The financial elite are the wealthiest humans on the planet. Although they only make up a tiny fraction of the world's population, the financial elite control a large portion of the entire world's wealth. Most of them were born wealthy, and those that became wealthy had opportunities in their lives that most humans don't receive.
Most people are familiar with at least a few of the financial elite: Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, the Walton family (of Wal-Mart). There is a difference between a rich person and someone who is financially elite. Hollywood celebrities, although well-off, are not usually financially elite. To paraphrase Chris Rock, “Shaq is rich, the person who signs his cheque is financially elite”
Sometimes just called “the elite”, I prefer to refer to them as “the financial elite”, since they are not elite in any other respect other than their wealth – not intelligence, culture, drive or ambition. Quite simply, they have been more fortunate in life, for without the opportunities they have had in their lives, they would be no different than anyone else.
When someone finds out about our world's concentration of wealth - how a tiny group controls over a third of the world's wealth - a common response (after the initial doubt) is resentment and frustration. What's worse is that not only are they extremely powerful, the gap between themselves and the rest of the world continues to grow – they are gaining more every day.
It is easy to vilify and demonize the financial elite as being greedy humans, blind to human suffering, hellbent on sacrificing everything to get more – more wealth, more fame, and ultimately, more power. However, the financial elite are average human beings, meaning they are no different - no better or worse - than any of us.
The financial elite, being human, are subject to the same insatiable drives we all are. No matter how much any of us have, we will always want more. We cannot blame the financial elite for liking their wealth and wanting to keep it. It is unlikely, if any other human being had lived the exact same life as a financially elite person, that they would turn out any different. We are all the product of the lives we have lived.
It is true that they have way more than is necessary and definitely have enough to spare, and, like most of us, the financial elite often give to charity. But, just like anyone else, few of them would be willing to part with most of their wealth and status in the hopes of improving the world, and even if they did, it would not be enough to solve the world's problems.
But, just because they are human, and just because they are doing what any other human would do, doesn't necessarily make it a good situation for humanity to be in.
For one, the amount of power the financial elite wield can influence entire populations, essentially undermining democracy to maintain the status quo. With control over our biggest source of news information – the media – it is easy to subtlety “steer the herd” and, even if only moderately, shape society.
Second, and more importantly, it is a risky situation to have too much power in the hands of a few, simply because of the nature of human beings.
Imagine being born into an extremely wealthy family, where you are treated like royalty, from birth to death, and where everyone else on earth is either a peer or a subordinate. Naturally, any human born into a position of power could easily develop contempt for other humans, since there would be few influences that encourage respect for others. We could claim that, if we were financially elite, we would use our vast wealth and power to decrease the suffering of our fellow human, but that opinion usually comes from a life of wanting.
Even if someone were to start in a life of poverty and climb all the way up to the top, it is unlikely that they would be the type of person who cares about humanity. Those who have the craving for power are usually doing it out of a selfish need – a need to prove to everyone and themselves that they are successful. The more of this selfish drive that someone has, the less likely they are to have empathy for other humans. This means that the people who become the most powerful are the least likely to care about those beneath them.
Both types of financial elite, either by being born into or by becoming wealthy, expose a fatal flaw of humanity in an unrestricted system - the more power someone has, the less likely they are to care about other human beings. We don't have to look beyond Hitler or Hussein to see proof of this. I don't think it is likely that any one person or group will gain control of our entire species, but if it did happen, things would not be pleasant for most of us.
Even without the supreme ruler situation, there is another devious scenario. Put yourself into the shoes of a financial elite... you have everything you want and you always will. Now, given that more wealth and power won't really help you, how could you make the world a better place for yourself? Well, the world is overpopulated... if there was a way to keep your power, but eliminate a large amount of the population, things would be better off for you. There would be less traffic, less pollution, and shorter line-ups... essentially the world, from your point of view, has improved.
Devious scenarios aside, I'm sure most, if not all, of the financial elite are caring humanitarians, but they really have no reason to invest in a safer, cleaner world, since they can afford to buy whatever they need, including a ticket off the planet when the need arises. And, considering what our species is capable of, it is not an impossibility that someone would eradicate humanity - all it would take is enough power in the hands of a sociopath.
The only option we have to increase our security from people who are absolutely corrupted by absolute power is to restrict the amount of power people can have. Once we set reasonable limits on the amount of wealth that any one human can control, we will have taken a step towards securing the future of the world.
Unfortunately, it will not be easy to convince the financial elite that it would be best if they relinquished their power. The thought of losing status is not something any human wants to face, especially not on the global stage. Even if the financially elite wanted to get off the throne, they would be unable to. For one, they would be shunned by their family and peers. Secondly, who would fill the void left behind?
A feasible option for redistributing the power from the financial elite to our entire species is for us to unite and retake it. With the solidarity that comes through global unity, we could seize the reigns and control the direction we are heading. Taking control of our world is essential, not just for a sustainable economy, but also for the future health of our world and the freedom of our species.
Next Chapter: Corporations and the Media