60 votes

1-pixel wealth: Wealth in the United States, shown to scale

45 comments

  1. [11]
    aethicglass
    Link
    Couple years ago on here, I commented in a similar thread and asked the question, more or less, of if you had that amount of wealth, what would you actually do with it? It turned into more of a...

    Couple years ago on here, I commented in a similar thread and asked the question, more or less, of if you had that amount of wealth, what would you actually do with it?

    It turned into more of a discussion about whether or not wealthy people deserve it. Even had a comment or two saying that Bezos worked hard and earned every penny (I do not agree with this sentiment whatsoever). But I'm not interested in hearing whether wealthy people deserve their wealth because I have a strong opinion on the matter that isn't going to change.

    I'm interested in what people would want with that amount of wealth. The lack of actual response last time seemed to give me an answer indirectly. That it's beyond the hopes and dreams, even the imaginations of most to even come close to requiring a fraction. To paraphrase my previous attempt to ambitiously distribute: I could pick out 500 people I know personally and give them all 10mil. Then give every amazon employee a quarter million dollars (a house in most places). I'd still have 8 billion left to play around with. And that was at Bezos's level of wealth two years ago.

    My feeling on the matter is this: Money is the lifeblood of the economy. Concentrations of wealth are massive gyres of money that have stagnated and coagulated. Blood clots. Society's tissues are necrotizing in a slow gangrenous rot because of this. However, I'm hesitant to even post this opinion because it's often met with contention. This should be a no-brainer, yet people with laughably low incomes in comparison come crawling out of the woodwork to defend their heroes.

    All in all, it's one of the more disheartening subjects to me.

    36 votes
    1. [2]
      MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      Personally? I'd go the way that previous ludicrously wealthy people went and fund things that benefited the public good with 99% of it. 1% would more than care for me and any hypothetical...

      Personally? I'd go the way that previous ludicrously wealthy people went and fund things that benefited the public good with 99% of it. 1% would more than care for me and any hypothetical descendants, and the rest would go to museums and charitable hospitals, anti-corruption campaigns and free high-quality news reporting, things like that. I'd live a very comfortable life to the degree that money could make that happen, but I'd also try to make the world a better place in the ways only money can (under our current economic system). I would definitely not just sit on giant piles of it.

      18 votes
      1. aethicglass
        Link Parent
        Yea, my mind seems to almost immediately go to: Holy crap I couldn't possibly use all this money. How can I put it to use to improve the quality of life for humanity in general? Where is it best...

        Yea, my mind seems to almost immediately go to: Holy crap I couldn't possibly use all this money. How can I put it to use to improve the quality of life for humanity in general? Where is it best to redirect?

        7 votes
    2. Akir
      Link Parent
      I completely agree with you. Billionaires look at their net worth and see it as a points system they have to maximize, but for every dollar they hold on to, that's another dollar kept out of the...

      My feeling on the matter is this: Money is the lifeblood of the economy. Concentrations of wealth are massive gyres of money that have stagnated and coagulated. Blood clots. Society's tissues are necrotizing in a slow gangrenous rot because of this.

      I completely agree with you. Billionaires look at their net worth and see it as a points system they have to maximize, but for every dollar they hold on to, that's another dollar kept out of the economy. Even on the low end of riches, with "just a couple" of million dollars are a problem. Imagine if a working class person had access to those funds. They'd finally fix the roof/plumbing/electricity/mold problem in their house, purchase new appliances, go out to eat, and do other things that produce jobs and grow the economy. We like to think of these rich people as masters of capitalism, but the truth of the matter is that they are the enemies of capitalism because they are literally roadblocks to growing the economy.

      Not to pick on anyone here - this sentiment is everywhere, after all - but this is why I'm so against the idea of noblesse oblige. If they were to give the money to the government where the money would help fund programs that are both effective and generally agreed to benefit society, it would be one thing, but every one of them has their own causes. The Koch brothers are the perfect example of why that's such a major problem.

      Billionaire philanthropy only exists to improve the image of the ultra-rich. We lionize Bill Gates today because of the good of his foundation, but we forget about the entire market segments he squashed in order to gain those Billions.

      14 votes
    3. sed
      Link Parent
      What Jeff Bezos has is control over Amazon. We say that's worth billions of dollars, but it's not exactly the same thing. If you asked people, what would you if you had control over Amazon, the...

