# How much of the world economy can one person control?

1. May 16, 2010

### Loren Booda

Is there a constraint as to the amount of wealth a single speculator can amass?

2. May 16, 2010

### apeiron

Wealth closely follows a powerlaw distribution. Which is good evidence of an orderly relationship emerging in an expanding global economy.

A few years back, I was looking at the Forbes 2006 list of richest Americans, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates was top on $53 billion. Sheldon Adelson, a casino owner, at number 3 had less than half that, or$20 billion. Then 30th placed Nike founder Philip Knight has $8 billion and 300th placed winemaker Ernest Gallo has$1.3 billion.

And to afford these super rich, the number at the other end of the scale has to increase in proportion. Another billion very poor were added to the world population over the past decade.

3. May 16, 2010

### Jimmy Snyder

Yes, no one person can accumulate more than 100% of total world wealth. I know, I've tried. For a married couple, it's 200%.

4. May 16, 2010

### dilletante

With all due respect, that is a ridiculous statement. Bill Gates did not impoverish millions of people to gain his wealth, he is a net creator of wealth for millions of people.

The idea that there is a limited amount of wealth to go around, and each time someone makes a dollar, someone else has to lose a dollar, is a fallacy.

5. May 16, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

Both of those are false, and the first is a very common misconception about wealth. I'm not even sure why people believe it, though. If it were true, none of the modern age would be possible because there wouldn't be enough money in the world to support even a few thousand people in modern life.

The second, I don't know where you got it - did you just make it up on the spot? Heck, the world hasn't even added that many people total over that time!

Here's a graph of the world GDP per capita over the last 500 years, showing a basically geometric increase: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_GDP_per_capita_1500_to_2003.png

The wiki on poverty shows even the poorest parts of the world have made substantial progress even over the relatively short timeframe of the last 14 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty

For example, the poverty rate of sub-saharan Africa is the worst in the world and has dropped from 46% to 41% over 14 years. Most of the world's poverty rate drop over the last 25 years or so, though, has been in China, which has caused the global poverty rate to fall by half over that timeframe. China's alone fell from 85% to 16% over that timeframe: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats (2/3 of the way down)

