Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Global wealth hits new all time high, inequality is a choice

From the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2013:
"Global wealth has reached a new all-time high of USD 241 trillion, up 4.9% since last year and 68% since 2003, with the USA accounting for 72% of the latest increase. . . . we expect global wealth to rise by nearly 450% over the next five years."
Though we may have problems with Credit Suisse as one of the big enablers of global illicit and abusive financial flows, we know that this series and the researchers behind it are well regarded - though all such reports come with this big proviso.

A New York Times op-ed from Joseph Stiglitz provides some useful context, referencing work by Branko Milanovic of the World Bank:
"From 1988 to 2008, Mr. Milanovic found, people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income."
He notes that while inequality between countries has improved significantly since the 1980s, inequality within countries has worsened: the net result has been that:
"Overall equality across humanity, considered as individuals, has improved very little. (The Gini coefficient, a measurement of inequality, improved by just 1.4 points from 2002 to 2008.)" 
That is a fascinating article, worth reading in its entirety - but back to Credit Suisse, which provides a new global wealth pyramid:


whose topmost section is then broken down further:


And then with several unusual and interesting ways of looking at the data provided, such as this one:


The report contains many other interesting little snippets, such as this:
"Our analysis suggests that ten generations or more have to lapse before the wealth of an individual in North America is completely independent of the wealth of their ancestors."
Stiglitz explains - see the article - that there's nothing particularly inevitable about inequality: some countries have done quite a good job at fighting it.
"I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do."
Tax justice, anyone?

Update 2014: for resources and information on Inequality & Democracy see here.



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