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Controlling The World’s Wealth

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You would be forgiven for believing that too much of the world’s wealth is in the hands of too few people, and you could be right, but wasn’t this always the case, throughout history?

Anyone with some knowledge of history could probably conclude that there were many times in the past when even fewer people were in control of even more of the (known) world’s wealth at the time, at least notionally. Merely thinking of some of the major empires in the past would suggest that that this was the case, when power was (apparently) absolute, when monarchs ruled by ‘divine right’, or emperors by conquest and therefore owned all that they had conquered.

Authoritative sources estimate that today one percent of the world’s population owns, or at least controls, over 50 per cent of the world’s wealth – put slightly differently in raw figures, that just 62 people have now amassed the same wealth as the bottom, poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population. Of course they do not ‘own’ half the world, but in the past this was exactly the case in some societies.

Egyptian pharaohs


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Roughly in chronological order, in the known world, Egyptian pharaohs not only controlled all within the geographical area of the empire, but were also regarded as gods and therefore perfectly entitled to it. Apparently this homage ceased at death, when their sarcophagi were routinely looted, but estimates of the treasure buried with them must have made it hard for their surviving subjects to resist temptation.

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Roman emperors


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Roman emperors themselves were notionally the controllers of around 20 per cent of the empire’s wealth – itself now estimated to have been at least one-fifth the wealth of the world – and individually for those such as Augustus around the time of Christ, that amounted to an estimated $4-5 trillion, personally, ie one person controlled four per cent of the world’s wealth. In today’s world, only the Āl Saʻūd royal family and Rothschild family can be listed as being anywhere near in the same bracket in raw numbers – ‘families’, note.

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William the Conqueror


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On a somewhat smaller scale, the feudal system of the middle ages in Europe in particular – approximately the years 800-1500 – meant that land (and its produce) was granted by the monarch to (usually) high-ranking subjects, in return for loyalty and support as the monarch dictated. Effectively the monarch owned everything, including people, as the latter could not survive without pledging allegiance to their lord, and therefore to the king. For example, William the Conqueror of England granted large parts of Britain to a few senior henchmen, effectively to run these areas in his name. Modern estimates are that, as well as William himself, Williams de Warrene (1041-88) and Allan Rufus (1040-93) are in the dozen richest people who ever lived.

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Emperor Shenzong of Song


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As will have been noticed, land was the most important asset until at least the industrial revolution, and even then what was under it became of just as much importance. At the same time as the aforementioned William, Emperor Shenzong of Song (25 May 1048 – 1 April 1085) ruled what became modern China, and is estimated to have controlled as much as 30 per cent of the world’s GDP.

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Genghis Khan


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Wealth (and legality) didn’t come from the barrel of a gun, then, but certainly from military power, the ability to conquer lands and subjugate people. Genghis Khan is a spectacular example – his 13th century empire was once the largest in history, however, he eventually over-reached himself, simply being unable to control the huge area that he had conquered, a fate which had befallen the Romans too: perhaps this still sounds familiar when applied to the empires which grew-up as recently as the 19th and 20th centuries!? Eventually disenfranchised and/or subjugated people become rather restless.

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Mansa Musa, the Sultan of Timbuktu


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The richest person who ever lived is, according to several authoritative sources, Mansa Musa, the Sultan of Timbuktu or of Mali, which around 1300 when he ruled covered most of west Africa. The area is large, but most importantly it was the biggest producer of gold and salt in the world, such that best estimates put his wealth at a minimum of $400 billion and possibly as high as $700 billion. Of course, the figures quoted are of known or estimated worth, not potential wealth – ie how much gold was yet to be found and/or mined. Regardless, this amount credited to one person at that time indicates that the situation in the modern world isn’t maybe as unusual or lop-sided as we might think.

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John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie


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The next important era probably didn’t occur until the industrial revolution, when the type of monopolies changed from land itself to means and methods of production, including control of resources, but also through control of communications. Two of the more recent richest people ever in the world were John D. Rockefeller, who at one point controlled a majority of oil production and distribution in the USA, and Andrew Carnegie, who had similar control over iron and steel also based in the USA. Both of these gentlemen had wealth of well over $300 billion.