Reading the graph for the $2 a day level, it looks like it dropped from about 49% to 40% between 1994 and 2004 (closest it had to the past 10 years). In 1994, the global popluation was 5.607 billion and in 2004 it was 6.391 billion, so the number of people living on$2 a day went up slightly, from 2.747 billion to 2.556 billion. Or, while the world population increased by 784 million, the number living on $2 a day went up by 191 million. Last edited: May 16, 2010 6. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor To the OP's question: Bill Gates is about the limit of what one person can control and his was a very special case. Bill Gates and his team didn't just create a company or an industry, they spawned a new age in human development. At the height of his wealth/influence, he was in control of the Information Age. 7. May 16, 2010 ### Desiree Not so much so in the stock market, which is pure gambling. For every dollar an investor/trader gains, there has occurred an equal amount of$$loss by another investor/trader. Stocks just don't go up for ever, there comes the crash and recession every decade or so. It's akin to the 1st law of thermodynamics about energy; here wealth is not being created, it just takes the form of loss/profit. 8. May 16, 2010 ### Jimmy Snyder Rockefeller, and others, surpassed Gates' limit by far. http://www.dailywealth.com/457/A-Man-Richer-Than-Buffett-and-Gates-Combined" [Broken] Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017 9. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor That's the same misconception as above. No, the stock market is not a zero sum game. The vast majority of money invested in the stock market grows over the long term. That includes a large fraction of virtually everyone's retirement savings. Certainly, but that doesn't take away from the fact that over the very long term, the stock market averages about 8% a year in growth after inflation. Wealth isn't generated in the stock market per se, so that's not completely wrong, but it is mostly wrong: wealth is generated by the companies that are represented in the stock market growing. The growth of a company is reflected in the stock price, which is a reflection of the perceived value of a company. Again, it isn't a zero sum game: as long as the economy grows, the stock market will grow too. 10. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor Yeah, I was thinking that was possible. A difference of 6x. And you know, when compared as a fraction of the world's wealth, the difference is probably bigger. But they lived in a different time and Gates is probably near the limit now. The biggest difference? Gates was trust-busted and they weren't. Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017 11. May 16, 2010 ### Jimmy Snyder Rockefeller was. It made him even richer. 12. May 16, 2010 ### apeiron I'll repeat what I said the last time this came up.... And to the extent that the whole world has got richer, it is down to the extent that the whole world has been moving to a fossil fuel burning economy. Wealth isn't created by Gates and other entrepreneurs, its all based on an accelerating degradation of a cheap energy source. I'm suprised at your admiration of Gates too. He just learnt about monopolistic marketing tactics from the best, IBM. Computer and software companies are themselves a very good example of the emergence of powerlaw wealth via the Peter principle. 13. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor Was he? Dang, I need to brush up on that then.  Oh, I see: when he was trust-busted, he then got proportional shares of the 34 new companies. That caused his wealth to grow. Still, MS wasn't broken up, AFAIK, they were just ordered to change their practices and punished. I don't think that really affects the issue much, though: the Sherman Act helped prevent MS from becoming more powerful. Last edited: May 16, 2010 14. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor None of that addresses the two factually wrong assertions you made in your previous post. You're just trying to distract from that. And you've added one more (that I care about - very little of that big quote was worth anything): No. Bill Gates capitalized on a mistake by IBM. IBM expected that their monopoly would allow them to dominate the new PC world, but they were wrong. Microsoft gained power by providing an open software architecture on which to build comptuers. The so-called IBM PC "clones". It was only much later that MS started to wield monopoly power. 15. May 16, 2010 ### Desiree Wealth in not being generated in the market, it's the fictitious higher share prices that makes you believe the whole market has grown over a certain period of time. The companies which go public, are under no obligation to buy back the shares they sold to the public and every now and then they sell even more shares in order to survive. It's the new/future investors that bring more money to the table in the hope that their money will grow too. If all the investors decide to pull their money out of the market, you see all the stocks will go to a penny in just one hectic day without affecting the performance of those companies. The companies are doing their job and people are betting on how well they are doing it, a stock price has nothing to do with the actual value of a company. People bet on the stocks as if companies were horses. Investing in the stocks is no different than the Ponzi scheme Berni Madoff ran, as long as people don't panic and keep pumping money to the market, EVERYBODY is happy, the only thing that ruins this joyful ride is the sudden pull-out of funds, which reveals the whole scheme. For instance, stock market crashes of 1929 and the recent late 2008/early 2009 have proved that stock investing is nothing but participating in a collective Ponzi scheme, in which nobody is guilty, but greedy. I have stated this before on another financial forum that, the only legitimate investment would be if the companies committed to buy back all the common shares they sold to the public! Last edited: May 16, 2010 16. May 16, 2010 ### apeiron Your facts are "whack" as usual. I used to write in great detail about IBM's monopolistic practices (how it saw off the BUNCH, how it attempted to fight off the mainframe clones). And all about