According to the latest calculation, eight people—mostly American billionaires--control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world, which is about 3.5 billion people. This, according to many, just should not be. It’s unfair in the extreme. So let’s take a look at it for a moment.
This wealth is a couple hundred billion dollars, all told. Let’s call it, for discussion sake, $300 billion. And eight people own it. So instead, let’s redistribute this money—equally, of course--to those whose wealth is collectively the same as theirs. $300 billion, if owned equally by 3.5 billion people, would amount to about $85 per person. Now, $85, for some of the poorest people, would be enough for months of food. And once that food was eaten, they'd be back to square one—poor and hungry as ever. For many of the others, $85 would allow them to buy a pair of shoes, go to a doctor, get a goat, whatever. Their lives would also be affected briefly, and then it would go back to pretty much the same thing—grinding poverty.
Here’s what’s missing in this: the people who own this wealth now aren’t just using it up for daily expenses and immediate needs. They are investing it, setting up charitable foundations, building ever-expanding enterprises that employ people, etc. In other words, they are using it to do things which will result in more good being done for many other people for generations. You might think of it as a kind of “critical mass.” If there’s insufficient quantities of uranium (or money in this case), you can’t get a chain reaction going. Nothing is going to get off the ground. But if enough is on hand, something useful can be created.
We’ve all seen examples of the contrast between poor people getting a sudden influx of cash, and those who, through hard work and enterprise, build a fortune. Lottery winners often spend their winnings in a matter of a few years and end up dead or broke because they can’t handle the money responsibly. Meanwhile, the one who builds a fortune passes that fortune on to generations to follow, and the employment and wealth increases to many. Look at what Bill Gates is doing with his $70 billion: is he buying houses and cars for all his friends? Paying off the credit card debt of everyone in the nation? No. He’s helping cure diseases across the world. Other super wealthy are expanding their businesses to benefit thousands of people who, in turn, are able to help still others through the station in life they’ve achieved.
It’s easy to say “life isn’t fair” and condemn the “inequality” around us. That’s what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were all about. But more overall good is done—and for periods lasting far longer—when wealth is intelligently controlled by those who can employ it wisely. Tossing it out to anyone who can catch a few dollars, while it may feel good to do it, just ends up evaporating it into thin air. But there will always be those who call for that.