I never cease to be amazed at the richest people’s ability to keep on being brilliant at what they do.
Whereas most normal people have seen no rise in their living standards for a decade, these geniuses just keep smashing their good fortune out of the park.
As the annual Sunday Times Rich List shows, Britain’s 1,000 wealthiest individuals now possess a record £771.3billion, up £47.8bn on last year, with 151 people now worth more than a billion.
What talent, and dedication to your bank balance, that must take. Especially as we know it has nothing to do with exploiting governments, abusing workers and blatant tax avoidance.
Among their number is Sir James Dyson, who upped his wealth by £3.1bn to £12.6bn, despite the great patriotic Brexiteer pleading that “economic forces” left him with no option but to move his company’s headquarters to Singapore.
They’re also masters at justifying their stratospheric growth in riches, claiming it’s good for society as it inevitably trickles down.
Yet this week, the Charities Aid Foundation reported a noticeable drop in the number of super-rich individuals donating more than 1 per cent of their wealth.
It’s not just the super-rich, either. It’s the just-about-very-rich. Take Tesco boss Dave Lewis who picked up a £4.6million annual pay packet months after stating 9,000 jobs were at risk in “a major cost-cutting drive”.
Well, there’s costs and costs isn’t there?
This confirmation of how easy it is to keep getting much more loaded if you’re already loaded, comes in a week when Nobel-prize winning economist Sir Angus Deaton claimed Britain is on the road to becoming one of the most unequal nations on Earth.
Pointing out that CEOs of FTSE 100 firms are now paid 145 times more than their average worker (up from 47 times 20 years ago), Sir Angus issued a warning.
“There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it is only working for part of the population. People really feel that not everybody is having a fair crack anymore.".
But all hope is not lost. We also heard this week that Julian Richer, owner of audio chain Richer Sounds, is handing control of his business to staff now that he’s hit 60.
He is giving them 60 per cent of his shares and triggering windfalls for 531 employees, who’ll receive £1,000 for every year they’ve worked there.
Richer Sounds refuses to employ people on zero hours contracts, donates 15 per cent of its profits to charity, and is founded on “the ethical principles of being decent, honest and truthful”.
And last year, Richer founded Tax Watch UK, an investigative think-tank, dedicated to the research and exposure of aggressive tax-avoiding corporations.
Those FTSE billionaires no doubt scoffed at his naivety, especially as he used to be a Tory party donor.
How can a chap who used to bat for them turn into a covert Marxist?
How can a chap go on Radio 4, as Richer did this week, and say “inequality in this country is the worst I’ve known in my lifetime”?
I sense a changing mood among some young entrepreneurs and am optimistic more may begin to see the bigger picture.
That it’s not all about accumulating a wealth you can never spend and trampling your workers underfoot along the way. That there’s a better definition of success.
Maybe in the midst of today’s corporate indecency there’s hope for the decent.
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