In early October, investment Bank Crédit Suisse released its annual report on world wealth. It literally is full of interesting finds, but one of them particularly struck me. It comes to the distribution of assets in Russia. According to the report, 35% of all wealth in the country are in the hands of 110 people. I can't believe this. At the same time, a soul of 93.7% of respondents $ 10,000 or less.
As the authors of the report, this figure makes Russia the country with severe inequalities in the distribution of wealth around the world. The Americans is still relatively good, although they begin to show more concern about the growing gap in their own country. But even in the current environment of wealth in USA is distributed much better than in Russia. That is, could be worse, right?
Of course, I could. But I don't see reasons to be happy. Russia is only the most striking example of the global trend, which is one of the most dangerous potential threats to democracy in our era. We are talking about the spread of oligarchy.
The problem is that in today's world is incredibly rich, and that colossal wealth goes hand in hand with enormous power. Russia here again is a magnificent example of the risks. In the 1990s, a handful of close to power of businessmen decided to take advantage of privileged relations with the Kremlin under Boris Yeltsin and gripped in their hands all the fruits of the privatization of the jewels of the national industry and especially the oil sector.
These businessmen, without the slightest twinge of conscience tried to use its economic clout for political purposes. They have secured Yeltsin's re-election as President in 1996, controlling all appointments in the ministries dictate government policy. Not surprisingly, transformed into the policy of the moguls soon dubbed the oligarchs (in Greek "oligarchy" means "the power of few").
One of these businessmen, recently deceased Boris Berezovsky, has led to the Prime Minister, the former KGB agent. However, special commendation from Vladimir Putin he did not wait. After his election as President he quickly undermined the influence of Berezovsky and forced former benefactor to flee abroad.
Putin deprived of power and other magnates of the Yeltsin era (in particular this applies to persons serving ten years Mikhail Khodorkovsky), and then put them is another group of businessmen (many of them had links with the former Soviet secret services) who owed their status to Putin. One of them, Igor Sechin (the former KGB and the head of the largest oil companies in the country) is considered the second most powerful man in Russia after Putin himself.
Be that as it may, this issue concerns not only Russia. Today there is no doubt that globalization and unleashed her powerful economic force has allowed a very small minority to gain unprecedented wealth and power.
Call them what you like: superclass, plutocrats, "global meritocracy". Essentially it does not change. They are the perfect example of the connection between money and political power. And this issue is bothering an increasing number of voters from London to Kuala Lumpur.
In addition, it is an issue with many facets. For example, in China, membership in the Communist party often becomes the shortest route to riches. Many of today's political scandals are associated with the adventures of the "Golden youth" of the descendants of veterans of the politicians who embody quirky, but powerful blend of Marxism-Leninism and capitalism.
In recent years, thanks to outstanding investigative journalism we found out many amazing things about the magnitude of the privileges that are close to the families of political leaders such as President XI Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao.
Although, in fact, unlikely it really was for someone opening. Time throughout China managed only seven members of the Standing Committee of the political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, it turns out that a very small number of families owned almost unlimited control over one of the largest economies in the world.
In such circumstances it is natural that political and economic power reinforce each other.
It is easy to see, in current China situation is the result of running autocratic elite project of economic liberalization. In developed Western countries things are different: there are more competitors, and the wealth and political influence are distributed on a wider scale.
But this is only a very weak consolation for... let's say, for the Americans, who have not won anything from the recent Golden age of their state. Economic equality in the U.S. has steadily increased during the first three decades after the Second world war, but then stopped because of the stagnation and growing competition from other countries in the 1970-ies.
This is what the economist Joseph Stiglitz (Joseph Stiglitz) in a recent article: "last year on 1% of the richest Americans accounted for 22% of GDP, by 0.1% — 11%. Since 2009 at 1% of the richest have 95% of the income. At the same time, a recent survey showed that the average wage in the U.S. has remained unchanged for almost a quarter of a century".
In addition, the incredible acquiescence of the American laws in lobbying and financing of election campaigns allowed the representatives of the rich elite to make huge impact on policy. Anyone who watches American politics, I heard about the huge amounts spend conservative moguls like the Koch brothers. About rich Democrats like George Soros (George Soros) and Tom Steyer (Tom Steyer) say less, but they actively use their money to influence policy.
Large enterprises and industrial conglomerates, there are still little conspicuous and easily can buy parliamentarians to those held necessary to increase their profit laws.
In one recent study, it was found that 40% of all contributions to political campaigns in 2012 came from one hundredth percent of American families. This figure well reflects the existence of a new economic elite that is becoming increasingly aware of their influence in politics. This is not to mention the growing indifference of other segments of the population, which is less interested in political participation.
Finally, the decline of alternative centers of power such as trade unions, undoubtedly contributes to the rise of cynicism and indifference.
All this inevitably undermines the American democratic system. (In such circumstances it is not surprising that the U.S. Supreme court began consideration of a maximum allowable contributions to political campaigns).
As a result, in the U.S. sparked unprecedented debate over the causes of the new inequality and its consequences at the political level. Are professionals like George packer (George Packer) and Tyler Cowen (Tyler Cowen) enthusiastically discussing the blurring of the foundations of the social contract. In the new book by economist Andrew Deaton (Andrew Deaton) "the Great escape" (The Great Escape) contains the memorable phrase of the lawyer Louis Brandeis (Louis Brandeis): "If democracy become a plutocracy, the poor become powerless".
But who is able to reverse the tendency? Some are set extremely skeptical (Cowan, for example, believes that current inequality is largely due to technological progress). Others believe that we will be able to deal with the movement of society to power with the help of a few rules that will limit the field of play (primarily in education, infrastructure and health).
Measures to limit the influence of money on politics too would be not superfluous (assuming that we can create the ones that will really work). If you still believe in the superiority of the market, the package of measures could include those which would serve for the development of truly fair competition, and not the prosperity of the large enterprises that succeed only through connections in politics.
Of course, this does not mean that we need to break with capitalism. As noted by many economists, globalization has achieved relative prosperity to many people who previously did not dare anything of the kind even dream of. (Recall, for example, about the Chinese peasants who can now afford to eat three times a day — in the past it seemed like something incredible).
Over the past half century the General state of the economy and development indicators improved significantly. Be that as it may, this does not mean that we don't need to try to make an incredible income elite ultimately did not deprive the civil rights of all the others. Because otherwise we are waiting for a very bleak future.
But will the rich people to just give up they have gained power? Because although the movement "Capture wall street" and lashed out at 1% of the richest with unprecedented fervor and passion, his political impact was almost zero.
More than ever, we need new political movement that could unite the citizens and to find the right answer to the increasingly pronounced concentration of influence and power in the hands of a handful of people. In addition, it is possible that some of the most enlightened plutocrats can offer their ideas about how to return power to the majority. Where is bill gates when you need him?
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