The Burden of Wealth

The wealth of the world’s 85 richest people equals the wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 BILLION.

That stat, released in a recent OxFam report that is covered in this Guardian story, blew my mind.

$ of 85 = $ of 3,500,000,000

I first heard the stat yesterday while driving our 2005 Pontiac G6 to The Arsenal for my daily CrossFit humbling at 5:45 AM. Immediately I thought of those 85 people and what it would be like for them to hear that stat while being flown in their solid gold helicopter, or whatever, on their way to their basketball workout with Michael Jordan, or wherever. How would they feel?

If I were them, how would I feel?

Burdened. That’s the word that jumps to mind. The weight of all that money in a world with all of these problems must just weigh on them. Even a guy like Bill Gates who is using his immense wealth to eradicate certain diseases from the face of the earth must go to bed at night and think: If only I could do more?

If you’re reading this, you are more than likely not among the 3.5 billion poorest people on the planet. You have electricity, you have an Internet connection, and you have the time not doing manual labor to sit here and read a blog post. Congrats! In fact, relatively speaking, you are rich compared to the bottom 3.5 billion. Does that burden you?

Often stats that show growing inequality are viewed as if the rich aren’t doing enough and they should feel guilty about their wealth. Some demand that the rich and multi-national corporations do more. We talk about things like corporate social responsibility. We expect and demand for them to be better local and global citizens.

But what do we expect of ourselves? What about our individual social responsibility?

Do I give enough money? Do I give enough of my passion and skills to the less fortunate? Do I act when I should? Am I a good guy?

Whether a billionaire or a guy driving around in a Pontiac, I think we all struggle to answer these questions.

The important thing is that we ask them and search for the answers.

What do you think? Are you doing enough?

Gary Hyslop says:

Unfortunately, I don’t think those 85 worry about it at all, or they wouldn’t have ever gotten to be one of the 85. I almost wonder if sociopathology isn’t a requirement to become obscenely wealthy. I mean, after the first few billion ;), what’s the point of it all, really? After that, it’s just a numbers game.

Kelsey says:

Gary, did you read the NyTimes piece about the guy addicted to making money? Here it is - . I’m not sure who the wealthiest 85 are in the world. But I don’t think Bill Gates set out to make gobs of money. I think he wanted to make a computer and that’s something the world really wanted. I’m trying to use this stat as an opportunity to reflect on our own impact and responsibility. I think a lot of folks want brands to not use “sweatshops,” but when it comes to consuming those same folks shop for the lowest price.

Becki says:

Kelsey, your reply immediately brought a Douglas Adams scene to mind. Make something invisible, just by painting it an awful color and putting a ‘Someone Else’s Problem’ field around it. No one will see anything. (That guy was a genius, and way too often I hear or see something that seems to confirm exactly what he wrote about so many years ago!!)

Let your voice be heard!