Why are we so intrigued by enormous wealth? Year after year, organisations like the magazine Forbes and the news service Bloomberg publish lists of the richest people in the world, and we lap them up like puppies at the food bowl.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Rich lists are now so popular they are updated in real time. Business Maverick published a story in mid-April 2021 on African global dollar billionaires, and it was one of the best-read stories of the week. Granted, this particular tally was unusually interesting because it coincided with the pandemic, and also because the increase in global billionaires exploded during 2020.
The already massively rich got enormously richer during the global pandemic. The numbers are eye-popping. The number of billionaires on Forbes’ 35th annual list of the world’s wealthiest (people with a net wealth of $1-billion or more) exploded to 2,755, roughly 660 more than a year ago. That means one person was being added to the list every 17 hours. Compare this with 1987, when there were only 140 dollar billionaires.
The total net worth of the group has also exploded. In a year, their wealth grew from $8-trillion to…