Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Forbe's Updates Its List of Billionaires

Forbes has published its annual listing of the world's billionaires. After reviewing this list, observations that I've noted previously still hold true:

1) The vast majority of American billionaires are self-made.

2) A significant majority of France's billionaire's inherited their wealth.

3) When looking at other countries, the percentage of billionaires who are self-made varies in relation to how "free" a given economy is. More socialist countries, like France, have very few self-made billionaires as a percentage of their total, while less socialist ones, like the US, have a much higher percentage. Moderately socialist countries, like the UK, fall in between.

One may reason from these correlations that socialist economies are less dynamic and less innovative, and therefore that they favor "old" wealth at the expense of the new, locking in the "status quo." Perhaps this helps explains why so many billionaires are socialists.

But the numbers are even more telling if we consider things in dollar terms rather than in terms of the number of billionaires. In dollar terms, US billionaires alone account for nearly half of the combined wealth of all the world's billionaires. If we consider the fortunes of all the world's self-made billionaires and compare it to the fortunes of those billionaires who inherited their money, the self-made ones account for the vast majority of the world's wealth. Perhaps I'll take the time to do the actual calculation at some point, but giving the list a quick "once over", I'm betting that better than 80% of the wealth accounted for by the Forbes list is self-made money, and the vast majority of it was made in non-socialist countries.

Thus, if Ayn Rand is right and self-made money measures one's contribution to others, then these self-made men and women have contributed much indeed.

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