June 19, 2006

Bush's Un-American Base

National boundaries disappear in the nomadic world of super-rich:
"These days, the super-rich - that exclusive group - like to see themselves as citizens of the world. They flit from one continent to the next, wheeling and dealing at 30,000 feet, always a few hundred kilometres ahead of the tax man but only a couple of clicks away from their personal assistants, solicitors, financial advisers, accountants, wives, mistresses and children.

'I was at an amazingly swanky wedding in Paris recently,' says Stephen Bayley, the style guru and art historian. 'With my pitiable suburban reflexes, I asked another guest where he was from. He said: 'I've just flown in from Ibiza. I have a flat here in Paris, but my real home is Rio. Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to my apartment in New York.' Then he added, and this is the interesting bit, 'In this milieu, we don't commit adultery, we travel.''

Once upon a time, the rich put down roots. They had big country estates. They were chairmen of local charities; they hosted the summer fete. Now they are nomads forever in search of fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of another bumper financial harvest...

And never has the gap between the super-rich and the middle-classes been so wide. According to figures by HM Revenues and Customs, the number of people in Britain with annual incomes in excess of £1 million rose eightfold between 1995 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2004, Britons with more than £5 million in liquid assets (money in cash, bank and building society deposits, shares, bonds and unit trusts) had increased by more than 60 per cent from 1997. Since 1990, the number of billionaires in Britain has more than tripled, while those worth in excess £100 million have increased fivefold.

"Many of the new rich don't consider that they belong anywhere in particular," says Stephen Haseler, the author of The Super Rich: The Unjust New World of Global Capitalism. "And the great new borderless world has made it easier than ever to move wealth around. In the old days, social responsibility came with money, and the rich had a genuine identification with the country where they lived."
While that is a UK-oriented story from the Telegaph (via SMH), it applies to all the mega-rich in the world.

My question: if these people can be liberated from the confines of national boundaries, laws and financial conventions, why can't the rest of us as well? Sure, a world without boundaries would be chaotic for a time, but it would have to be far more equitable in the long run. And it would go a long way to removing the most oft-cited reasons for war.


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