There is a new report out of the Swiss global financial services firm UBS tracking the growth of the wealth of the world's billionaires. Let's put it this way, it is a very, very, very good time to be a billionaire. The wealth of the world's 1% is growing at a rapid rate. There's no doubt about it, the world is seeing a boom in the billionaire class. While this is good news for those chosen few, it could signal some hard times ahead for the rest of us.
In the UBS/PwC Billionaires report, the financial services firm revealed that billionaires increased their combined wealth by almost one fifth over the past year. This brings the combined global wealth of billionaires to $6 trillion! For perspective, that is more than twice the GDP of the entire UK! Furthermore, 145 multi-millionaires saw their fortunes increase enough to put them in the billionaires club.
This all indicates that we are in a unique spot in history. There hasn't been such a dramatic rise in the net worth of such a small group of people since the Gilded Age of the early 1900s. Back then, the world was going through the industrial age and a handful of families (The Astor's, Getty's, Vanderbilt's, etc.) were able to completely reshape cultures and the economy in order to build their family fortunes. This was the time of oil, banking, and railroad monopolies. The Gilded Age ended when the backlash from the public became too much. Monopolies were broken up. The Great Depression set in a few decades later.
The experts at UBS estimate that we are currently about two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age. The concentration of wealth is as high as it was in 1905. This is something billionaires are both aware of and concerned about. The sheer amount of interest billionaires earn on their money that makes their wealth grow—how long is that sustainable? When will the public fight back and bring about change and the rise of the middle class again?
The combined wealth of the eight richest people in the world is more than the entire wealth of the lower half of the world's population. Let that sink in. Eight people combined have more money than 3.6 billion people. This highlights the unfairness and amount of injustice existing in the current global economic system.
This massive inequality between the billionaires and the rest of us, indicated that a fundamental change is needed, and soon. The way the economy is managed needs to change so that it works for all people, not just the wealthiest among us.
How much more accumulation of wealth by just a few will the majority of people working 9-5 tolerate? How much longer will the middle and lower classes work like peasants while the billionaires live like kings?
The flip side to all of this global wealth is global debt. The global debt is also growing at a rapid pace. The United States alone is about $20 trillion in debt. This leads to entire generations of people being born into a system of debt servitude where they work and pay taxes to bring down their country's debt.
How is that fair?