Dangers of Global Wealth Inequality

 

A Credit Swisse Report says that the top 0.7% of the world’s population, those with net wealth of $1 million or more, about 34 million people, own 45% of all global wealth.  It says there are 123,800 Ultra High Net Worth individuals worldwide who have a net worth of more than $50 million.  Fortune summarized the report.

The Guardian says that there are 199,235 Ultra High Net Worth individuals, whose combined net worth is around $27.7 trillion, about 40% of the world’s GDP.

This increasing concentration of wealth may have implications for financial liquidity.  To be liquid, markets need buyers and sellers, and this means there needs to be some diversity.  You need people who are looking for different things from their investments.  As you narrow the group making investments, you narrow their interests.  At some point you might end up with a small group of people who all want to sell.  The people who would in the past have been  buyers, now would not have enough resources to buy the huge amounts the superrich want to sell.  The result might be a violent dive in the price of the assests in disfavor, whether they are stocks, bonds, or real estate.  The same would be true if all the superrich wanted to buy some particular asset.  The result would be at best increasing volatility, and at worst market crashes.  These crashes might have less effect on the superrich than on ordinary people, because the superrich would probably be diversified.  For example, a big loss in their real estate investments would be cushioned by their investments in the stock and bond markets, or the art market, etc.  However, for ordinary people a big loss in the value of their home might be devastating, because they would not have other big, valuable assets to cushion the loss of their home value.

This is more or less what happened in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

The other side of that crisis was what happened to the banks.  A few banks then and now were humongous, dominating the market for complicated financial instruments, like bonds made up of home mortgages.  Having only a few huge banks is like having a small group of superrich people, the chances of some event affecting all of the players becomes larger as the group of players becomes smaller.  Dodd-Frank and the Volker Rule were supposed to help remedy this, but so appears to have done little, despite (or because of) the loud protests of the big banks against any restrictions.

 

 

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