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Influence the well-being of the population


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Perhaps the, at least western world today is not so different from some in history – some form of social organisation has always existed, but the current economic order is not beyond the people’s control. The intervention of governments has, to a large extent, minimised the likelihood of such monopolies occurring today across a broad spectrum of products, and the media. A major difference is that governments are now rather more democratic than in previous centuries, so in theory ‘the people’ have the means to control excessive unequal distribution of wealth, to limit governments ability to impose taxes or implement laws, which could favour the rich, or influence the well-being of the population in general. We should not compare past and current societies on assessed value alone, because comparative inequality over time is difficult to establish mostly because of lack of accurate statistics. However, those available for the last 100 years suggest that inequality has never been as biased it is now since the 1930s.

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Nevertheless, through education and communication, we now know the factors that drive inequality today – and are able to debunk the supposition that the world must invariably be this way – which means we can challenge it, plus society has the potential to change it. All that’s needed is the will!

As the Managing Editor at NetWorthPost, I lead a talented team in delivering compelling content on the lives and achievements of influential figures. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, I oversee the production of insightful biographies that resonate with our audience. My role involves not only managing the editorial process but also conducting research, crafting engaging narratives, and ensuring the accuracy and quality of our publications. At NetWorthPost, we strive to provide our readers with in-depth profiles that offer valuable insights into the worlds of business, entertainment, and beyond. Through meticulous research and captivating storytelling, we bring to light the remarkable journeys and successes of individuals who inspire and captivate us.

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Most Influential

Charity Begins at Home, Doesn’t It? Maybe Not!

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Many celebrities you read about are often generous philanthropists too – many will say that ‘they can afford it’ – donating to specific charities or through their own or communal foundations such as ‘The Giving Pledge’. Some are activists, donating their time and labour for good causes, and many would presumably help a stranger in some way, usually if asked by said stranger. However, how well do you think whole countries rate in their attitude to charitable activities, in one form or another?

The Giving Index for 2015 recently released by the Charities Aid Foundation(CAF) may give you an idea of the attitudes to charity, by nations as a whole. The survey was conducted in 145 countries world-wide, covering 96% of the world’s population, assessing the percentage of the population who had volunteered time, helped a stranger, and/or donated money – the survey related only to the month previous to that in which the survey was conducted, and doesn’t specify the percentage who may contribute to charity in two or all three ways.

So how do you think your country rates in the three areas specified, and also does attitude reflect wealth, or simply a cultural (or religious) norm, inculcated over many years. Certainly, some of the richer countries are the least charitable – only five G-20 countries in the top 20 – while some of the most generous are also some of the most deprived. Men now outrank women in donating, and Iraq scored the highest in helping strangers.

Donations1

Some factors effecting behaviour and the survey:

in some countries, people are asset rich, but time poor;
in countries with a Buddhist majority there is a tradition of giving to monks and nuns;
an opportunity to help strangers, eg few visitors or tourists;
conventions such as Subbotnik – giving a Saturday free – in former Soviet states, but now much less common;
the survey was conducted in some Muslim countries during the month following Ramadan, when generosity is encouraged;
some countries are so rich that the need for charity is minimal!

As with many such surveys, there are some surprises! Remember – columns two, three and four are percentages of the population. These are the top 20 most charitable countries. Read on…

# Country Index Helping Donating Volunteering
20. Germany 47 61 69 32
19. Thailand 48 44 87 36
18. Kyrgyzstan 49 53 57 36
17. Bhutan 49 53 55 38
16. Guatemala 49 68 38 61
15. Norway 49 55 60 32
14. UAE 50 69 59 22
13. Bahrain 51 71 51 30
12. Malta 51 50 78 26
11. Kenya 52 74 39 43
10. Malaysia 52 62 58 37
9. Ireland 56 54 67 41
8. Sri Lanka 56 60 59 48
7. Netherlands 56 59 73 36
6. UK 57 63 75 32
5. Australia 59 66 72 40
4. Canada 60 69 67 44
3. New Zealand 61 65 72 45
2. USA 61 76 69 44
1. Myanmar 66 65 92 50
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Most Influential

Net Worth EXPLODING! Youthful Billionaires

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Warren Buffet they are not, neither in age nor wealth, but you may be surprised to know that there are many billionaires who are less than half the age of the ‘Sage of Omaha’, although only one has net worth estimated to be as much as half his $70+ billion.

