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Billionaires (bloomberg.com)
83 points by markbnine on Jan 23, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments

Tagged by how they made their money - first mover advantage, hard work and insight, theft, unfair practices, cheating, destroying the environment, war profiteering, rackets, bribery, political corruption, pure luck, ovarian lottery, etc, would be a much more interesting read.

If you take out the ones who were billionaires by inheritance, and then look at those under 50, all but 5 are well connected beneficiaries of the fall of the Soviet Union.

The other 5 made their money in IT (Dell, Bezos, Zuck, Brin, Page).

When governments go away, there is always money to be made.

I strongly suspect that maneuvering of this nature is the most likely reason for Cuba's undersea cable only being turned on for one way traffic. In lofty debates on political world views, we can often overlook the greedy. I'd imagine the same sorts of things were going on when the Soviet Union dissolved.

excellent observation! when a sovereign nation collapses, its legal fabric is what is really destroyed. until a new system is embraced, it's the wild wild west and, strangely/frequently, military-connected persons and families rise to the top after things settle.

Many of these categories are, of course, culturally relative and would be viewed through the analyst's particular lens. Nonetheless, it would make for an interesting perspective.

Whenever I see these lists I always find it interesting to think about the fact that the only reason a Walton isn't in #1 is because Sam is long gone, and his value was split between his children, all 4 of whom have $30+ billion. Kinda crazy.

Once you start to play that game, doesn't the conversation begin and end with John D. Rockefeller?

According to Wikipedia, Rockefeller is widely considered to be the richest person ever, but I guess this is interesting to me because the Walton heirs themselves are still making billionaire lists. But that's a good point. I wonder what the total Rockefeller net worth is among all heirs today.

The Rockefeller claim is always dubious to me. I've read a lot of books on the man, and by every account I've seen his wealth peaked at between $1 and $2 billion before the great depression. Even a generous multiplier based on dollar devaluation, of say 30 fold, only gets you into Gates territory.

The only way you get to the notion that he was the richest ever, would be to speculate on what his empire would be worth today rather than just the dollar figure inflation adjusted.

Most likely, Bill Gates had the greatest private fortune in history at the peak of the Nasdaq bubble. Inflation adjusted it would be worth upwards of $150 +/- billion today.

The New York Times pegs Rockefeller at $192 billion, in real 2007 terms. Adjusting for inflation is an imperfect measure, and how the NY Times adjusts wealth is by adjusting it according to Rockefeller's relative share of GDP.


That's almost silly as there where fewer people back then and a much smaller government as a share of GDP. I mean what %GDP did rich people have back in 1790 when there where 3,893,635 people 694,280 of them slaves and almost zero government spending.

"Rockefeller is widely considered to be the richest person ever"

But back in a time when life was not as good, for even rich people, as it is today. Not to mention medical care or even pain medication or air conditioning or any creature comforts (I'm remembering when cars didn't have even electric windows when I was really young).

Would you rather have 10 times the money you have and be back in the 1930's?

Similar also to computers. As anyone who has worked with a teletype, floppy drives, punch tape, or green ascii terminal can attest to vs. being able to ssh into your server from an ipad mini.

> Would you rather have 10 times the money you have and be back in the 1930's?

If I could keep my current knowledge, yes I think so. "Hey, guys, here's some capital; look into these 'semiconductor' things..."

I recognize that this is deliberately missing your point, however.

You are extremely too optimistic about your personal ability to move technical progress forward.

The amount of technological knowledge our civilization carries is enormous, and even if you are extremely knowledgeable, you are unlikely to know even 1% of it.

So yes, you would be able to move civilization forward in the magnitude of a few months. But that's about it.

Obviously, it's not something we can really test...

However, I do think you are severely underestimating the benefits, for technological progress, of:

1) Knowing that things are possible, 2) knowing approximately where to look, and 3) having a large (and growing) pile of resources to put behind these things.

Well, since I grew up on a reservation, I'll take now, but I don't think the health care has improved much (given the stats).

I noticed this too - his four heirs listed are worth > $120 billion between them. Absolutely nuts.

Wikipedia puts him at $230 billion in 1992, crazy indeed.

EDIT: Wikipedia meme, move along.

Don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia. A week ago that was edited from $23 billion to $230,000 billion (i.e. $230 trillion), which is obviously preposterously wrong:


A rather redundant comment, we wouldn't need to mention it as a source if at least the citation link worked, would we?

There is though still $120+ billion on his children in that list.

