Concentration of Wealth in a Few: is this the End-game of Capitalism?

On January, 20, 2014, The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief or Oxfam for short, released a report from the British Humanitarian Group International titled “Working for the Few.” This report stated that the 85 richest individuals on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half or 3.5 billion of the world’s population. Put another way, half of the world’s population holds less than 1% of its wealth. This massive concentration of wealth in the hands of an elite few has greatly expanded the gap between the very rich and everyone else. At this rate, approximately 200 richest individuals will possess the same amount of wealth as the world’s entire population of 7.2 billion! The driving force behind this massive accumulation of wealth is Capitalism and the free enterprise system. This economic system is based on private or corporate ownership of trade and industry for profit. Capitalism has been the engine that has brought prosperity to much of the world and an improved standard of living. However, this amassing of unprecedented amounts of wealth into the hands of a very few should sound alarms around the globe because wealth brings power and power brings corruption. If left unchecked the ugly side of Capitalism: child labor, unsafe working conditions, disregard for the environment, accumulating profits at any cost, and little concern for the welfare of workers will quickly show itself. President Theodore Roosevelt recognized in the 1890’s that in the name of Capitalism and free enterprise the wealthy “Captains of Industry” at that time were arrogant enough to believe that they could manipulate governments to ensure that no laws were passed that would limit their actions to increase their wealth and power. Roosevelt witnessed the wealthy industrialists of his time constrain competition and form monopolies or Trusts to control prices and maximize profits. He realized that the great corporations needed to be controlled by the government on an as needed basis to ensure open and fair competition and provide for a broader-based prosperity. Otherwise, Roosevelt feared that the exploitation of the people by the very rich would one day result in a popular uprising and threaten capitalism itself. This lesson from the past demonstrates that while capitalism is the engine that offers the best chance to bring higher standards of living for the world’s population, governments must have an active role to ensure that Capitalism accepts its responsibilities to its workers and the environment. A free market system should give rise to a fair market system that curbs the concentration of wealth in a few individuals.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer. Mr. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit

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