Authoritative sources name over 20 billionaires under the age of 40 – Buffett is 85, and still going strongly near the top of the list of ‘richest’, but in this technological age, he may soon be surpassed by any number of bright, relatively young things climbing the ladder of financial success. Most are indeed involved in IT; 17 are American, one Israeli, one Canadian, and one Ukraine-born but a long-time American citizen, although only one is a woman. Interestingly, several companies have spawned more than one of these young billionaires.

Evan Sharp

Just above the cut-off mark on an estimated $1.05 billion is 32 year-old Evan Sharp, co-founder of Pinterest in 2010, ostensibly a photo-sharing site and mobile app company.

Brian Sheth

Brian Sheth founded Vista Equity at the age of 23 in 2000 – the company concentrates on software for start-up companies, and has so far enabled him to accumulate a fortune of $1.1 billion.

Drew Houston

Founder and CEO of Dropbox, a file-hosting, back-up and sharing company, is Drew Houston, whose net worth is now $1.4 billion built from an idea launched in 2007 when he was 24.

Adam Neumann

One of only two non-Americans on the list is Israeli Adam Neumann, who founded WeWork in 2010 as a file-sharing service, and which has so far netted him $1.5 billion at the age of 36.

Ryan Graves

Ryan Graves is one of three persons synonymous with Uber Technologies, an app service joining clients with taxis – actually a car-sharing initiative – which is spreading rapidly around the world, so far putting $1.5 billion in Ryan’s pocket since its start-up in 2010 when he was 27.

Ben Silbermann

Another co-founder of Pinterest is Ben Silbermann, just 27 when the company took-off, and now a rich young man to the tune of $1.6 billion.

Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel

The two young founders of Snapchat, a photo-messaging app, are Bobby Murphy, now worth $1.8 billion, and the youngest on this list Evan Spiegel, whose wealth is now $2.1 billion, who were 22 and 20 respectively when the company was created in 2010.

Grizzlies-Owner Basketball

Ubiquiti Networks, a communications technology company, was founded in 2011 by Robert Pera, who was 33 years old at the time and is now worth a very respectable $2.1 billion.

Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey is the only person on the list associated with the creation and launch of two successful companies: Square, a mobile payment service which came into use in 2010, and Twitter which has become one the major social network sites since its inception in 2006. Jack is now worth over $2.3 billion, which is a tidy amount for a 39 year-old.

Sean Parker

Napster’s co-founder Sean Parker is also associated with Facebook, but the former message sharing service launched in 1999 when he was just 20, is certainly his (half) baby, and has earned him a considerable percentage of his current $2.3 billion net worth.

Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk

Next wealthiest on the list are the three co-founders of accommodation finding/reservation web-site Airbnb, Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, all with current net worth estimated at $3.3 billion, accumulated since the inception of the company in 2008. The first two named were 27 years-old at the time, and Nathan 25.

Elizabeth Holmes

The only lady on this list is Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, a blood-testing company which has so far boosted her net worth to $4.7 billion since she put her idea into practice at the age of 19 in 2003.

Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick

Travis Kalanick – current wealth $6 billion – and Canadian Garrett Camp, $6.6 billion are the other two names connected intimately with the aforementioned Uber Technologies taxi/car-sharing booking service. They were 34 and 32 years-old respectively at the time of its launch in 2010.

Ukrainian-born computer engineer Jan Koum was the co-founder of mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and just 33 years-old when the company was incorporated in 2009. Facebook acquired the company in 2014 for a reputed $19 billion, so no wonder that Jan’s wealth is now estimated at close to $9 billion.

Dustin Moskovitz

The two richest on the list are both associated with the social network enjoying the widest usage, Facebook, but with very different current levels of wealth. Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz is rated by Forbes magazine as the youngest ever self-made billionaire, at the age of 24 – his net worth is now close to $10 billion, even though he left Facebook in 2008 to create Asana.

All the above-mentioned young guns pale into relative financial insignificance in comparison to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who at the age of 31 now has a fortune estimated at over $47 billion which, depending on the fluctuations of the share market, ranks Zuckerberg as the seventh richest person in the world in late 2015, an impressive reward for a little over 10 years creative work!

So what do you think of this list? In particular, who can you see joining it in the near future, or do you know of any others already ‘qualifying’? Please feel free to communicate with us.

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