Plutocratic Insurgency Note No. 1: Eight Individuals are Now as Wealthy as the Poorest Half of the World

Plutocratic Insurgency Note No. 1: Eight Individuals are Now as Wealthy as the Poorest Half of the World

Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri Bunker

Authors’ Comment: Plutocratic insurgency represents an emerging form of insurgency not seen since the late 19th century Gilded Age. It is being conducted by high net worth globalized elites allowing them to remove themselves from public spaces and obligations—including taxation—and to maximize their ability to generate profits transnationally. It utilizes ‘lawyers & lobbyists’ and corruption, rather than armed struggle—though mercenaries may be employed—to create shadow governance in pursuit of plutocratic policy objectives. Ultimately, this form of insurgency is representative of the challenge of 21st century predatory and sovereign-free capitalism to 20th century state moderated capitalism and its ensuing public welfare programs and middle class social structures. It can be viewed as a component of ‘Dark Globalization’ that, along with the emergence of criminal insurgency, is now actively threatening the public institutions and citizenry of the Westphalian state form.         

Key Information: Deborah Hardoon, An Economy for the 99%: It’s time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few. OXFAM Briefing Paper. 16 January 2017: 48 pages, http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/an-economy-for-the-99-its-time-to-build-a-human-economy-that-benefits-everyone-620170.

New estimates show that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. As growth benefits the richest, the rest of society—especially the poorest—suffers. The very design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to this extreme, unsustainable and unjust point. Our economy must stop excessively rewarding those at the top and start working for all people. Accountable and visionary governments, businesses that work in the interests of workers and producers, a valued environment, women’s rights and a strong system of fair taxation, are central to this more human economy. The sources and methodology behind the headline facts in this paper are explained in the separate methodology note.

Key Information: Ben Hirschler, “World's eight richest as wealthy as half humanity, Oxfam tells Davos.” Reuters. 16 January 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-davos-meeting-inequality-idUSKBN150009.

Just eight individuals, all men, own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world's population, Oxfam said on Monday in a report calling for action to curtail rewards for those at the top.

As decision makers and many of the super-rich gather for this week's World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, the charity's report suggests the wealth gap is wider than ever, with new data for China and India indicating that the poorest half of the world owns less than previously estimated.

Oxfam, which described the gap as "obscene", said if the new data had been available before, it would have shown that in 2016 nine people owned the same as the 3.6 billion who make up the poorest half of humanity, rather than 62 estimated at the time.

In 2010, by comparison, it took the combined assets of the 43 richest people to equal the wealth of the poorest 50 percent, according to the latest calculations.

Inequality has moved up the agenda in recent years, with the head of the International Monetary Fund and the Pope among those warning of its corrosive effects, while resentment of elites has helped fuel an upsurge in populist politics…

Who:  Eight richest individuals in the world; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Amancio Ortega (Inditex), Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Carlos Slim (Grupo Carso), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg) who have a combined net worth of $426 billion dollars.

What: These eight individuals have a net worth equivalent to that of the economic bottom half of humanity—3.6 billion people. This phenomenon is a component of increasing global inequality and concentration of wealth (and power) in the hands of plutocratic individuals with extra-sovereign privileges. It is resulting in dystopian futures for large segments of humanity.     

When: Present day; evolutionary process that has its origins in the 1980s with increasing privatization, loss of middle class incomes, and decline of the welfare state in the West linked to Reaganomics in the US and Thatchernomics in the UK; even earlier origins in other global regions with the failure of decolonization, development, and neo-liberalism vis-à-vis the rise of authoritarian regimes’ and multinational corporations’ (MNC) profiting seeking activities.   

Where: Global phenomenon.

Why: This is a component of late stage (post-industrial/post-modern) capitalism in which sum-sum economic exchanges are increasingly being replaced by zero-sum economic exchanges which have resulted in the increasing polarization of global wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals.

Analysis: The increasing trend towards the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer individuals—from 43 in 2010 to 8 in 2016 who have equivalent wealth to the poorest half of the world—is indicative of the rise of global capitalism which is in variance with state moderated capitalism. It challenges Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” metaphor, that pertains to the operations of a free market economy, by showing that some sort of sovereign economic regulation is indeed required in order to protect the public good. With few inhibitors, globalized capitalism becomes predatory in nature and efficiency seeking with the creation of vast holding companies and economic strangleholds. The resulting outcome is much like a later stage Monopoly game with wealth being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer players.  What we are essentially witnessing is the rise of a ‘global plutocratic class’ with extra-sovereign prerogatives that has more in common amongst itself than with their fellow nationals or for that matter the rest of humanity. Unfortunately—unlike a Monopoly game that at some point will end and a new game will begin—no restart will take place within the global economy. The poorest half of the world presently has few, if any, opportunities to better their economic future or those of their children. This trend ultimately signifies the contemporary crisis of neo-liberalism and the rise of a deviant and mercantilist (zero-sum) form of capitalism that promotes authoritarianism and economic class polarization rather than traditional democratic and middle class institutional forms.      

Key Words: Corruption, Crony Capitalism, Free Market Infallibility, Global Inequality, 1%, Plutocratic Insurgency, Profit Maximization 

Further Reading

Robert Bunker, “Plutocratic Insurgency.” Small Wars Journal. 6 September 2012, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/plutocratic-insurgency.

Nils Gilman, “Plutocratic Insurgency.” Small Precautions. 5 September 2012, http://smallprecautions.blogspot.com/2012/09/plutocratic-insurgency.html.

Nils Gilman, “The Twin Insurgency.” The American Interest. Vol. 9. No. 6., 15 June 2014, http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/06/15/the-twin-insurgency/.

Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri Bunker, Editors. Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance. Routledge Advances in International Political Economy. New York: Routledge, 2016 (Reprint edition).

All opinions are strictly those of the authors and in no way reflect the viewpoints of any U.S. Governmental, academic, or corporate entity.

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