There are few things guaranteed to upset me more than the arrogance, vulgarity and sheer sense of entitlement displayed by the global super rich. Ipswich’s repeated failure to return to the Premier League and the existence of Victoria Beckham are the only things I can think of that give me similar attacks of rage. So, you can imagine the spike in my blood pressure when I heard about a fidget spinner for sale at $22,000 (£13,000). It reminded me of the time back in the 1980s when Mike Tyson paid £650,000 for a watch. It demonstrates clearly that the obscene wealth enjoyed by some of the global rich is also obscenely wasteful – as well as being economically illiterate and environmentally unsustainable.As I have written several times on this blog, I am not some Toytown Marxist or Festival Corbynista. Capitalism is probably the best economic system we have. There are always going to be pay differentials, a doctor will always earn more than a road sweeper. And being the species we are, there are always going to be premiums on good looks, sporting prowess and acting ability. What I object to is the extreme wealth that has accrued to some people over the past couple of generations and the sheer mindless vulgarity of the super rich.
In 1980, CEOs were paid between 13 and 44 times the average employee. By 1998, the average FTSE 100 CEO was paid 47 times their average employee. And by 2014, this had grown to 130 times! In the worst case cited in the article I’ve used, the CEO had a pay packet nearly 800 times what he was paying his employees.
When looking at the really wealthy global elite, the horror of the figures becomes almost overwhelming. In 2016, Oxfam reported that the wealthiest 62 individuals had as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. Let’s get that into perspective – 62 people have as much wealth as 3,600,000,000! One of these mega-rich individuals can equal the wealth more than 58,000,000 of his fellow creatures.
Again, I am not objecting to wage differentials. Entrepreneurs, inventors, probably even sportspeople deserve the money they earn. What I object to is the ludicrous amounts of money some people are getting. Wayne Rooney on £300,000 a week to sit on the bench at Old Trafford. John Terry taking a pay cut to join Aston Villa – down to £60,000 a week! And the hordes of “celebrities” who have amassed vast wealth from their non-existent talent; Kim Kardashian has a reported fortune of $40,000,000 – for posting pictures of her backside on the internet. Just this week I saw a headline that said Mel B (of Spice Girls’ fame) has managed to blow the $50,000,000 she has made in her career. $50,000,000 for caterwauling along to a few forgettable hits in the 1990s?
The fidget spinner example I used to open this post is a symptom of the problem of people with ridiculous amounts of money. They simply waste it. Fidget spinners at the chemist shop near my house go for $6 a pop. Why does anyone need a solid gold version of a child’s toy? The simple answer is that they don’t, but they have so much money that $22,000 to them is like $6 to me. Mike Tyson’s £650,000 watch – it tells the time and maybe the date too. It’s not a watch, it’s a status symbol that screams “I have too much money.” John Terry’s pay cut to £60,000 a week is still more than two families on the absolute maximum amount of benefits allowed would get in a year.
The obscene wealth of some people is simply wasted – no-one needs a $22,000 fidget spinner, just as no-one needs a fleet of luxury cars or a £158million house. Having a tiny group of super rich people is economically illiterate because a large number of people spending money on necessities will keep an economy going much longer than a couple of dozen people buying luxury cars. The vast carbon footprint of the mega wealthy – with their private jets and super yachts – shows that it is also environmentally unsustainable.
I’d like to end by saying that such vast wealth cannot but have a deleterious effect on those who have it. The endless stories of the insane demands of various “celebrities” that fill the tabloid press cannot all be false. The massive sense of entitlement that sneers “Don’t you know who I am?” And the disgusting antics of the so-called “Rich Kids of Instagram”? Giving such wealth to teenagers is close to child abuse and anyone on these websites should have their wealth confiscated and be forced to do charity work for refugees in the most benighted corner of Syria.