How much is enough?

  • May 23, 2012

I saw this in the paper today. It tells us that Australia’s own Gina Reinhart is now officially the world’s richest woman. Hooray! Her fortune now stands at almost 30 billion dollars.

For people like this, how much is enough?

And what does she personally do that makes her worth this sort of money? Does she dig holes? Carry ore around? Serve customers? Do the books? Does she do anything useful?

I know some will argue that she generates wealth for others by being an astute operator, and thus providing jobs and paying taxes. That may be so, but does that really make her worth $30 billion? That’s a LOT of money – much more than she could require to live better than anyone could imagine.

And whatever good she might do, can it balance out the harm that must be caused by this sort of concentration of wealth? That money isn’t out floating around in the rest of the economy (where you and I might occasionally see some of it) if it’s stuffed in her bank account (yes, I know her wealth is on paper and that’s not the same as money in the bank, but still…)

At some point, from a group dynamics point of view, someone who manages to accumulate and hold onto such disproportionate wealth HAS to start being viewed by the rest of society (or at least a large part of it) as causing harm to the group as a whole, don’t they?

Perhaps that’s why Gina is buying media resources, so she can start to manage the messages that we hear about her, and not hate her.

Will we one day turn on Gina and people like her – the Wall Street bankers, mega-rich CEOs and their ilk?

Will we need a revolution to get rid of the obscenely rich? It’s hard to see how else such entrenched privilege can ever be undone.

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