Walking the Line


In their recent report on global wealth distribution, OXFAM International revealed that in 2016, eight individuals held the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

What does that look like on an a properly scaled graph?

It turns out that chart is actually impossible to find. And for good reason.

Not only does it not even fit on a sheet of paper, it doesn’t even fit on the planet Earth.

But lets try and imagine. Grab yourself a pencil and make a pencil point dot.  The width of that dot represents one person.  The height: one US dollar.

Now imagine a line that basically stretches all the way from San Francisco to Lincoln, Nebraska.  That 1500 mile line contains the number of pencil dots that would represent all of the 4.8 billion adults on the planet.

For the first 180 miles of dots – all the way to the Sierra Mountains, the line basically doesn’t exist. These dots have nothing.  For the next 600 miles, the line is a couple inches wide and eventually a couple feet thick. Most of those folks in the first half of humanity are worth less than a thousand bucks a piece.

In case you’re wondering, if you’re a newly minted millionaire, you’re way near the end, somewhere in the burbs, about eight miles outside of downtown Lincoln.  And your line of dollars?  It’s somewhat less then the height of the Worlds Trade Center.

The line continues at about that height essentially until we get to the last 3/8ths of an inch of the 1500 miles.  That last little itsy bitsy bit is the width of pencil. These folks, keep in mind are eight miles away from the new millionaire, and (keep in mind, he’s just a dot) way out of sight.  That 3/8ths of an inch consists of just 8 people.

Now. As for the very last two pencil points, how high are their lines?

This is where it gets really crazy.

Mount Everest?   5 1/2 miles high. The highest jump from space?  Twenty-six miles by Google VP, Dr. Alan Eustace.  The orbit of the space station?  248 miles above the surface of the earth.

But the wealth of the two richest men on earth?  Get this. Those pencil dots representing each of their dollars side by side would extend 22,059 miles into space.

As for the eight guys?  Their amount of pencil lead in the last 3/8ths of an inch would equal all the pencil lead representing all the wealth owned by all the dots in the line stretching from San Francisco to the border of Wyoming.

.

And now, whoever’s reading, pretty much all of you, you can basically stop. Because at this point it might make sense to narrow this audience to just the last eight guys (and they are all guys). They’re all pretty smart and, as far as I know, pretty good folks.

Bill, Amancio, Warren, Carlos, Jeff, Mark, Larry, and Michael, here are four questions:

1. Is this necessary?

2. Is it moral and just?

3. Is it effective and efficient?

4. Is it stable and safe?

And now a fifth question.  Based on your answers to the first four, does the disparity matter, and what would you each propose we do about it?

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