      What Jeff Bezos has is control over Amazon. We say that's worth billions of dollars, but it's not exactly the same thing.

      If you asked people, what would you if you had control over Amazon, the company, its employees, its policies, its products, its platform, its relationship with the broader community... Well, I imagine people would have more ideas about things they wish Amazon would change. So does Jeff Bezos. That's what he's using his wealth for. If he cashed out and bought everyone a new home, he wouldn't have that control over Amazon anymore.

      3 votes
    4. [2]
      Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Buy all the large media outlets and have them lean progressive, bankroll progressive candidates and electoral reform. Basically be a more extreme version of someone like George Soros. I would...

      If you had that amount of wealth, what would you actually do with it?

      Buy all the large media outlets and have them lean progressive, bankroll progressive candidates and electoral reform. Basically be a more extreme version of someone like George Soros. I would probably just live in a suburban house by myself.

      3 votes
      1. joplin
        Link Parent
        I was visiting a friend in Palo Alto, California one time and we drove through his neighborhood on our way out for the day. He pointed out Steve Jobs' house. (This was when Jobs was still alive.)...

        I would probably just live in a suburban house by myself.

        I was visiting a friend in Palo Alto, California one time and we drove through his neighborhood on our way out for the day. He pointed out Steve Jobs' house. (This was when Jobs was still alive.) Now Palo Alto's not cheap, but the neighborhood was not some gated community, and his house was not some ostentatious monstrosity. It was basically a house the same size as the others in the area. It had no big hedges or walls around it. If he hadn't pointed it out, I never would have known that someone "famous" lived there. So it can certainly be done that way! I don't know what kind of security he had, but usually when you get into those levels of wealth you become a target for criminals, and that's part of why many wealthy people go to the lengths they do to hide their houses.

        3 votes
    5. [4]
      JXM
      Link Parent
      If I had that much money, I would make sure myself, my family and my close friends were all taken care of for the rest of their lives and then give away the rest to help as many people as...

      If I had that much money, I would make sure myself, my family and my close friends were all taken care of for the rest of their lives and then give away the rest to help as many people as possible, a la Bill Gates.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        pseudolobster
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The average American makes 1.7 million dollars in an entire lifetime's worth of work. If you have 20 friends and family and gave them each 17 mil, or ten entire lifetimes worth of money, you'd...

        The average person American makes 1.7 million dollars in an entire lifetime's worth of work. If you have 20 friends and family and gave them each 17 mil, or ten entire lifetimes worth of money, you'd still have $138,660,000,000.00 of your $139,000,000,000.00 left, having given away only less than one quarter of one percent of your wealth.

        edit: more specific

        8 votes
        1. JXM
          Link Parent
          I know, right? The numbers we are dealing with here are so insanely staggeringly, large that it is almost impossible to comprehend just how rich these people are.

          I know, right? The numbers we are dealing with here are so insanely staggeringly, large that it is almost impossible to comprehend just how rich these people are.

          3 votes
        2. Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          To frame it in another way: 81,564 people you can give 1.7 million dollars to The amount of money the ultra-wealthy have is disgusting.

          $138,660,000,000

          To frame it in another way: 81,564 people you can give 1.7 million dollars to

          The amount of money the ultra-wealthy have is disgusting.

          1 vote
  2. [4]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    For context, the pile is so long that when you reach the end of it the yardsticks the author put to guide you are struggling to render from floating point error.

    For context, the pile is so long that when you reach the end of it the yardsticks the author put to guide you are struggling to render from floating point error.

    23 votes
    1. [2]
      thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      Haha damn, that's a cool detail. How do you detect that that's the cause?

      Haha damn, that's a cool detail. How do you detect that that's the cause?

      2 votes
      1. Kuromantis
        Link Parent
        The longer you go from the beginning of the pile the worse it gets so I presume it's a floating point calculation. You can also see it from the site rendering hundreds of thousands of people and...

        The longer you go from the beginning of the pile the worse it gets so I presume it's a floating point calculation. You can also see it from the site rendering hundreds of thousands of people and the more you scroll down, the worse the people are rendered until you can't really see people at all and only the number he put ahead of you. That only strengthens his point and makes a better analogy.

        1 vote
    2. Ember
      Link Parent
      Yep, I heard my computer's fans start to spin up as I skipped to the end

      Yep, I heard my computer's fans start to spin up as I skipped to the end

  3. [2]
    scissortail
    Link
    The author also offers insightful possibilities regarding just what could be done with this nearly incomprehensible amount of money.

