The Other I

December 29, 2014

Scandalous, no?

I have never thought of myself as wealthy.  I’m comfortable but I have never been able to spend money without regard for the bottom line.  Still, although I’ve often been careful, I’ve never had to choose between eating and heating, which is sort of my short-hand definition of poverty.  And I have been given the almost priceless gift of an extremely good education.

I am not a die-hard socialist, but I have a deep concern about the kind of poverty people cannot escape, no matter how hard they work, how careful and disciplined or clever they may be.  Systems in which there are extremes of extraordinary wealth and inescapable poverty seem to me to be one of the greatest moral outrages our economic systems can sustain.

And so I have been rather piously outraged when I read statistics that in 2013:

  • 8.4% of the people in the world own 83.4% of all household wealth – that is, property and financial assets like stocks and bank accounts
  • while at the same time, 67% of the world’s population have a net worth of less than $10,000
  • which includes 64% – that’s 3.2 billion people – who have no net worth at all: no property, no bank accounts, nothing.

Then I found where I belong.  Sort of slipped into the statistics is the information that only 393 million people in the world have a net worth of $100,000 or more – including property and financial assets.  That’s in the global top 10%.  10% of us own 86% of all the wealth in the world.

I’ve always known that life isn’t fair.  And I’ve always known that I’ve been given more than my equal share of good fortune.

I don’t feel guilty that I’ve been so lucky.  And although I think there is obviously a place for charitable giving, living on state or charitable hand outs simply because one doesn’t like work is as immoral as outright theft.  We need to pay our way, we need to be needed, we need to make a contribution.

But how to create systems which support human dignity and opportunities for work for everyone with our huge diversity of abilities and preferences has challenged far greater minds than mine.  The answers are not simple, however morally outraged I and many others might feel about the existence of so much profound poverty in the world.

I do think that it’s one of those problems – like the problem of human-created environmental destruction – that is worth struggling with though.

The statistics for the United States in a way are more disturbing than the global statistics although possibly more hopeful if we want to do something about it.  But enough for today.  I will tackle the subject of inequality in my own country in the next post.







  1. Yup. It’s complicated. Infinite issues in play. Looking forward to more of your thoughts on this – so tragically relevant. My thoughts are not well formed on this topic.


    Comment by sanstorm — December 29, 2014 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

    • My thoughts on the subject may not be well-formed either, but I will admit I have a lot of them and I do more reading on the subject of economics than on any other topic. So I will continue to think out loud, and hopefully continue to learn.

      On Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 9:12 PM, The Other I wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Terry Sissons — December 30, 2014 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  2. The disparity is even worse here where I live:-(


    Comment by tskraghu — December 30, 2014 @ 12:41 am | Reply

    • Yes, culture, natural resources, immigration patterns, colonialism, religions all make such a big difference both to how different societies got to where they are now, and how they can best move forward. From over here, India impresses me as a country with huge depth, but complex challenges too. It is fascinating to watch –less depressing than watching some of the self-serving infighting in my own country. Though you are in the midst of it, perhaps even in some ways at the cutting edge — “fascinating” might not be exactly the first description that comes to mind?

      On Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 12:41 AM, The Other I wrote:



      Comment by Terry Sissons — December 30, 2014 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

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