Sunday, July 12, 2009

what wealth is, the first rich black North Americans, and Chris Rock almost gets it

The word's Middle English, from the 13th century: welthe, from wele. Welfare comes from wele, too; wel faren means "fare well." Having wealth is simply being well, being happy and healthy and untroubled by need.

At least, that's what it should be. What it is for greedy people is the financial value of their possessions.

From Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power
As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%.
Chris Rock claims there have never been "wealthy" blacks in America, but there have certainly been rich ones. Some blacks prospered from the earliest days of blacks in North America: Anthony Johnson was the first black slaveowner, William Leidesdorff was the first black millionaire, and Madam C. J. Walker was the first female black millionaire.

What Rock doesn't get is the solution isn't changing the mix at the top of the pile. It's getting rid of the pile.