Who is the richest man in the history of the world? And what does that say about wealth of the average human?
When we say richest man in the history of the world, we’re talking about adjusting monetary value to modern times and comparing their net worth against each other in modern day US dollars. Essentially an equal playing field of wealth.
When you take this into account you start thinking of a man from the Roman Empire, the prince of the Persian Empire, Rockefellar, Cargegie, Mansa Musa from Tibuktu?
Well, after all the calculations, the richest man in the history of the world is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire. He’s alive right now and worth about $73 billion US dollars.
Chrystia Freeland just wrote a book on this subject, Plutocrats, and she has some fascinating insight into what is happening to our world:
In the 1970’s, the 1 percent accounted for about 10 percent of the national income in the United States. Today, their share has more than doubled to above 20 percent. But what’s even more striking is what’s happening at the very tippy top of the income distribution. The 0.1 percent in the U.S. today account for more than 8 percent of the national income. They are where the 1 percent was 30 years ago. Now as it happens, Warren Buffet likes to point out that in 1992, the combined wealth of the people on the Forbes 400 list, the 400 richest Americans was $300 billion. Just think about it. You didn’t even need to be a billionaire to get on that list in 1992. Well, today, that figure has more than quintupled to 1.7 trillion. And I probably don’t need to tell you that we haven’t seen anything similar happen to the middle class, whose wealth has stagnated, if not actually decreased.
I think one reason that we don’t notice is because the overall culture is, in many ways, one of symbolic equality in ways that didn’t exist in the past. You know, in past times, what you wore was determined by how rich you were. Today, billionaires wear jeans. Today, people like Bill Gates brag about how much they like eating Big Macs. So I think that tends to paper over a little bit how big the gap is. I think the other thing is that today’s explosion of super-wealth is partly a function of globalization, right. It’s meaningful that the richest person who ever lived is a Mexican. The fact that all of these countries, all of these people – hundreds of millions, billions of people who were left out of the industrial revolution are now coming online. And that is another force, which is creating these super-fortunes. – Chrystia Freeland during one of her 5 TED talks
We live in one helluva a dynamic and complicated world and right now, it’s trending towards the rich being richer than ever and the poor being poorer than ever.
About 50% of Earth’s population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 US dollars per day (source: npr). Every other person on Earth is living in extreme poverty. Something is up…
If you’re interested in this topic, please watch, listen, or read this great TED talk from Chrystia Freeland: Chrystia Freeland TED talk
Chrystia’s TED talk on global wealth distribution
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