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The growing number of billionaires

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Could Elon Musk become the world’s first trillionaire?

It is very difficult to keep track of the wealth of the world’s richest people, but the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs seem to be getting richer and richer. The investment bank, Morgan Stanley, has forecast that Elon Musk could become the world's first trillionaire.

The current top five richest people in the world are currently:
  • Elon Musk (Tesla) $281 billion
  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon) $201 billion
  • Bernard Arnault (LVMH) $195 billion
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft) $138 billion
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Meta/Facebook) $121$

However, the value of these individuals and their rank order could change very quickly. This is partly because their wealth is tied up in the share price of the companies they own. If the Tesla share price falls by 10%, Elon Musk is suddenly quite a few billion poorer.

There are now over 2,700 billionaires in the world which a combined asset value of $13 trillion which is not far short of the value of the world’s second-biggest economy, China at $14 trillion.

Should anyone be a billionaire?

If you have a $ billion and earn a modest 3% income from its value that is an income of $30 million a year or $577,000 a week. It would be very difficult to spend this amount of income on ‘normal things’. Is there any point in having so much money? Being a billionaire also raises interesting income inequality questions for the rest of the world’s population. The average income in most MDCs is around $25,000 a year and 10% of the world (700 million people) is living on less than $2 a day. It is also worth noting that only about 10 per cent of the world’s billionaires are women and the world’s richest woman, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (L'Oréal) at $89 billion is some way behind the leading group of men. A sign of gender inequality?

One argument is the world needs talented, innovative people who can lead the world's largest organisations that generate the employment and wealth needed by everyone else. Perhaps the world's billionaires are also the most likely to find the solutions to humanities most pressing global problems

But do they need to be rewarded so highly?

Possible discussion points with a class:

Is the rising number of billionaires in the world a sign of rising global income inequality?

If everyone in the world is getting richer, does it matter if there is an increasing number of the super-rich?

Should there be a global super tax on the richest people in the world?



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