“Freedom is not free,” goes the old bumper sticker slogan, commonly accompanied by an image of a flag or soldiers or some other bullshit.
Freedom is not free, the saying goes, because military personnel are out there laying their lives on the line fighting for your right to do as you’re told and toil away at a meaningless job making some rich asshole even richer.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all just so much freer after murdering families on the other side of the planet for corporate profits and geostrategic domination.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all so much freer after teenagers get thrown into the gears of the imperial war machine to provide a good quarterly statement for Raytheon shareholders.
Freedom is not free, because this thing we’re calling “freedom” has been paid for with the blood, lives and limbs of millions of innocents throughout the Global South.
Freedom is not free. That’s why the only people doing as they please in our world are wealthy oligarchs.
Freedom is not free. And unless you’re wealthy enough or psychopathic enough there’s no way you’ll ever find a way to pay the price.
Freedom is not free. That’s why you don’t have any.
When Chuck Collins was 26 years old, he gave away his entire inheritance to groups working for social justice.
Born into a wealthy family (his great-grandfather, Oscar Mayer, founded a prominent national lunch meat company in the United States), Collins says he was exposed early in life to the world of wealth managers and came to realize the inequalities they help perpetuate. Now an author and senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., Collins draws on his personal experience, extensive research, interviews with industry professionals and ICIJ’s own investigations for his latest book, “The Wealth Hoarders.”
The book, subtitled “How billionaires pay millions to hide trillions,” offers insiders’ accounts of what’s described as the “wealth defense industry” — made up of a coalition of professionals from advisors to lawyers and accountants — and how it deploys anonymous shell companies, family offices, offshore accounts and trusts to help the world’s richest people shield their wealth from tax collectors.
We asked Collins about the wealth management industry and what’s changing in the world of wealth inequality, fair taxation, and more.
You begin your book with a fascinating anecdote from a conference for people with inherited wealth in the 1980s. You were considering giving your inheritance away, and someone asked you: What would you prove by committing class suicide? A recent headline also described you as an “upper-class traitor.” What does this mean, the idea of ‘class suicide’?
I think what happened to me in my mid-20s is I got an understanding of how the system worked, where the rules were tipped in my favor, where there was this group of trusted advisors who were there to help the very wealthy preserve their existing wealth and pass it on to the next generation. And I just was like, Oh, well, this is not good for me. And this isn’t good for society, you know, I don’t really want to benefit from the system of inherited wealth dynasties. So yeah, it was unusual to give away assets, and that’s where I kind of crossed the line. You can be kind of quirky, and you can do whatever you want with the income, but when you start to give away assets — and, as I did, give them to groups working for social change — then you’re betraying your class interests. That’s how people would look at it.
The deep and persistent racial wealth divide will not close without bold, structural reform. It has been created and held in place by public policies that have evolved with time including slavery, Jim Crow, red lining, mass incarceration, among many others. The racial wealth divide is greater today than it was nearly four decades ago and trends point to its continued widening.
In this report, we offer ten bold solutions broken into three categories: Programs, Power, and Process. These solutions are designed to strike at the structural underpinnings holding the racial wealth divide in place while inspiring activists, organizers, academics, journalists, legislators, and others to think boldly about taking on this incredibly important challenge. This summary outlines the ten solutions, gives a snapshot of the latest racial wealth divide data, and offers a warning against false solutions.
The collective wealth of the world’s billionaires exploded by more than 60 percent last year, from $8 trillion to $13.1 trillion, according to Forbes magazine’s annual list of global billionaires, released on Tuesday.
“COVID-19 brought terrible suffering, economic pain, geopolitical tension—and the greatest acceleration of wealth in human history,” Forbes writes.
The number of billionaires in the world grew by 660 to 2,775, the biggest total number and the largest annual increase ever. A new billionaire was minted every 17 hours.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk lead the pack with $177 billion and $151 billion, respectively. They are followed by Bernard Arnault and family ($150 billion), who control the French luxury goods company LVMH, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($124 billion) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($97 billion).
Press reports discuss how Zuckerberg “earned” $50 billion and Elon Musk “earned” $130 billion last year. But the very term is an absurdity. One cannot “earn” a figure equivalent to the gross domestic product of a mid-size country.
This wealth is socially appropriated. First, through the exploitation of the working class in the process of production.