According to Oxfam’s annual inequality report, released to coincide with the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, the richest 1% of people have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world combined since the pandemic. Their fortune soared by $26tn, increasing their share of new wealth from 50% to two-thirds.
The breakdown of these figures exposes how on a global basis, extreme wealth is accumulated not by innovating or increasing production, but by taking advantage of rising prices and exploiting labour. In this effort, wealthy people are enabled by lack of regulation and taxation. The result is a bonanza of plunder with no sheriff in town.
This has been happening for a while, but the pandemic accelerated the trend. Rich people benefited from everything – every positive intervention from the state and negative impact of the crisis somehow still ended up increasing their wealth. They benefited from rising costs by using them as an alibi to charge higher-than-inflation prices, then distributing the rewards as dividends instead of higher wages. Food and energy corporations made a killing, making $306bn in windfall profits in 2022, then distributing 84% to shareholders….