IN 1998 Peter Mandelson, a leading member of Britain’s then Labour government, said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes.” Today Lord Mandelson is more uptight; he worries about the rising inequality and stagnating middle-class incomes brought about by globalisation. His volte-face is typical of the global elite. The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, says that rising inequality casts a “dark shadow” over the global economy. A recent OECD report warns that rising inequality will be a “major policy challenge” for all countries.
In a new study, “Rich People, Poor Countries: The Rise of Emerging-Market Tycoons and their Mega Firms”, Caroline Freund of the Peterson Institute in Washington, DC, makes an important contribution to understanding this challenge. She draws a distinction between rich-world billionaires and those of the emerging economies, whose numbers have been rising at a faster rate. In 2004 the emerging world accounted for 20% of the 587 billionaires in Forbes magazine’s annual survey. By 2014 it accounted for 43% of the 1,645 billionaires on the list. In the rich…Continue reading