U.S. and World Politics

Billionaires Must Be Made Extinct

An ever-smaller circle of billionaires controls the planet’s wealth

By Glen Ford

The world is being strangled, smothered and starved to death by billionaires—1,826 of them, by Forbes magazine’s count. The ever-deepening concentration of wealth that is both the logic and the inevitable result of capitalism has reached such depraved proportions that eight of the richest people on the planet now own as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire human race. The very existence of such concentrated private wealth is a crime against humanity, and incompatible with any notion of civilization. Indeed, how can a society call itself civilized, when half the value of all of humanity’s labor—which is what those fortunes actually represent—is at the disposal of eight men?

Clearly, the world needs a revolution, to throw off the dead weight of these billionaires. Last year, the Oxfam organization calculated that it took 62 of the world’s richest people to equal the wealth held by the bottom half of humanity. This year, it only takes eight. According to Oxfam’s latest study, the way capitalism is going, in 25 years we could be talking about a few trillionaires controlling the wealth of planet Earth. However, I doubt that we will ever see an Age of Trillionaires if only because global society would shatter and explode from the sheer magnitude of the accumulated theft of human labor and natural resources.

The billionaires must be made extinct, one way or the other, so that the multitudes can restructure the world into a survivable place. The 500 richest people on the planet cannot be allowed, 20 years from now, to pass on $2.1 trillion in inheritance to their privileged children—the equivalent of the entire yearly economy of India and its 1.3 billion people.

The last of the super-rich

The United States has by far the highest concentration of billionaires—536, followed by China, with 251. Russia is way down in sixth place, with only 77 billionaires, behind Britain, Germany and India. But, of course, billionaires live anywhere they want to—which really means they live nowhere at all. Home is where their money is, and every billionaire is a fully globalized citizen, with no loyalties except to his class.

The existence of billionaires should be seen as a measure of the sickness of the capitalist system, now in its last stages. Of the eight richest billionaires in the United States, six made their fortunes from the telecommunications industry, whose political influence now rivals that of Wall Street. Not only are the Silicon Valley fat cats obscenely wealthy, but they control the information systems that the rest of us depend on to understand what’s going on in our world. That makes people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg very dangerous. The good news is, young people around the world understand the nature of the threat to human freedom posed by these information system tycoons, who got rich through monopoly and market manipulation, just like the other capitalists. They too, must face expropriation, so that the saga of human equality can begin.

Black Agenda Report, January 17, 2017