Oxfam: Combined wealth of the 85 richest people is equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion – half the world’s population

I’ll bet the 85 richest people in the world have been beneficiaries of a good deal of rent seeking, but I still think there’s a positive spin to stories like this.

Let’s say (for the sake of not working too hard to write this post) that when we adjust for theft and its dead weight costs, the net productive wealth of group A (the wealthy) is just 25% the total wealth, that’s a mean productive wealth of 10.3 million times the average member of group B. For a humanitarian, this means that their fight to improve the plight of the world’s poor, has the potential to pick up trillion dollar bills off the sidewalk. This isn’t just little embossed portraits of old dead white men, it’s genuine human flourishing! Of course this message would be more meaningful if the numbers were something like “combined wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion is equal to the combined wealth of the poorest X million residents of OECD countries.”

That made up percentage, if it’s even remotely accurate, is a similar call to arms for those of us opposing politically supported privilege. And it just so happens that the humanitarian and libertarian causes overlap nicely! There is institutionalized theft and there is poverty, and that’s bad news. But the problems have been recognized and solutions are being fought for.

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