There are now more billionaires on planet Earth than ever before, according to the recently released Forbes rich list.
The list, based on 2016 figures, includes the names of over 2,000 individuals who between them are worth some $US7.67 trillion, an 18 per cent rise on the 2015 sum.
The rise largely reflects global share market rises which have, of course, received a boost recently from the election of Trump in the US.
Topping the list was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose fortune rose to $US86 billion, an $US 11 billion increase.
Second was investor Warren Buffett ($US75.6 billion) and close behind him at third was Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($72.8 billion).
Australia accounted for 33 names on the list, headed up by Gina Rinehart who rose to 69th, having doubled her wealth in the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, of course, in Australia and elsewhere in the world wages stagnate and attacks on social services including health and education intensify. Large section of the world’s population continue to live in desperate poverty.
In fact, according to Oxfam, the top 8 on the billionaires list control as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – some 3.6 billion people. The top 10 billionaires on the Forbes list had a combined wealth of $558 billion, more than the Gross Domestic Product of Venezuela.
These grotesque imbalances in wealth are laying the basis for social crises which can only be avoided by a rejection of the “free market” ideas that have dominated governments since the 1980s and a return to policies that advance the interests of the majority of the world’s population -working people.