What should we do with the richest 100 people in the world?

Aid organisation Oxfam International said this year that the annual income of the world’s richest 100 people would be enough to end extreme poverty four times over.

It said the richest 100’s net income — rather than wealth, which is much higher — was about $240 billion last year.

Oxfam went on to make some modest demands:

“Closing tax havens — which hold as much as $32 trillion or a third of all global wealth — could yield an additional $189 billion in additional tax revenues.

“In addition to a tax haven crackdown, elements of a global new deal could include: a reversal of the trend towards more regressive forms of taxation; a global minimum corporation tax rate; measures to boost wages compared with returns available to capital; [and] increased investment in free public services and safety nets.”

These modest demands were presented to a World Economic Forum summit attended by representatives of the rich and powerful — and duly ignored after a bit of hand-wringing.

All around the world (including in Australia under a Labor government) there has been the introduction of more regressive taxes, moves to further lower the corporate tax rate, attempts to cut the wages of the poorest paid workers and more privatisation.

As for tax havens, a new Uniting Church study revealed that all but one of Australia's top 20 companies have subsidiaries in low-tax or tax-free jurisdictions.

Here is a proposal that is less modest than Oxfam’s: Expropriate these 100 richest people, put each of them in a comfortable but modest home, give each a living wage and use their wealth to make world poverty history. With the significant leftover change we can address other urgent global issues.

Some will object, saying it is not our property. This, after all, was the argument that richest Australian Gina Rinehart made in her latest comical speech about not being treated like an ATM.

However, the “private property” of the richest few is based on the ongoing and systematic dispossession of many.

Anyone who has studied the industrial revolution in England will remember that a precondition to those earlier industrial capitalists having the human fodder to work in their Dickensian factories was the closures of the “commons”. This dispossession forced poor peasants off the land and into their factories.

That wasn't just a one-off “bad thing” that took place accidentally in 19th century England. It is a process that goes on all around the world — on a much bigger scale — today.

With the flick of a finger on a keyboard by one of the little army of stock market and exchange market agents working for the world's richest, millions are deprived of their property and rendered homeless and impoverished.

Every corporate boardroom act in the interest of boosting the profits of the super-rich few deepens the global climate crisis, which deprives millions more of property and livelihood.

The British Guardian said on May 20: “More than 32 million people fled their homes last year because of disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes — 98% of displacement related to climate change. Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt... Floods in India and Nigeria accounted for 41% of displacement, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council.”

Dare we dream of a different world to this? Dare we challenge the utterly morally dubious “property” claims of the Rineharts of the world? We do at Green Left Weekly. And we do more than dream. We campaign for the change that will make that world a reality.

But we need your continued support to do this. No subsidies from the super-rich or their governments come our way.

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