Bank Report Reveals Where Ruling Class Lives

While clearly not intended as a tool for the subversion of capitalism, the 2019 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report provides a fascinating glimpse at the inequality that the neoliberal era has produced, who has benefitted and those who have been left behind.

According to the tenth edition of the report, recently released, “The bottom half of wealth holders collectively accounted for less than 1% of total global wealth in mid-2019, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth and the top 1%  alone own 45%.” (Note that this a study about wealth and not income. It measure assets [housing, stocks, bonds etc.] minus debts.)

Further evidence of the incredible inequality generated by neoliberal capitalism:

  • North America and Europe together account for 57% of total household wealth, but contain only 17% of the world adult population;
  • 2.9 billion people, 57% of all adults,  have wealth below $10,000 US in 2019. Of course many of these have more debts than assets;
  • Average wealth per adult in Africa is $6,488 while that figure for North America (which seems to be defined as Canada and the USA) is $417,694. For India it is $14,569 while in Latin America the average wealth is $22,502;
  • Average wealth in “socialist” China has grown more rapidly than elsewhere over the past two decades to $58,544. (It seems government intervention in the economy is good for wealth creation);
  • The share of total global wealth owned by millionaires (47 million or 0.9% of adults) has grown from 34% in 2000 to 44% today;
  • About 40% of millionaires reside in the USA and more than half of the 1.1 million who achieved that status in the past year live in the land of Trump. The U.S. growth of millionaires exceeded that of the next nine countries combined (Japan, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, India, Spain, Canada and Switzerland);
  • Australia lost 124,000 millionaires over the past year, primarily due to declining real estate prices;
  • The wealth of 41 million of the millionaires was between 1 and 5 million dollars. Another 3.7 million are worth between 5 million and 10 million, and almost exactly 2 million adults now have wealth above 10 million. Of these, 1.8 million have assets in the 10–50 million range, leaving 168,030 with a  net worth above 50 million;
  • Of these 168,030 members of the capitalist ruling class, 80,510 (48%) live in the USA. China has 18,130 (11%) , Germany 6,800 (4%), the UK 4,640, India 4,460, France 3,700, Canada (3,530), Japan 3,350, Russia 3,120 and Hong Kong 3,100.

The importance of knowing where rich people are and might be popping up next is what has produced this annual “most comprehensive and up-to date survey of household wealth”.

In ancient Greece people would consult the oracles in order to choose the fruitful path, but today the most common source of such divination is the wisdom of the dollar and its associated deities. Rather than seek advice from experts at interpreting the various Hellenic gods, we consult those who specialize in illuminating where “the money” has been and is going. The ancient oracles could be found at shrines to the various gods; the modern version of these advice givers reside in universities, think tanks, mutual fund companies, brokerages, banks and the ever-present business media. The offerings of those seeking the guidance of today’s financial gods support a multi-billion dollar information and advice industry.

This seems “rational” behavior only because we live in an economic system that distributes power on a one-dollar-one-vote basis. To divine where the dollars are is to learn where best to seek the power that comes from them. In other words, the rich get richer and those who want to catch the crumbs as they fall off the banquet table need to be present at the court of King Capital.

Like the royal courts of feudal Europe that moved around its realm from castle to castle, money, in the form of capital, travels around its planetary realm from country to country, city to city, economic sector to economic sector, searching for the highest profit. This movement of capital creates real estate and other booms in favored locations then financial crises when the wealthy decide it is time to move on.

According to supporters, capitalism is supposed to be all about competition. The system is supposed to reward merit. Winners and losers are legitimate because everyone has an equal chance to succeed. But this is clearly not true in the actual world as described by the Credit Suisse report.

How can the 2.9 billion adults who own less than $10,000 in net assets compete fairly against 47 million millionaires, let alone the 168,030  who own $50 million or more?

The system is rigged. In a neoliberal capitalist competition to buy the most profitable companies, processes, patents, ideas, and anything else that can be made “property” the winners will always be those with the most money.

This report illustrates the pyramid of capitalist wealth and the peculiar property of money that guarantees most of it floats to the top.

The only way for billions of people, most countries and entire continents to escape the inevitable “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is by using the power of collectivity (call it government, socialism or mutual aid) to counter the power of one-dollar-one-vote capitalism.

Gary Engler is the author of Puck Hog and the FAKE NEWS mysteries. Read other articles by Gary.