    The author also offers insightful possibilities regarding just what could be done with this nearly incomprehensible amount of money.

    9 votes
    1. AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      An incredibly interesting point to me was the combined "one time $10k payment lifts everyone out of poverty" and "to give each US household $10,000 would cost $1.28 trillion" which is interesting...

      An incredibly interesting point to me was the combined "one time $10k payment lifts everyone out of poverty" and "to give each US household $10,000 would cost $1.28 trillion" which is interesting because the CARES act cost $2.1T.

      Literally could virtually eliminate poverty in the country, create untold amounts of upward mobility, secure the lives of nearly everyone for huge amounts of time, and would be a massive stimulus to the economy.

      17 votes
  4. [7]
    joplin
    Link
    Very interesting site! It is pretty amazing to see. There are a few things that seem a little misleading to me (not necessarily intentionally, though.) For example: That last bit about "they...

    Very interesting site! It is pretty amazing to see. There are a few things that seem a little misleading to me (not necessarily intentionally, though.) For example:

    Around 800 children will die of malaria today. A small group of super rich people could stop it for a sum of money so small that they would likely never even notice its absence. But they choose not to.

    That last bit about "they choose not to" bugs me a little bit. According to this article, Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, have donated well over a billion dollars to this particular cause. Many of the other top 400 have given money to fight other diseases or to fight poverty in other ways. I'm not saying it fully balances out the inequality or anything like that, but clearly they don't all "choose not to" help. Some of them are genuinely and generously trying in a variety of different ways.

    That said, I think they make a very valid point, and I would love to see something done about it. But that seems unlikely as many of our leaders are among the wealthy to very wealthy and they aren't likely to pass legislation that costs themselves money.

    9 votes
    1. [6]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      Using 1 billion dollars to fight something when your net worth is 100 billion is a joke. Their wealth is so absurd, that you should take the following into consideration. With 100 billion dollars,...

      Using 1 billion dollars to fight something when your net worth is 100 billion is a joke. Their wealth is so absurd, that you should take the following into consideration.

      With 100 billion dollars, and an extremely conservative investment rate of 2% you make 2 billion dollars a year. Let's say you give away half of that every year. You are still left with 1 billion dollars of profit.

      1 billion dollars is equivalent to $2,739,726 per day. Think of how luxuriously you could live on that amount of money. An extravagant life to you is likely 1/1000th of that ($2,739 per day).

      Bill gates throwing a billion dollars at something is equivalent to you declining change when you buy groceries with cash. Is the bar really so low that we are celebrating this?

      23 votes
      1. [4]
        thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        A frustratingly small amount of the public understand this. Bill Gates is richer than he's ever been despite apparently giving away his money for 20 years.

        With 100 billion dollars, and an extremely conservative investment rate of 2% you make 2 billion dollars a year. Let's say you give away half of that every year. You are still left with 1 billion dollars of profit.

        A frustratingly small amount of the public understand this. Bill Gates is richer than he's ever been despite apparently giving away his money for 20 years.

        10 votes
        1. [3]
          stu2b50
          Link Parent
          TO BE FAIR, Gates did pledge to leave only 1% of his wealth (and I'm guessing property, which is still an insane amount of money) to his children. The larger his horde of wealth exponentially...

          TO BE FAIR, Gates did pledge to leave only 1% of his wealth (and I'm guessing property, which is still an insane amount of money) to his children. The larger his horde of wealth exponentially grows, the more will eventually land in the hands of charity.

          5 votes
          1. thundergolfer
            Link Parent
            The same thinking applies to giving basically any amount. I give 10% of my money a year. Say that's $10,000. If I invested today instead of donating then in 50 years I could donate over $100,000...

            The larger his horde of wealth exponentially grows, the more will eventually land in the hands of charity.

            The same thinking applies to giving basically any amount.

            I give 10% of my money a year. Say that's $10,000. If I invested today instead of donating then in 50 years I could donate over $100,000 to charity, 10 times more. So why donate today?

            We can easily calculate the likely increases of some monetary amount in X years, but can't easily calculate the value provided by donating today to aid some sick or poor person.

            If I gave that $10,000 to someone today and it lifted them out of poverty, letting them go onto lead a richer, healthier, stress-free life, what is the dollar value of that invention in 2070?

