Socialism and the problem of the super-rich
28 December 2017
Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, Karl Marx, citing the early 19th century French economist Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi, observed that “the Roman proletariat lived at the expense of society, while modern society lives at the expense of the proletariat.”
Never has this been so true as today, as day after day, week after week, reports are published showing the massive social wealth piled up by the financial oligarchy at the expense of the working class.
The latest of these is the Bloomberg Billionaires Index published on Friday, which showed that the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires rose 23 percent over the past year, making them $1 trillion richer than at the end of 2016. The combined wealth of this group reached $5.3 trillion. The gain of $1 trillion was four times last year’s increase.
Bloomberg found that the world’s richest 500 people as a group added an average of $2.7 billion to their fortunes every day in 2017. This means that, on average, each of these individuals added $5,400,000 every day, or $225,000 every hour—roughly equivalent to the combined income of five working-class households in the US over the course of a year.
The rapid expansion of the wealth of the financial oligarchy accompanies growing indicators of social misery at the other pole of society, exemplified in the report this month by the Centers for Disease Control that life expectancy in the US fell for the second year in a row.
Wealth concentration on the scale reflected in these reports has immense social implications. It is impossible to seriously address a single social issue without confronting the problem of economic inequality. The colossal diversion of resources into private wealth accumulation…