I declare, I don’t know what passes for journalism these days, but it’s not very impressive.
You would think, from the headline, and indeed from reading the article, that ‘millionaires’ control 39% of the world’s wealth. Right? Turns out, that’s not the case. First of all, ‘millionaire’ is just somebody who has $1 million in ‘investable assets’, which assets are ‘excluding homes, luxury goods and ownership in one’s own company’. So there’s a very good chance that Bill Gates, while being the world’s richest human being but prior to cashing out any of his Microsoft shares, wasn’t a ‘millionaire’ by this definition.
See how this trick works?
And, indeed, the so-called ‘world’s wealth’ is also limited to this same narrow definition of ‘investable assets’. And yet this supposed journalist (and you would think that somebody writing a regular column for the fargin’ Wall Street Journal would know something about journalism) immediately casts these restrictions aside and starts talking about ‘millionaires’ and the ‘world’s wealth’ in the ordinary, comprehensive sense of the terms.
As you can see from the accompanying chart, millionaires control 29% of North America’s wealth, while millionaires control about 38% of the wealth in the Middle East and Africa. While the chart makes it look like millionaire-wealth in America is more concentrated, we also have far more millionaires, so their wealth is more spread out among the millionaire population.
Well, no, they don’t. People with a million in ‘investible assets’ (and how many people have a million in ‘investable’, i.e. liquid, assets? Anywhere?) have that percentage of the world’s ‘investable assets’ — so all this tells us is the distribution of ‘investable assets’. But you wouldn’t know that from the remainder of the article.
Still, the data supports a trend we have been seeing for years: the rise of the global, winner-take-all (or most) economy.
It doesn’t support anything of the sort. It says something that may or may not be interesting about ‘investable assets’, but doesn’t necessarily say anything at all about real wealth, much less anything about a ‘winner-take-all’ economy.
This is the sort of bait-and-switch reasoning that we’ve come to expect from ‘progressive’ demagogues (and I doubt that it’ll be more than 20 minutes before we see it in the fever swamps of The Huffington Post or The Daily Kos), but it’s very sad seeing it in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.