So I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations today. According to Forbes’ 37th Annual World’s Billionaires List for 2023, the world’s 2,640 billionaires are worth a total of $12.2 trillion (yes, with a T). Now it got me thinking: what if we could somehow redistribute all that wealth but—since we’re being nice and we assume all this wealth was somehow honestly and ethically earned through personal talent, grit, and kind luck—still allow each of the billionaires to keep $1 billion each?
Now, before you cry for all those 2,640 people whose wealth we’re redistributing, please remember that reducing their wealth to $1 billion each by no means makes them paupers: they literally remain billionaires. To put this in perspective, the net worth of the entire British royal family—that’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla down to those minor royals with funny hats—is about $500 million. Even after the wealth redistribution, each of our billionaires would still have double the net worth of the entire House of Windsor. So rather than making them paupers, our rather generous redistribution scheme leaves them with more than a kingly sum.
So, back to the envelope’s backside. If we do take that wealth and leave those 2,640 billionaires with $1 billion each, we will have $9.56 trillion for redistribution or redistributive social spending. So what can we do with this pot? Well, a lot:
· Provide $14,507 to each of the 659 million people living below the international poverty line of $2.15 per person per day
· Fund the UNHCR ($9.1 billion in 2022) 100 times over and give refugees some proper living conditions
· Feed the world’s 828 million people living in hunger
· Close the estimated global healthcare financing gap of $176 billion per year for half a century
· Build 82.4 million Singapore-style public housing flats, which is more than enough to house the more than 100 million estimated homeless people around the world
· Eliminate the $1.75 trillion total accumulated student debt in the US as of 2023, and have enough left over for future generations of college students
· Pay reparations for African American slavery ($4.7 trillion estimate) and Native American genocide ($3.4 billion settlement and counting) several times over
· Match total charitable and philanthropic donations ($485 million in the US in 2022) many times over
· Etc. What good for humanity can you do with $9,560,000,000,000?
Or the billionaires could turn them into gold coins, put them in a large vault, and swim in it just like Scrooge McDuck. That looked fun and not painful at all.