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The Irresistible (?) Rise of the Super Rich

Thursday, June 23, 2011
by Tom White

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I wasn’t surprised to pick up on the news that the world’s wealthiest people are now richer than before the credit crunch.  A striking feature of the last thirty years has been the emergence of a tiny group of people capturing a relatively enormous slice of national income.  You may be astonished to learn that in the UK, the wealthiest 1000 people have assets worth more than £330 billion (that figure alone represents a sum equivalent to almost 40% of the entire debts of the UK government).

This raises a number of issues in Business.  Firstly, you might focus on the marketing opportunities this offers to some firms.  Equally, you might reflect on the CSR and ethical implications of this state of affairs.  And finally: will it last?  Might the tide be turning, with the next thirty years seeing attitudes change and tolerance for this situation coming under attack from electorates and their governments?

There’s certainly enough here for a discussion.  The Guardian report (with a handy graphic you can download) presents a global picture that you will already be familiar with.  The bank accounts of the super rich are filling fast, and many more of these people can be found in Asia than would have been the case even a decade ago.  It’s a truly international issue.  You can see another graphic in The Economist.

But it’s a debate with an increasing topical relevance closer to home.  It’s too easy and simplistic to rage at ‘bankers’ as the source of all our problems, but the government is sensitive to the issue.  The deputy prime minister is floating the idea of giving the public shares in the banks that were rescued by the taxpayer (i.e. you) during the financial crisis.  Meanwhile, the Business Secretary is attacking executive pay which has risen, again.  It does seem extraordinary that the outgoing head of Network Rail should receive a £1m payoff just for leaving his job after three years.

I don’t mean for this blog to be partisan or party political.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Attitudes may be shifting across the political divide in Britain (and overseas).  Even Lord Parkinson - who served in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet in roles including Paymaster General and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry refused to defend big salaries in the City and has claimed “capitalists seem to be determined to destroy capitalism”.

PS If you are super rich already, you’ll just love the tips you can get at Money Squandering Expert which links to some awesome ways to burn through your cash pile.

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