Yeah, but the Walmart stock price didn't start to really take off until the late 90's.

Pointing out the fact that the most successful store in history by a huge margin is one that neither you nor anyone you know shops at is a great way to illustrate the importance of market validation for startups.

Sorry, are you saying no one on HN shops at Walmart or that there is a more successful store?

It's a broad stroke for sure, but, yes, no one on HN shops at Walmart.

I hope you're joking. Shopped there tonight. It was there or a poorly stocked K-Mart. I find the local grocery store less ethical than the Walmart.

I'm not joking, but my point is lost in some confusion, so I'll add this caveat:

If your audience does shop at Walmart, or knows people who do, then pointing out Walmart's jaw dropping numbers will not be a good device for illuminating the importance of market validation. In fact it could encourage them carry on with the potentially mistaken assumption that the entire planet's needs/problems are the same as their own.

Silly comment. I don't especially like shopping at Walmart but there is one 5 minutes from me--in a fairly rural locale where there aren't a lot of especially close stores--so, yes, I shop there for a lot of items.

It depends on your audience of course. I probably wouldn't point that out in rural areas, where Walmart has more penetration.

Oh Wikipedia.

Sam Walton was listed as being worth $7.3 billion in 1990: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1990/...

That's the nature of all great fortunes. Generations pass, and over time they're dispersed and taxed away.

the cargill-macmillan family is probably the wealthiest in America, but they have a privately-held company and maintain their privacy well. ignore the net income numbers. ;)

the waltons are definitely number two, if not number one.

There are a lot more Cargill-MacMillians then Walton heirs and the Waltons are more recent so that makes a difference. These lists never really do well measuring private companies.

Not a single self-made woman makes the top 100.

J.K. Rowling would have been on the list but she gave away a lot of her money taking away her billionaire status.


No, it's the top 100, not just anyone with a billion dollars. So, eg, Steven Spielberg (~4 billion) isn't on the list either.

Nor were British billionaires Mike Ashley or Richard Branson.

Not a single self-made woman makes the top 100

Ever consider orthogonal strategies?

There's a world in the sun. Go hide! But: worth it. Show you to rely on the night.

My markov text came from scraped lyrics to a couple hundred hair metal songs. What did yours come from? :)

Rinehart inherited a $100m company and grew it to a $18.5b fortune. Looks like that's as close as it gets.

And only one black man.

Where is Oprah?

From what I can tell, this is a top 100 list. She's a billionaire, but below the ranking threshold.


It's interesting that the only 3 self-made billionaires under 40 are in tech - Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg. The fact that 12 of the top 100 are Russian is rather striking to me as well.

Also striking is how the Russians made their money: energy, steel, metals, and... uh... "being friends with the people in power when the Soviet Union fell".

It's all very late 1800s.

I am also really surprised by number of russians. If you consider it with other BRIC countries (Brazil 3,India 2, China 1) then you have to believe something really strange is going on in russia

It's not so strange, pretty straightforward actually.

When the Soviet Union fell apart a whole load of state assets were privatized right into the hands of well-connected people for below market value [1].

Pretty easy to make money when you're handed a monopoly, at a deep discount.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privatization_in_Russia

The original intention was to effectively give every Russian citizen stock in all the newly privatized businesses. They did this, but the oligarchs were able to front-run the actual privatizations and bought all the stock for pennies on the dollar (ruble?) compared to what they ended up being worth.

Taking all the economic activity that was going on under communism and immediately privatizing it is probably bound to create a few fortunes no matter how you do it, but the way it ended up happening in Russia was needlessly corrupt.

I may be reading it wrong, but it looks to me that there are no female self-made billionaires, which is interesting.

They seem to be using the word "billionaire" loosely, it seems like a list of the 100 richest people.

Oprah Winfrey is a self made billionaire (net worth ~$2.7 billion)

It's the top 100. Like Steve Jobs, Oprah doesn't make the list.

I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs isn't on the list because it's a list of living individuals.

By that I meant, he didn't make it when he was alive.

Aah. That makes sense. I was looking for Julia-Louis Dreyfus.

That's my observation too. Also, none are African/African-American.

Edit: Stand corrected. Aliko Dangote.

#47, Aliko Dangote

Not just Aliko Dangote, but also #16 Alwaleed Al Saud.

I wouldn't really characterize Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula as African in any respect.

Yes, somehow I thought he was from egypt.

Surprised to see Sergei Brin so low on the list, considering his website is the number 1 IN THE ENTIRE PLANET.