            14 votes
          2. joplin
            Link Parent
            Yeah, that's the funny thing about having a large amount of money. With compound interest, the absolute amount grows at an insane rate. A 6% annual rate of return results in double your investment...

            Yeah, that's the funny thing about having a large amount of money. With compound interest, the absolute amount grows at an insane rate. A 6% annual rate of return results in double your investment after ~12 years. An 8% rate doubles in ~8 years. By just not spending it, you end up with much more you can spend (on charity or on useless stuff).

            And for the record, I pretty much hate Bill Gates, and pretty much agree with what Gaywallet said. I was just pointing out that the website was factually incorrect. Many super wealthy people are giving away lots of their money for good causes. Could they do more? Almost certainly. But let's at least be honest about it. They literally did not "choose not to" do anything about malaria. They did more than the rest of us could, even if it is still a drop in the bucket.

            6 votes
      2. suspended
        Link Parent
        People may have a very difficult time trying to understand the enormity of wealth disparity in the US. This phenomenon has perplexed me for over twenty five years and I still don't quite...

        People may have a very difficult time trying to understand the enormity of wealth disparity in the US.

        This phenomenon has perplexed me for over twenty five years and I still don't quite understand what's going on.

        Sometimes I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. It can be very disheartening to say the least.

        6 votes
  5. Gaywallet
    Link
    I really wish this scrolled vertically

    I really wish this scrolled vertically

    8 votes
  6. [11]
    suspended
    Link
    If most of the general population of the Earth attempted to understand this, then wouldn't they just rise up and overthrow all of the super rich? I don't know enough adjectives to describe how...

    If most of the general population of the Earth attempted to understand this, then wouldn't they just rise up and overthrow all of the super rich?

    I don't know enough adjectives to describe how disgusting these 400 people are.

    Why won't people just resist? There's literally nothing to lose.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      Nothing to lose? There's nothing to lose if you consider EVERYONE as a collective, perhaps. But as an individual, there's clearly plenty to lose. You could go to jail, lose your job, lose ability...

      Nothing to lose? There's nothing to lose if you consider EVERYONE as a collective, perhaps. But as an individual, there's clearly plenty to lose.

      You could go to jail, lose your job, lose ability to feed oneself, lose your life, lose your family, etc. etc.

      Unfortunately these situations in which a group as a collective can benefit tend to have issues because for the individual, this is a general sum game in which the nash equilibria is to not join together.

      17 votes
      1. [3]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        I believe that my first sentence presented the overall context: That would be billions of people in resistance against approximately 400. Again, literally nothing to lose.

        I believe that my first sentence presented the overall context:

        ...most of the general population of the Earth

        That would be billions of people in resistance against approximately 400. Again, literally nothing to lose.

        1. [2]
          stu2b50
          Link Parent
          Yeah but billions of people aren't a hivemind. Consider the prisoner's dilemma. As a collective, it's obvious that it's optimal for both prisoners to stay silent. However, the actual nash...

          Yeah but billions of people aren't a hivemind. Consider the prisoner's dilemma. As a collective, it's obvious that it's optimal for both prisoners to stay silent. However, the actual nash equilibria is that both prisoners confess.

          In this case, the prisoners KNOW that it's optimal for them to both stay silent. It's not a problem of knowledge. It doesn't matter.

          From the perspective on an individual, the optimal solution when you can't guarantee the behavior of your fellows is often to throw each other under the bus. Like, mathematically optimal.

          13 votes
          1. mrbig
            Link Parent
            Exactly. ”If everyone was like you, the world would be much worse!” ”Sure, but the entire world population has a will of its own, so my individual actions are largely inconsequential...” I’m all...

            Yeah but billions of people aren't a hivemind.

            Exactly.

            ”If everyone was like you, the world would be much worse!”

            ”Sure, but the entire world population has a will of its own, so my individual actions are largely inconsequential...”

            I’m all for personal accountability, but we need better arguments.

            3 votes
    2. moocow1452
      Link Parent
      Personally, I got work tomorrow.

      Personally, I got work tomorrow.

      6 votes
    3. [5]
      Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      See this perhaps?

      See this perhaps?

      1 vote
      1. [4]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        That's an interesting thread. A friend of mine, who has been following US politics for 50 years, explained to me why US society is so broken. The perpetual myth of rugged individualism. The...

        That's an interesting thread. A friend of mine, who has been following US politics for 50 years, explained to me why US society is so broken.

