Why We Can’t Afford the Rich

   0   0 Blog

SCN_0035“Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.”  Le Père Goriot (1835) Honoré de Balzac  [“The secret of the great fortunes without apparent cause is a forgotten crime, because it has been properly done.]

Columbia University sociologist Shamus Khan has observed that rich people think of themselves as “a collection of talented individuals who have unique capacity to navigate our world.”  It is time that we, the rest of the world, took a close look at these claims. 

In his new book – Why We Can’t Afford the Rich (Policy Press) – Andrew Sayer examines the truly wealthy and finds that the higher you go up within the top 1%, in other words moving beyond the top paid professionals into the realm of high and ultra-high net worth individuals, the more likely it is that these people will be involved in the financial and property sectors, and the greater will be their reliance on unearned income from capital gains, dividends, stocks and shares, and other financial assets.  They are also more likely to be predominantly men.

Why We Can’t Afford the Rich is an exploration of how the neo-liberal project has boosted the wealth of the globalised rent-seeking class.  As Sayer notes in the opening chapter ( A Guide to Wealth Extraction):

“. . .some people can get an income by extracting wealth from the economy simply through their control of key resources that others need but lack, and by charging them for their use . . . Access to mechanisms of wealth extraction, rather than wealth creation, is what marks (the rich) out.”

This blogger will be reviewing Why We Can’t Afford the Rich in the next edition of Tax Justice Focus.  This book is a serious enquiry into the inflated claims and self-worth of a tiny elite whose wealth has become grotesquely out of proportion to any contribution they might have made in the past or are making in the present.

The rise and rise of inequality, which threatens to take most societies back to levels of social division not seen since the nineteenth century, is in itself a major cause for global concern, but the social harm caused by rich people is compounded by their extravagantly wasteful and environmentally damaging lifestyles.  Far from being role models for others to aspire to, the lifestyles of rich people should be see as dire warnings of where the planet is headed if we fail to curtail greed and  excessive consumption.

Packed with useful information and insights, this is a useful complement to Thomas Pikkety’s Capital in the Twenty First Century, and makes a serious challenge to the many claims propagated by rich people and their minions.

For now, ahead of publishing a full review of Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, the last word goes to an economist who was very clear in his thinking about how harmful it can be to elevate the status of rich people above the rest of us:

“This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition . . is . . the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”  The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith (1759)

 


Related Posts

The BVI: Responsible for worldwide tax losses of $37.5 billion a year

BVI report blogAn extraordinary report by consultants Capital Economics, for BVI Finance, claims that the British Virgin Islands are responsible for $1.5 trillion of assets invested around the world, and that these result in 2.2 million jobs and $15 billion in tax revenue. A better approximation would be that the BVI imposes global tax losses of $37.5 […]

READ MORE →

Event: Making Tax Work for Women in the UK and Globally

Invitation_ Tax and Gender eventOn Wednesday 28th June 2017 at 16.30 our very own Liz Nelson will be speaking at an event in London that aims to bring together gender and tax justice advocates to highlight the need for coherent and gender-responsive fiscal policies to safeguard the rights of women and girls both in the UK and globally. The […]

READ MORE →

Historic event on women, human rights and tax justice in Bogota

BogotaLast week civil society organisations, researchers, labour union activists and policy makers met in Bogota, Colombia to explore how tax justice issues can ensure governments, multinational corporations and others meet their obligations to women in order to secure their full range of human rights. The Women’s Rights and Tax Justice conference opened with a conversation […]

READ MORE →

The Offshore Wrapper: the Panama Papers, one year on

Photos from the Protest outside PwC 1 Embankment Place, part of the Global week of action for tax justiceWelcome to the Offshore Wrapper – your weekly update from TJN.  Happy Paniversary! This week it’s been one year since the Panama Papers were leaked, and a number of organisations around the world have been marking the occasion though the global week of action for tax justice. In London, activists from the TJN and the […]

READ MORE →

Protesting PwC: Professionals Without Conscience

Photos from the Protest outside PwC 1 Embankment Place, part of the Global week of action for tax justiceThis week is the global week of action for tax justice and on Wednesday 5th April activists from the Tax Justice Network and Methodists for Tax Justice held a protest outside the London offices of Price Waterhouse Coopers. The global week of action for tax justice is happening one year after the release of the […]

READ MORE →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top