Is there growing concern among rich people about global inequality? Perhaps among a minority.
But the concern is not for the well-being of the masses; it’s related to self-preservation.
First there was US multi-billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who wrote in the July 2014 edition of Politico Magazine: “Like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist … seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks … “and so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us ... it’s not if, it’s when.”
Now it’s South African jewellery and fashion billionaire Johann Rupert. Bloomberg Business reported that, in an 8 June speech at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in Monaco, Rupert said: “We cannot have 0.1% of 0.1% taking all the spoils … how is society going to cope with structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and the social warfare? We are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair. So that’s what keeps me awake at night … we’re in for a huge change in society. Get used to it. And be prepared.”
This concern for self-preservation in the face of poverty and inequality is nothing new. François Antoine de Boissy d’Anglas, recommending the 1795 Constitution during the Thermidorian reaction in the French Revolution, said that politicians’ work was to establish “immutable barriers … that prevent poverty from violating the property of the rich”.
That has always been a prime motivation of the ruling elite when they finally appear to acknowledge the great human suffering that is the result of class society.