The UK’s Guardian news organization, known for its measured opinions and staid style (that’s sarcasm, by the way), cranked up some of my political acquaintances with a report of a “shocking” study that predicted the world’s richest 1% could control as much as two-thirds of the world’s wealth within a dozen years from now. It goes on to explain various reasons (mechanisms, really), notes the public is concerned about this concentration, and talks about how many want something done.

And, then, it does something else. It blames “the system of capitalist liberal democracy” for this supposedly untenable situation.

My first reaction to this report was “so what?” The fact is that the world’s poorest have it better off than at any time in history, and that their lot is improving by leaps and bounds. Wealth is not a finite pool, and even if the rich are getting richer faster, the poor are also getting richer.

But, that answer doesn’t carry weight with many, especially under the constant onslaught of class-warfare outrage from such as the Guardian. Mix in the eternals of human nature (envy, greed, sloth, to name but three), and it’s understandable that people want to lash out at this supposed (and synthetic) injustice.

Here’s what’s funny (to me, at least). The world is far, FAR from “capitalistic,” by any proper measure of the word. The world’s ten largest economies are, in order, USA, China, Japan, Germany, UK, India, France, Brazil, Italy, and Canada. Are these best characterized as genuinely capitalistic nations? Or are we looking at nations that engage in massive wealth redistribution, substantial and progressive taxation, and heavy-handed government involvement in their economies?

Moreso, the two nations (China and India) nations with the fastest economic growth, growth that is rapidly elevating the lot of their poorest citizens, are the nations that have moved away from long-established communistic/socialistic economic systems. We’re told to worry about capitalism leading to concentrated wealth, which will harm the poor, but it is the move towards capitalism, even when partial and imperfect, that helps the poor more than any statist, centrally managed economy ever has. Yes, indeed, a rising tide raises all boats. Freer economies create wealth faster. Tightly managed economies, on the other hand? Venezuela.

Governments would love the public to blame unfettered capitalism and free enterprise for the concentration of wealth that they decry as a Bad Thing, and have us ignore the reality that they have been presiding over systems far better described as cronyist than as capitalist. A public outcry over a situation that hasn’t actually been shown to have ill effects would give cover for greedy politicians to raise taxes, steal others’ wealth, and pass it out in ways that best ensure their re-election (and personal benefit). And, actually harm rather than help the citizens supposedly harmed by capitalism.

Stoking the furnaces of populist outrage is a tried-and-true political tactic, especially when it’s the wealthiest and most successful that can be vilified. This doesn’t make it right, and the policies that ensue aren’t good for anyone but the politicians and their friends.

So, don’t fall for the howls of outrage voiced by those who’d rather grab for others’ money than make their own. And, don’t buy for a moment that the system that has done far more for the world’s poor than any other is to blame for this supposed malady of excessive wealth concentration.

Dystopian tales of the future love to paint bleak pictures of a hardscrabble world managed and ravaged by heartless and soulless corporations and a tiny elite class of infinite wealth. Thousands of years of human history, on the other hand, tell us that big (and invariably corrupt, heartless, and soulless) government is the real peril. The people who covet power know the true path to it lies in government, not private enterprise, and they’re all too happy to lie to you to get you to help them along.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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