        1. The perpetual myth of rugged individualism.
        2. The perpetual myth that wealth is a measure of success.

        I agree.

        9 votes
        1. [3]
          Kuromantis
          Link Parent
          There's also this quote by Sinclair Lewis (hm.):

          The perpetual myth of rugged individualism.
          The perpetual myth that wealth is a measure of success.

          There's also this quote by Sinclair Lewis (hm.):

          "Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on."

          8 votes
          1. joplin
            Link Parent
            Or Steinbeck:

            Or Steinbeck:

            …the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

            11 votes
          2. Whom
            Link Parent
            ...and this is one way that other forms of oppression tie right back into this whole game. What keeps working class white people in America from seeing themselves as working class? As a group with...

            ...and this is one way that other forms of oppression tie right back into this whole game. What keeps working class white people in America from seeing themselves as working class? As a group with the same interests who could be powerful together? A whole bunch of things, but racism is a massive one. Even the poorest white person has someone to look down on, someone lower on the social ladder. It takes a whole lot to get a working white American to see themselves as a member of the same struggle as the rest of their class, partially because racism is so deeply engrained that a whole bunch of us will never ever see ourselves as being part of that lowest rung.

            I believe I originally encountered that idea in Faces at the Bottom of the Well, if anyone wants to read into that more than just the generalities that I remember.

            6 votes
  7. [5]
    skybrian
    Link
    The horizontal scrolling doesn't work for me, on desktop anyway.

    The horizontal scrolling doesn't work for me, on desktop anyway.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      It went nuts every time I tried to use the mouse to adjust the browser scrollbar, since the chart would jump a huge distance with every pixel I moved it, but mousewheel left/right, and the right...

      It went nuts every time I tried to use the mouse to adjust the browser scrollbar, since the chart would jump a huge distance with every pixel I moved it, but mousewheel left/right, and the right arrow key on my keyboard worked for me in FF. Does the same not work in Safari? Even with me managing to get it working, I have to agree with @Gaywallet that I wish this was done vertically instead though. :/

      2 votes
      1. hungariantoast
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Clicking down the mouse wheel ("middle click") should pop up an autoscroll icon. From there you can just move your mouse cursor to scroll the page, and click to make it stop. Y'all probably...

        Clicking down the mouse wheel ("middle click") should pop up an autoscroll icon. From there you can just move your mouse cursor to scroll the page, and click to make it stop.

        Y'all probably already know this, but just in case.

        Also, "autoscroll" has to be manually enabled in Firefox's preferences on Linux, and on Chrome on Linux it does not exist as a feature (no idea why). You have to install an extension.

        @skybrian @9000

        6 votes
      2. skybrian
        Link Parent
        I'm using Chrome with a basic mouse that doesn't have horizontal scrollwheel support, but the arrow keys do work.

        I'm using Chrome with a basic mouse that doesn't have horizontal scrollwheel support, but the arrow keys do work.

        1 vote
    2. 9000
      Link Parent
      I ended up using the arrow keys, mostly

      I ended up using the arrow keys, mostly

      2 votes
  8. [4]
    EduardoBautista
    Link
    I always feel like these types of comparisons are dishonest. If Jeff Bezos all of the sudden tried to liquidate all of his assets I would bet his net worth would end up being much lower in the end...

    I always feel like these types of comparisons are dishonest. If Jeff Bezos all of the sudden tried to liquidate all of his assets I would bet his net worth would end up being much lower in the end because their worth will decrease as he begins to sell. Don't get me wrong, he will still be really well off, but not $100b+ well off.

    1. [3]
      thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      Besides a mass sell-off usually spooking investors, why would this be the case? If Bezos says today that he's giving away all his wealth for ethical reasons but will continue to act as CEO of...

      liquidate all of his assets I would bet his net worth would end up being much lower in the end

      Besides a mass sell-off usually spooking investors, why would this be the case? If Bezos says today that he's giving away all his wealth for ethical reasons but will continue to act as CEO of Amazon, what percentage of his total assets are lost?

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        EduardoBautista
        Link Parent
        Yeah, but he's not giving it away all at once. Bill Gates is also giving away all his wealth but he isn't doing it all at once.

        Yeah, but he's not giving it away all at once. Bill Gates is also giving away all his wealth but he isn't doing it all at once.

        1 vote
        1. thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          I don't think you've answered my question.

          I don't think you've answered my question.

          1 vote