the early days of PCs and open software. Hey, I even had breakfast with Gates on the day he launched Windows in Europe (his tricky relationship with IBM was the conversation of course). Do you not remember how IBM was trying to tie MS to OS2 and Gates had the balls to go with his own compatible operating system instead (but not open Unix) because he knew from IBM that control of the operating systems was control of the marketplace? If MS monopolistic intentions took time to be achieved, they were certainly there from the start. And it was the trust-busters experiences with IBM that meant they were quicker to act, as far as they could, the second time round. IBM certainly made a mistake in letting PCs get away on them (just as they did with minis and DEC). They very nearly retrieved the situation but Gates - who did not need to care about who manufactured the hardware, only who got the software royalities - could afford to use the clones to lever his way into a monopoly situation. If MS really cared about openness, there was Unix. Both IBM and MS were pressured to make it run on their platforms and managed to make it run very poorly indeed. 17. May 16, 2010 ### apeiron The truth is somewhere between these two extremes. Owning shares normally means getting a dividend return, so P/E ratios measure something "real". But then you do get the speculative bubbles, the insider trades, and all the other things that turn the market into a different kind of game - one designed more to suck wealth out of the pockets of the average fool. Or at best, to mortgage future earnings and start spending them today. And the third direction in which money is being sucked into this system is from the poor third world as I pointed out. Cheap labour, exported pollution, and all the other good stuff that Western "wealth" is based on. @ Russ....the world may all be turning wealthy middleclass in your book, but the demographics say otherwise.... "In total, the world will add approximately 60 million people each year and reach a total of 8 billion by the 2030s. Ninety-five percent of that increase will occur in developing countries,'' Source: United States Joint Forces Command's Joint Operating Environment 2010 You ought to grab a copy and read what it says about US debt and peak oil. Pretty sobering stuff. 18. May 16, 2010 ### Jimmy Snyder These statements are contradictory. 19. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor I didn't say wealth is generated in the market, I said that the market prices are a reflection of the value of the companies being traded. That isn't true. The stock market is not a pyramid scheme. That's true, but it doesn't have anything to do with the issue, much less reality. Those two phrases directly contradict each other. Sure, but the difference is that you can win over the long term with the stock market, but you can't with horses. That just plain isn't true. That would be true if the stock market never recovered, but it does. Why would I care if a company wanted to buy back the stock I have? That's just plain not the purpose of stocks (you are describing bonds). Stocks are a share of ownership in the company. 20. May 16, 2010 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor I'm not going to continue following your misdirection. You made some claims, they were factually wrong, now you're trying to distract from that. 21. May 16, 2010 ### WhoWee A sell off of the entire market is nonsense. If every stock went to a penny - it would create the greatest financial opportunity of all time for anyone who purchased shares (at a penny). Stocks represent ownership in a company - equity. In a Ponzi scheme - there is no value. 22. May 16, 2010 ### mheslep Yes thanks for that one. I guessed that today's super rich are less super than the gilded age players, but six times less? As a percent of the total wealth, now vs then it must be double / triple that again or twelve to eighteen times less.. Also as a percentage of total wealth, I guess that government now claims twelve to eighteen times more of the total pie than it did in the 19th century. Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017 23. May 16, 2010 ### mheslep Gambling on stocks aside, it is not true that the price has nothing to do with the actual value. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dividend" [Broken]. Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017 24. May 16, 2010 ### Desiree You are right, no one would care if a company wanted to buy back the stock as long as there are buyers out there who are willing to pay you cash(like you paid in the first place) for a piece of paper, which shows you own 1000 shares of ABCD. If for instance, one bought 1,000 shares of ABCD at$50/share and then 6 months later nobody is willing to pay them even \$20,000 for those shares, then they are robbed. Because with a piece of paper in your hand that shows you own 1000 shares of ABCD, you cant go to the grocery store and pay for your groceries. You couldn't even pay for your rent or bills either. That worthless piece of paper is not cash, nor a material commodity like gold or wheat, which you could give to somebody and get something back in exchange.

My point was, the original issuer of that piece of paper (the public company) should at least be under the obligation to buy it back for the original price, which to my knowledge, this is not the case.

25. May 16, 2010

### mheslep

Even in worse case calamitous situations that's not what happens across the board. A more accurate description is that the market temporarily shuts down, or collapses because the buyers and sellers can no longer agree on a price. That is, the owner of the stock knows that the stock, say a coal mining company, has real intrinsic value even if everyone in the public sphere is temporarily too scared to buy the stock above 'a penny', so the owner refuses to sell. That coal company may pay dividends every quarter, and own thousands of acres of coal fields/mines, so the to the seller the share price is never worth nothing. Similarly in a housing panic you may not find anyone willing to buy your house for more than a penny, but the house has value, you, living there, know that full well and refuse to sell and in your small instance 'collapse' the market.

Last edited: May 17, 2010