Then I remembered, the old saying: "You gotta diversify yo bonds, nigga." [1] - The top spots have mining operations, tech, banking, etc.

[1] - http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/tw2ltp/chappelle-s-...

If he wasn't splitting that #1 website with Larry, he'd be in the top 10.

If he wasn't splitting that #1 website with Larry, he wouldn't be anywhere near the list of billionaires.

He is still young give that 20 billion another 30 years and see where there at.

At risk of sounding like a communist...

When you consider just how much money $10+ billion is, from an ethical standpoint, does any individual deserve to have that much money/power?

I can't help but think that it is really a grotesque thing for a single person to have more money than the GDP of a country like Cuba. There's just no way one person has contributed to society enough to justify that kind of wealth.

"Deserve" ?

Except for thief, lottery, inheritance, marriage, or trickery, money is made when you've created value for others. Repeat and scale multiple times over, and you've not only made money, you've contributed and made others lives better, happier, more entertaining, or less stressful, etc.

Using their businesses as leverage, most of these billionaires have made their fortunes creating billions of dollars worth of value for the masses. They deserve every penny of it.

"They deserve every penny of it?"

I'm sorry, but there's no way that any person's individual contributions to society are worth 3-4 orders of magnitude more than most other people's. And if there are such individuals, they are the Teslas, Newtons, Einsteins or other true geniuses whose ideas have shaped the world and opened up new possibilities - not the oil magnates, plutocrats or Wall Street bankers that make up most of this list.

The only way one could argue that all of the uber-rich deserve all of their money is if you subscribe to an incredibly simplistic, idealistic, optimistic Milton Friedman-esque economic and political philosophy which assumes that the earning of income directly corresponds to value added to the economy and society.

>I'm sorry, but there's no way that any person's individual contributions to society are worth 3-4 orders of magnitude more than most other people's.

Why not? Just because it was likely timing, doesn't make the impact less great.

Your point seems to be that such a person isn't inherently that much better than someone else. Ok, but no one is inherently that great. 90% of "making it" in any of the senses is timing and placement, so it's really all relative.

By being able to post on HN you are about the same magnitude "better off" in real wealth terms compared to a man in the Shomali plains than a billionaire is to you. Does that make your accomplishments better compared to that Afghani man's?

>By being able to post on HN you are about the same magnitude "better off" in real wealth terms compared to a man in the Shomali plains than a billionaire is to you. Does that make your accomplishments better compared to that Afghani man's?

Good point. I would say that no, my accomplishments are not. The fact that I spend more money on a nice dinner than some people make in a year is just another sign of the gross inequity in the world. Really that's all I'm saying - just pointing out that there is some sort of inherent injustice in the distribution of wealth, power and quality of life, and it is just much more plainly visible in the case of individual's with the purchasing power of entire nations. Just something to think about.

>Except for thief, lottery, inheritance, marriage, or trickery, money is made when you've created value for others.

Creating value for others [1] or creating wealth?

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking

Your exceptions describe most of the wealth on the list. "inheritance" isn't even controversial and it's a quarter of the list. "Trickery" is a rather broad brush that applies rather well to many billionaires.

Yes, yes they do.

That money isn't sitting around, it is paying for things. I point you to the misguided luxury taxes put on yachts because people buying them "deserved" to be taxed more. Well, all it did was ruin the yacht industry in the US and put a lot of people out of work. These people were being paid good money. That is grotesque and wrong.

There is no ethical argument for taking money from billionaires in higher share than anyone else that doesn't come down to envy. Limits on individuals place limits on society. Why hire more people and expand when you cannot enjoy the fruits of the work?

Perhaps it is an indication that Cuba is doing it very wrong.

"There is no ethical argument for taking money from billionaires in higher share than anyone else that doesn't come down to envy. "

What about diminishing marginal utility? The ethical argument would be that tax burden should be greater on those with a larger capacity to pay. (Usual caveats about taxing income vs. taxing wealth, etc. etc. etc.)

Diminishing marginal utility? Well, it's not like billionaires spend most of their money on personal consumption. Many ways of spending money also generate utility for others. The real choice is whether to let the billionaire keep the marginal million dollars (which he might choose to invest or donate to charity), or give that million to the government to do as it sees fit (e.g. distribute it among poor people). Which choice yields greater expected total utility? Are there any numbers on that?

"What about diminishing marginal utility?"

