The Global Elites

by Jörgen Eriksson on February 15, 2011

The Great Gatsby

We have a new class of people in the world who transcends borders and who are often referred to as the Global Elite. It s a group partly defined by wealth, featuring the world’s millionaires and billionaires. The global elite are regarded by many as the movers and shakers of the world economy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the elite different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s. They are more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity, and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.

The global elite is a loosely defined group of the richest and most powerful people in the world, including politicians, central bankers, chief executives and lesser mortals, like those who gather at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, traditionally held near the end of January.

The global elites are the financial leaders, the political leaders who generate ideas or populates old ones, and innovators, who come up with new ideas that catch on and changes how people lives. 

Many of them know each other through elite schools, special social media websites, membership clubs and residences in locations such as Monaco, Moscow, Mumbai and Manhattan, but they are not often mentioned in the media. They are the people who shape the world without anyone noticing, those with enough brains, money or influence to affect the lives of large numbers of others.

Default templateSo how dominant are the global elites and where are they located? We can look at this by measuring economic inequality. Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore concentration of wealth among an elite few. The inventions of the modern economy, Google, Amazon, the iPhone, broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions,particularly the explosion of subprime credit, helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.

But the financial crisis and its long aftermath have changed all that. The company, industry and country  bailouts have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider, and not unreasonable, fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

The most common measure of inequality is the Gini coefficient,  a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper "Variability and Mutability". A Gini score of zero means perfect equality: everyone earns the same. A score of one means that one person gets everything. America’s Gini coefficient has risen from 0.34 in the 1980s to 0.38 in the mid-2000s. Germany’s has risen from 0.26 to 0.3 and China’s has jumped from 0.28 to 0.4. In only one large country, Brazil, has the coefficient come down, from 0.59 to 0.55. Surprisingly, over the same period global inequality has fallen, from 0.66 in the mid-1980s to 0.61 in the mid-2000s, according to Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an economist at Columbia University. This is because poorer countries, such as China, have grown faster than richer countries.

in the video below, Robert Guest, Business Editor of The Economist discusses the rise of the global elite. Recently returned from Davos, Robert is the author of an Economist special report on global leaders, which asked if we should worry about the rising power of global elites. According to Guest, the global elite does more good than harm.

The Global Elite


Below is a Canadian video with an interview of Chrystia Freeland, where she explains an article she wrote in the Atlantic, about the lives of the new global elites.

Rise of the Global Elite

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