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Inequality UK: 104 billionaires while a million use food banks

Britain now has more billionaires per head of population than any other G8 country, including the US, at the same time that a million inhabitants were forced to visit foodbanks because they had virtually no resources at all. Total wealth in the UK now amounts to some £3 trillions, so 0.0016% of the population now owns 10% of the entire wealth of the UK, about 10,000 times more than their share if wealth were evenly distributed.

Some 5 families alone own more wealth than a fifth of the whole population. The number of billionaires in the UK has more than tripled over the last decade while their wealth has quintupled. Over the same decade the incomes of 90% of the population stagnated and wage-earners suffered a 6% real cutback in pay.

Defenders of the ultra-rich glorify this breathtaking inequality on two dodgy grounds. One is that it represents a big vote of confidence in Britain. Nonsense: what it reflects is that 100 people like Britain because they pay little or no tax (since many are technically not domiciled here) and regulation is weak, many enhance their wealth in the City of London, private schools offer exclusive education for their children, and the country offers a tolerant and lively culture.

Most of the other 99.999% have a far less whimsical fairytale to tell, where discontent and disillusion is rife. The second apologia for extremes of wealth focuses on the transformation of London into a diverse, vibrant and successful city. True, but how much of that is due to billionaires who live in ultra-rich ghettoes and spend their money not on investing in Britain’s mainstream economy but on yachts, flash cars, exotic jewellery, and prime property which pushes up house prices denying access to many first-time buyers in the market?

The downsides of the ultra-rich hugely outweigh these vague and dubious ‘benefits’. They treat Britain like a doormat for its low taxes, poor regulation, easy-going tolerance, and financial services wealth generation, but they contribute to Britain scarcely a fraction of what they get out of the country, and certainly nowhere near in proportion to their wealth.

They help to generate an economy so ill-balanced that the obverse side of a thriving London and the south-east is a declining, under-employed, and increasingly deprived three-quarters of the rest of Britain. And as many studies have shown, where there is such intensification of inequality, there is also rising social pathology, lower productivity, sharper class divisions, and (as we’re seeing now) vilification of the poor on the grounds that they deserve their poverty, just as the ultra-rich deserve their wealth ‘because they’re worth it’. Britain would be greatly better off without them.

One Comment

  1. David Ellis says:

    Before we were able to produce and store a surplus keeping slaves was irrational. The slave would soon be dead and you would be back to square one. Tribes when they clashed simply killed their captors and took over their territory then lived communally, albeit primitively, upon it. Slavery in actual fact put those captors to work. A real example of the contradictoriness of progress.

    Now, however, the surplus is so great that slaves have become impossible for the opposite reason. Production geared to the satisfaction of the luxury needs of a tiny elite is completely unsustainable economically. It can only collapse under the enormity of the infrastructure needed to keep slavery functioning. The only future for human kind is to return to those communal days but this time, in the absence of outsiders, and on the basis of a global economy, without the warfare and the want.

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