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Are Billionaires Fat Cats or Deserving Entrepreneurs? Theory Meets Data
Wednesday, March 30 @ 12:15 pm - 1:30 pm
A Brown Bag Lunch Conversation with Didier Jacobs, Senior Economist, Oxfam USA
Space is limited – Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please bring your lunch –and we’ll have drinks to share
Jacobs is the author of the Oxfam Discussion Paper “Extreme Wealth Is Not Merited”
Extreme wealth evokes images of both deserving entrepreneurs and fat cats. In his paper, Didier Jacobs parses them out both theoretically and empirically and makes the ethical case against extreme wealth from the perspective of meritocracy. It reviews several sources of extreme wealth through an analytical framework dubbed “the ladder of demerit.” The six rungs of the ladder—from higher to lower—consist of crime, cronyism, inheritance, monopoly, globalization, and technology. The higher rungs are clearly not meritocratic. The lower ones reward talented people multiple times what can be justified based on merit. Empirical evidence, drawn largely from Forbes’ list of billionaires, provides a tentative indication of the relative importance of each rung. Fifty percent of the world’s billionaire wealth is found to be non-meritocratic owing to either inheritance or a high presumption of cronyism. Another 15 percent is not meritocratic owing to presumption of monopoly. All of it is non-meritocratic owing to globalization. By contrast, crime and technology are found to be negligible sources of extreme wealth.