“It is possible to admire individual billionaires but also fear their overall influence on elections, governance, and public policy,” writes Darrell West in his forthcoming book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). The book, available on September 18, is full of fascinating analysis and facts about the men and women worldwide who control a massive share of global assets, and their extraordinary influence over elections, public policy, and governance. Here is just a sample of them:
- The 1,645 billionaires in the world control about $6.4 trillion in assets
- There are 492 billionaires in the United States
- China, Russia, Germany, and Brazil have the next highest number of billionaires
- 90 percent of billionaires are male; 65 percent are white; 60 percent are 60 years old or older
- In 2012, Sheldon Adelson spent $93 million in political activities opposing President Obama; in the same year, Oprah Winfrey donated $76,000 to Obama’s Victory Fund
- Mark Zuckerberg has given $990 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundations
- There are seven openly gay or transgender billionaires; Jennifer Pritzker, (formerly known as James) is the first transgender billionaire. In 2013, she donated $1.35 million to support the Transgender Military Service Initiative
- If Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, were a country, he would be 65th richest in the world
- The richest woman in the world is Christy Walton, part of the Wal-Mart family
- 42 percent of billionaires who earned their fortune before the age of 40 did it in technology fields
West—the vice president and director of Governance Studies at Brookings, the founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation, and the Douglas Dillon Chair—examines the “wealthification” of politics and society and offers ideas for improving opportunities and fairness.
Learn more about the book and get additional materials here.