According to a January 2016 report by Oxfam the top 62 individuals are as rich as the bottom 3.5 billion people. The world’s richest 1% own more than 40% of the world’s total wealth.
In the United States the two leading populist candidates, Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left are each speaking to a growing desperation where wages are stagnant and work for less skilled labor continues to go elsewhere. Each has radically different solutions but both tap into a deep despair for the future.
This past week I traveled to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti) where 80% of the population live in poverty without access to adequate health care, education, clean water or enough food to eat. Their despair has led to periodic civil unrest.
Add to the mix the emerging effect of Climate Change which has a disproportionate impact on warmer and poorer nations. The result is an emergence of disease and flooding in the low-lying countries least able to adjust to the new normal.
Meanwhile the disparity between the wealthiest and the poor majority increases. The World Economic Forum in Switzerland, noted that ‘a global system of tax havens contributed to the divide by allowing the rich to hide trillions of dollars in assets from their countries governments’.
In addition, the wealthy are increasingly buying the political process to protect their own needs. We see this in this presidential election cycle where super pacts funded by a small pool of wealthy individuals are having a profound impact on our democratic process. The few are rigging our supposed democracy.
Is there such a thing as too much wealth? Of course. It is both immoral and politically unsustainable for the rights of the majority to be controlled by the greed of the few. What will it take to bring about change? Perhaps the wealthy will wake up and realize it is in their best interest to share a larger portion of their wealth. History has shown however that radical change comes when the majority says ‘enough’. Marie Antoinette famously said: “Let them eat cake”. The result was the French Revolution with all its excess.
Jesus said: “Where your treasure is there your heart be also”. What do we treasure/love the most? Do we love our money the most? Will we choose to work for the common good or continue to be self serving?
How we as the human community answer will have lasting and profound consequences. What do you love the most?