that increasing economic inequity is a result of the money supply continually being overinflated beyond the ability of the economy to stably support it, we won’t be able to prevent the real problem of bigger and bigger economic crisis occurring one after each other.

Think of a simple model where you have two people. One person buys one cent of stuff from the second person in a day. The second person buys two cents of stuff from the first person in a day. The combined total of money the two have is ten cents. In the long run, it is easy to see that person one will have nine cents and person two will have one cent. The government then comes in and makes five cents out of thin air and gives it to the poorer person two. After a few iterations, person one will have fourteen cents and person two has one cent. Economic disparity was made worse by the government giving money out of thin air to the poor.

It gets worse. Let’s say that the economy can only stably support a money supply of nine cents. Because the government increased the money supply from ten cents to fifteen cents, when a correction occurs, instead of one cent evaporating, it is a far higher six cents evaporating. The far greater loss is a much higher shock than just one cent. So what does the government do in response? they replace the evaporated money based on thin air with even more money based on the same thin air.

Until we get smart and realize that there are repercussions far worse if we let the government keep spending the way it is doing than any relatively short term populist benefit from that spending, the next economic correction will surpass the Great Depression in every imaginable way.

Posted by sangjmoon | Report as abusive

If the rich get richer and the quality of life gets better for everyone, then I have no problem with that. If the rich get richer at the cost of everyone else getting poorer than that is where the problem arises. Henry Ford recognized that his employees should be able to make enough money to buy his product. That way he has more customers. Businesses are not designed to make everyone poor, customer’s must have money to purchase your products or else you go out of business.

Posted by Trooth | Report as abusive

I logged in to thank you Ms. Chrystia Freeland. It gives me hope, albeit educated and therefore restrained, to see you and Reuters bringing up what must be one of the most important issue of our present times — the recurring issue, and evolutionary obstacle, of extreme and growing income and wealth inequality.

The extreme inequality created and perpetuated by the machine-like power of corporations and wealthy individuals in their chipping away at the economic foundations of societies through their political minions reduction of government to a corporate tool, such as in tax code manipulation, instead of a level-playing-field guarantor/creator.

Our economies need steering and regulation so as to empower all individuals to work with a sense of dignity and without undue taxation; and not just those aligned with existing wealth and corporations. The first steps in the USA would be to create a public option in health care, increase quality and availability of public education, simplify the tax code away by reducing loopholes and develop a more progressive tax code that does not give space and incentives for corporations to game both the tax and political systems.

Of course that with supreme court decisions such as United Citizens and Bush v. Gore we can see our deepening problem.

Posted by pmagellan | Report as abusive

Your article points out the precise reason the attendees at Davos will NEVER come up with any ideas that might change the status quo.

Those people are IN that top 1%. They have never spent a day in their lives wondering about how to buy food and pay the rent out of their paycheck. Well connected, extremely well paid bureaucrats or outright multi-millionaires are trying to come up with ideas to fix the income equality gap?

Give me a break…

Posted by stanrich | Report as abusive

How do you know when a Davos man is lying? His lips are moving.

We are still living in an age of kings, where we are the jesters dancing for their entertainment.

Posted by Glennn | Report as abusive

i get the feeling that nobody from the ’1%’ posted a reply on this article nor do they care to read it.

isn’t that some testament to the stark reality that it presents?

so then, what must us regular folk do? it bothers me to admit that some scenes from “Braveheart” come to mind… sigh …

Posted by usANDthem | Report as abusive

Good article – thanks.

@ beofaction you write:
” The governments of the world confiscate wealth from their wealthy citizens by the trillions in an attempt to create classless societies and the result? The “super-rich” are richer, and the rich have a higher proportion of overall income.”

I think instead that YOU miss something. It is impossible to have a modern government that does NOT influence the distribution of income.

To me it is interesting that the shift of wealth to the highest levels began in the 1980s – the coming of the Reagan-Republican revolution. The policies set then and continued through the present day are the ones that have facilitated the redistribution of wealth away from working people in the USA.

Yet Americans on the right continue to think that these poor billionaires need tax breaks in order for our system to work.

Posted by jmmx | Report as abusive

So, what is there to maximize?
As an individual? As a family? A village, a society, a planet?
As an individual, if I were to chose between happiness and wealth, I’d be naive to chose wealth.
As a family, I will spend all my money if my child is sick.
As a village, we will all contribute for the one village school to make the best out of our kids it can.

Somewhere down this argumentative line something breaks. That is, when the other is no longer a brother, a child, or a neighbor, but far enough away from us to assume that their happiness or misery no longer affects us.

But that, of course, is only an assumption.

Posted by TmsGsn | Report as abusive