Wednesday, December 15, 2010

fair world update: if we shared the wealth and income

I blogged the numbers on sharing the wealth earlier. From Working Group on Extreme Inequality » The Difference More Global Equality Could Make:
The world’s 4.4 billion adults, notes the new Credit Suisse research, now hold $194.5 trillion in wealth. That’s enough, if shared evenly across the globe, to guarantee every adult in the world a $43,800 net worth.
Lately, I've been thinking about sharing income. Wikipedia came through: World economy says every person in the world would get $10,500 (GDP/PPP).

Which means Emma and I would have a net worth of $87,600, and we would get $20,500 a year. Assume universal health care and good public transportation, and life would be sweet.


  1. But of course such figures are nonsensical. Most wealth does not consist of money, but things- factories, farms, buildings, etc. My last boss- before the company went under- was "worth" over a million just two years before the bankrupcy, but in terms of pocket money he had no more than I... and less, after the company folded, as I had savings and he didn't. It would be interesting, though impossible to obtain, to see how much actual money some famous rich people have, and how much of their wealth is just a title to something.

    But anyway, the vast majority of wealth could not be split up, and if you tried, there'd be no economy to provide that $20k a year,or pay taxes to supprot universal health care.

  2. Hey, ultimately, the world economy is a game. But it's not a bad way to quickly figure out what resources we all might have if someone magically redistributed wealth. For example, if Emma and I had the equivalent of $87,600 of wealth, we could have a decent condo or older home in a working class neighborhood, a car like our 2000 Echo that we love, a couple of computers, a range of clothes, etc. Then having the equivalent of $20,500 a year to replace things and live on would keep life pretty comfortable for us.

  3. What's more important about these numbers to me is they're a good line to draw when talking about privilege. People with significantly more than the world's average wealth and income are objectively privileged; people with significantly less are objectively denied an equal share in what the human family has available.

  4. Oh--this is a time for after-thoughts--regarding "the vast majority of wealth could not be split up", you're right that it could not be split up, but it could be shared. That's what the idea of the commons was and is all about.

  5. How much of that wealth is, for instance, stock? Maybe $20,000 of your $87,600 would be in stock, which would be worthless (why? Because people buy stock in order to receive dividends, but in your world income is equalized so there's no benefit to receiving dividends). How much of the wealth is in ownership of income-producing stuff, which would similarly become worthless?

    People with less than average may be "denied" the average amount by their own refusal to spend as much time working as others.

  6. Seth, the numbers are only meant as a means to evaluate current fairness and make rough calculations about what we would each have in a fair world with current resources.

    But wealth grows under communist systems just as it grows under capitalist ones. The USSR and China, for all their flaws, made amazing strides under communism, benefitting everyone except those who had previously been rich.

    Your notion that all rich people work harder and longer hours than all poor people is entertaining. From my grunt days, I remember bosses coming in late and leaving early. And I could find you folks working minimum wage who're holding down two jobs.