With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.
Johnson, who heads the Institute of New Economic Thinking and was previously managing director at Soros, said societies can tolerate income inequality if the income floor is high enough. But with an existing system encouraging chief executives to take decisions solely on their profitability, even in the richest countries inequality is increasing.
Johnson added: “People need to know there are possibilities for their children – that they will have the same opportunity as anyone else. There is a wicked feedback loop. Politicians who get more money tend to use it to get more even money…”
So what is the solution to having the new voices being sufficiently recognised to actually change the status quo into one where those with power realise they do matter?
Former New Zealand PM Helen Clarke said: “Solutions are there. What’s been lacking is political will. Politicians do not respond to those who don’t have a voice In the end this is all about redistributing income and power…”
Author, philosopher and former academic Rebecca Newberger-Goldstein saw the glass half full, drawing on history to prove society does eventually change for the better. She said Martin Luther King was correct in his view that the arch of history might be long, but it bends towards justice.
I have to smile as the topic comes round and round, again. In my experience with selling to the very rich – and occasionally to folks a lot richer than that – I’d keep an eye on who’s buying global-class ocean-going sailboats. If the world devolves into anarchy, the fossil fuel processing and distribution network falls apart pretty easily.
Folks who want more than anything else to escape responsibilities will probably take to the sea. May even have an island stashed somewhere. Face it. Some of these folks can afford to buy small countries. 🙂