The billionaire's money is not in some vault. It is invested and being loaned as capital to other people trying to start companies. Since our system relies on capital, that money will create a lot more jobs being in their hands. Not many factory workers fund the next round of startups.

"The ethical argument would be that tax burden should be greater on those with a larger capacity to pay."

Why? Government is a service we have agreed to pay for. It has no divinity beyond a contract. The same rate is fair and just, but different rates or caps on earnings aren't. If I have ten dimes and tell a child 2 go to government as taxes, then show the child 10 $1 bills and ask them same question, I will get a fairer and better answer than most progressives. We the people give power to government and stealing more from successful people is wrong.

I can see a base deduction to protect the poor, but the tax code now and any system that takes huge percentages from higher income is just wrong.

This is an overly simplistic analysis. Empirically, if you give a poor person $1, they will spend more and save less than if you gave a wealthy person $1, with the effect more pronounced the wealthier that person is. In other words, the poor have a higher marginal propensity to consume. As for why spending > saving, at least for GDP, the economy is driven more by demand and consumption, than by investment. Startups would be nothing in the absence of demand. Startups would still exist in the absence of investment. If you break down GDP into its constituent parts, the number 1 contributor (>50%) is consumption.

I also think it provides an interesting perspective to view the government from a political and demographic angle. The government is (theoretically) the will of the majority (or supermajority, in some circumstances), with some protection for minority interests. Consider then that the median US income is $52,762 per year. Consider then that 51% of the population is going to make between $0-54k. Since it is in their economic interest to "offload" their tax burden, it is inevitable that the tax system would be progressive. The tendency towards a progressive tax system is tempered only by the fact that most people do own some wealth, the low/middle-classes own desire to be wealthy, and the economic necessity of rewarding people to grow the economy. This does not always apply since people are not always rational. I'm only saying that this is the reality.

Stating your axioms will not convince someone who holds different axioms.

Yes, a wealth tax is better than a luxury tax, for a wealth tax cannot be dodged my declining to spend, and so does not slow the economy. A (less-avoidable) wealth tax can then be put to good use, funding more socially useful boats than yachts, or distributed as a national income guarantee, or to retrain boatbuilders in other, more relevant, industries.

Stefan Persson, #20 on that list, payed around 127 million USD in taxes in Sweden two years ago and his family all together (him included) payed around 200 million USD in taxes that same year. He has payed about 1 billion USD in total in taxes over the last 10 years. I would say that he and his family contribute a lot to the Swedish society at least.

    >When you consider just how much money $10+ billion is, from an ethical standpoint, does any individual deserve to have that much money/power?
How can there be an ethical standpoint to an arbitrary amount of money without the context of how it was obtained? 10 dollars would probably fall within your expectation of an ethical amount of money for a person to have but if they obtained it by mugging somebody else is having even 10 dollars ethical?

I'm suggesting that for amounts of wealth past some (admittedly arbitrary) point, there is such a high concentration of power that it raises ethical questions, regardless of how the funds was obtained. Just thinking along the lines of Dr. McCoy in Xmen:

"And I worry about how democracy survives when one man can move cities with his mind."

A billionare may not be able to move a city with his mind, but he could outright buy one! Just a thought. :)

"A billionaire may not be able to move a city with his mind, but he could outright buy one!"

A tiny one then. About 20 000 houses in my neighborood would settle you for about $15bn. I'm not talking about a block on Wall Street or in the City with skyscrappers ; )

If one day you think you're rich, just go to N.Y. or Ginza (Tokyo) and look at the skyscrappers and ask yourself how many buildings you could buy. It's a humbling experience, even for very very very rich people.

I mean, sure, he could buy a village in the U.S. or in Europe but some things are just too expensive.

I also think you overestimate the power one billionaire has.

The current U.S. debt is 16 trillions. You could take the money from the 30 first of these list and you'd only be paying back one trillion (back at the 30th position it's already "poor" billionaires who only have $20bn or so).

In other words: you'd still have a 15 trillion public debt and you'd still be utterly and totally f*cked.

I'd say there are much more pressing purposes to deal with than the personnal wealth of a few hundreds of billionnaires...

Also, why does this get posted and upvoted on HN? So that the socialo-commie dudes can come out of the wood and start criticizing wealth creation and entrepreneurship?

Haha yeah after I wrote that I got to thinking that "large town" may have been more in keeping with the scale. Thanks for calling out my exaggeration.

I think that the reason people (like myself) call out billionaires is because they are such a convenient distillation of the real problem of income inequality.

