A Realization – Billionaires

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I was conversing with my roommate about how much some football players would be worth in a trade and somehow (Ill explain how later) we got on the topic of the richest people on the planet. A quick Google search revealed some astonishing figures.

According to the Forbes report released in March 2014, there are currently 1,645 U.S. dollar billionaires worldwide from 66 countries, boasting a combined net worth of $6.4 trillion, which is more than the combined GDP of 152 countries. – Wikipedia

This translates to roughly 77% of the countries of the world (79% if you only look at UN recognized countries) having less control of the planets wealth than 1645 people.

For a sense of scale, at the time of writing the 1000th richest of these 1645 individuals and families has a net worth of $1.8 billion US dollars.

1645 people is the size of two average high schools.

I do not know about you but I find these numbers to be absolutely shocking. I am sure that many of the people on Forbes’ list donate regularly to charity. In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak last year (the organization’s largest donation to date) on top of their other historic acts of philanthropy.

What got my roommate and me onto the topic of billionaires is the viral story of the week, besides Katy Perry’s feud with Taylor Swift and besides this or so much other science related news (which should be a bigger stories given the ramifications), the so-called billion dollar divorce.

Harold Hamm, Oil Tycoon and self-made man has been ordered by a judge to pay to his wife $1 billion dollars as part of their divorce settlement in monthly $7 million installments after an initial payment of $320 million.

That’s right, go ahead and say that out loud, maybe hold your little finger up to the corner of your lip for effect (a camera zoom would be good too if you can manage it).

$1 BILLION DOLLARS.

Hamm, hoping to end the public saga of his divorce to his wife of 23 years Sue Ann Arnall, wrote her a check for roughly $975 million.

Thought I was kidding?

AND SHE TURNED IT DOWN.

This got me thinking though, how much money is enough? Sure after 23 years of marriage she is entitled to at least the billion dollars promised to her in the settlement (some speculated that Ham would lose $3 billion once the dust settled) but my question goes beyond that and comes back to charity.

As I stated earlier, I am sure that these people give sums of money to charity on an annual basis that I would be lucky to see after ten years of work but when you look at the state of the world there is so much that the shear power of their wealth could do to improve the lives of so many. I am not saying that these people or families should give up the entirety of their fortunes, or even half of it. And They are definitely entitled to enjoy the lives of luxury that so many of them have earned through hard work. And I am certainly not saying that all these problems need to fix them is for money to be thrown at them. This is not South Park. But when one has grossed a net worth of over $1 billion dollars, what do you do with that money? At that point your financial security is not in question as you and your descendants could easily live comfortably for a couple of lifetimes on your accumulated wealth alone.

According to one source, in Canada the lowest tier of the upper class (or highest tier of the middle class) begins at $125000 per year for a family. A little quick math shows that somebody sitting on their own pile of 1 billion greenbacks would be able to afford such a lifestyle for 8000 years. This of course does not take into account inflation (but come on….)

The surplus money available to the richest people on our planet could easily be used to fund scientists looking for ways to treat or cure some of our most devastating diseases or to solve hunger problems and create foundations which fund universities and high schools. Increased funding of space exploration and the exploration of our oceans would leap our technological capabilities ahead by decades and expand our understanding of the universe. The fuel crisis would likely be solved as we increased our knowledge and mastery over the heavens above and the oceans below. With enough funding the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Often the obstacles in our path to solving the world’s problems are money, time and human will to make a difference.

Well, I just found 65 cents in my couch and $6.3 trillion in the pockets of 1645 people. So we just have to work on the human will issue and I am sure in time things will sort themselves out.

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