Mar 4, 2019
The 26 richest billionaires on earth possess as much wealth as 3.8 billion people, half the world’s population. This awful equation, revealed by the charity Oxfam, sums up the monstrous and parasitic character of capitalism.
The 2008 economic crisis meant a reduction in production at the level of the entire world, an explosion of unemployment, and increased misery. But the number of billionaires, along with their personal fortunes, has continued to grow over the past 10 years.
First and foremost was Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, whose fortune rose from “only” 39 billion to at least 137 billion dollars. To give an example, Oxfam shows that 1% of Bezos’ fortune is the same as the entire budget for health care in Ethiopia, a country with 105 million people.
Oxfam goes on, “Whereas the billionaires saw their fortunes go up 12% last year, the wealth of the poorest half of the population fell by 11%.” This means increasing inequality for access to health care, for life expectancy, for schooling in the poorer countries that cannot compare to richer countries’ resources for education. In the poorer parts of Chicago, life expectancy is 16 years less than in richer parts of the city.
The extreme enrichment of the top causes the extreme poverty at the bottom. In order to maintain their profits, capitalists in crisis continue to reduce the share of the wealth that workers all over the world produce by their labor. This reinforces exploitation on the job, lowers real wages, increases the intensity of work for some while laying off others. And capitalists increasingly seek to maintain their profits by sucking wealth out of government budgets. This further reduces consumption by ordinary people, reducing the market for goods and throwing the economy and all of society into chaos.
But since when have capitalists been concerned by the future of humanity?