>About 20 000 houses in my neighborood would settle you for about $15bn

Damn where do you live?? I might point out that $750,000 homes are not typical. ;) 120,000 more typical $125,000 homes could be had for the same $15bn sum. Which is just wild to think about.

Money is power and a person yielding large amounts of power which wasn't granted democratically can easily be seen as unethical as any other non democratic source of power.

One can argue that a free market is kind of like democracy, but how money and politics mix is contentious exactly because money in politics is seen by many as a degradation to a 'good' and fair representative democracy.

To quote Clint Eastwood: "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." They just had the opportunity to make all that wealth, and acted on it (regardless whether the actions they took were legal/illegal, easy and fast or required an insane amount of hard work).

I think you might find this line of inquiry more productive if you roll back on ethics, and don't give up either of "deserve" or "have" for free.

Start by tabooing "property" and assuming consequentialism. We have a monetary system that abstracts the idea of value; ownership isn't necessary for that to exist. The question we want to answer is, if we give an individual control over some value, and through their actions they cause additional value to come into being, how much of that additional value should we, through use of violence, enable them to control? The answer may range from "none of it" all the way up to "all of it".

Why would it be any of it? Possible reasons are at least twofold: First, that person may have demonstrated a unique ability to multiply value, which we wish to harness. Second, it may incentivize others who desire control to be more productive.

But lots more questions fall out of that. How likely is this person to be unusually productive again? How much of an incentive is this control to others, and how does it affect the overall growth of value? How much of an incentive is necessary to maintain our desired rate of growth? What is our desired rate of growth?

And on to more complicated ones: Say we decide to afford some amount of control. Should that amount be the same regardless of the value created? Should the scale be linear, quadratic, what? How should we respond to actors who fail to create, or actually destroy value?

As if that weren't enough to think about already, we now have to consider the externalities, what you might call "ethical" concerns. A couple of major ones:

Does our system unfairly determine the course of an individual's life based on the circumstances of their birth, making a mockery of the concept of freedom?

Does our system perversely incentivize us to manipulate it in order to increase nominal value, without an according improvement to the human condition?

This isn't intended to answer your question exactly, just to point out that 1) There are a lot of problems with the way we set all this up, but 2) We did set it up this way for good reasons, and 3) Anyone who takes all of this and gives you a "Of course they do" or "Of course they don't" has been indoctrinated.

I agree with the principle you've used as a framing device, namely exploring some of the underlying assumptions while tabooing words that would bias towards particular conclusions. However, your entire argument seems to treat maximizing value to society as the only goal, which itself makes a major assumption that many people will disagree with.

In short, there's the "they deserve it because they'll use it optimally" argument, but there's also the "they won't necessarily use it optimally but it's still theirs to use as they wish" argument. You've very effectively deconstructed the first, but you've made no attempt to address the second.

You're glossing over a subtle tautology, I think: "Deserving" is a weak form of property, socially but not legally compelling. When we say, "They deserve to have it because it's theirs," we are saying that we somewhat feel they should have it because we strongly feel they should have it; we are saying nothing.

The crucial question is, why do we feel they should have it? "It's theirs", "they earned it", "right to property"— these things are synonyms for the question. What are the real, underlying values that make us feel better when these "rights" are upheld, worse when they are ignored?

Now, personally I don't believe that the utilitarian explanation is anything more than a rationalization; the real-world history of the global economy is a writhing mass of motives, incentives, morals and power relationships which we have no hope of unpacking, and which we have no reason to think have arrived at any optimal result. However, I do think analyzing the former gets you quite a bit closer to something describably true than any amount of arguing over the latter.

> When we say, "They deserve to have it because it's theirs," we are saying that we somewhat feel they should have it because we strongly feel they should have it; we are saying nothing.

True, but I never said that phrase, or any other tautological statement. I specifically mentioned the argument that doesn't talk about "deserving" at all, and in particular the argument that explicitly dismisses the idea that whoever would use it more efficiently deserves it more.

As for the underlying values in question: "they earned it so they get to choose how to use it" comes fairly close, though I feel certain that better statements of that principle exist (preferably tabooing "earned"). (I've also intentionally left out the cases that raise extra complexity and social questions/conventions, like inheritance.)

"Utilitiarian" is another term whose connotations you have to watch out for: whose utility? You've made the argument for overall social utility, but ignored the one for individual utility.

In any case, I'm not looking to actually explore that argument in depth, mostly because all the arguments on all sides have been argued to death; I simply wanted to compliment you on the deconstruction-based argument, while mentioning another form of the argument that you didn't appear to have considered.

Thank you for pointing out how incredibly complicated and thorny the issue is.

>how much of that additional value should we... enable them to control? The answer may range from "none of it" all the way up to "all of it".

Both extremes are wrong. I find myself frustrated that in the US at least (where top marginal income tax rates have been plummeting for the past 30+ years under the influence of neo-liberalism), far too many people are comfortable flirting with the "all of it" end of the spectrum.

I'm not sure "deserve" is the right way to consider it, more like "what is the social value of billionaires?" Or, why isn't the marginal tax rate on $1B+ 100%. I don't have much to offer in the way of an answer, just something I regularly ponder.

Furthermore, and I'd say far more indefensible, what is the social value of billionaires who inherited their net worth. Or, why aren't estate taxes on estates over $1B 100%.

I've agreed with this sentiment for a while now. I think the actual $10 billion number is not important/up for debate, but the point is that at some point, a very wealthy person obtaining more wealth is almost definitely bad for society.

It's possible that in an economy, when the billionaires win, we all win, if the productivity gains are enjoyed by all. But as we're seeing in the US now, after some point in massive wealth, the wealthy inevitably use their economic power to buy political power, in order to influence laws that give them more economic power.

Not to mention if someone has $10 billion, it's much more likely they've done immoral or illegal acts to obtain that wealth than someone with $10,000. Money attracts power, and power corrupts.

Probably the most convincing argument to you will be some variation of the notion that no, they don't deserve it per se, but it's an unavoidable side effect of some otherwise desirable freedoms that exist in our society, or that the opportunity to gain that much wealth is an incentive for people to create genuinely useful businesses (see Page, Brin, Bezos...).

Put another way, for at least some billionaires, you can trace their entire fortune back to voluntary decisions by ordinary people to exchange their money for something else to the reasonable mutual benefit of both parties. If I can somehow voluntarily convince 1 billion ordinary people to give me $10 each, and every single one of those people can be reasonably said to have benefitted from the transaction, who exactly are you to come in and say "hang on a minute, you have ten billion dollars, how can this be legit?" Sure, you can't say this of every billionaire, maybe you can't even say it of most billionaires, but it's hard to imagine a free world where this kind of thing is utterly impossible.

Also, if it makes you feel any better, a lot of these billion dollar fortunes are a little more illusory than you think--if you own 51% of a company that's worth 20 billion dollars on the stock market, on paper you might have 10 billion dollars but there's no way you're going to get 10 billion dollars worth of $100 bills in briefcases anytime soon.


It's not like their money hidden in a vault. Furthermore they may have spent it, thus converting their money into a non-monetary asset like a home, yet it still counts when calculating wealth.

It's great that you mention Cuba. They have basically the same number of people as Belgium and Cuba is nearly four times bigger than Belgium... Yet their GDP is 1/8th that one of Belgium.

And they're at these "high" levels only because Cuba wasn't doing bad at all before the communist took power and because, after the revolution, Cuba was heavily subsidized by soviet russia (they were sending billion of $ to Cuba).

Thing is: if Cuba was a place of freedom where people were free to create businees, maybe Larry and Sergey's parents would have moved to Cuba and created Google there, say in Pig's bay which would have been the Cuban Silicon Valley. And Cuba's GDP would be closer to the one it should have.

In my opinion people able to earn $10bn know much about creating present growth and future wealth than people admiring homophobic racist mysoginist slaughterers like Che Guevara.

So, no, I don't find it unfair at all that a single person is more "wealthy" than the GDP of communist countries ; )

I don't find it unfair at all that a single person is more "wealthy" than the GDP of communist countries ; )

I have read that before the fall of communism in Hungary, the inventor of the Rubik's Cube made more foreign exchange income for the Hungarian state than all the state-owned enterprises combined.

If you wanted to wave your hands and suppose that, as the hereditary dictators of Cuba, the Castro family owns the whole country, then they are the biggest billionaires of all. The GDP of Cuba is about 60 billion, but owning an asset that produces 60 billion a year is worth some multiple of 60 billion. And you thought Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Google, or IKEA were big fortunes!

It's interesting you mention Belgium, which has 50% income tax, including inheritance taxes:

http://www.belgium.be/en/taxes/ http://www.taxation.be/content/view/28/37

How is it that Bloomberg himself isn't on the list? According to Wikipedia he's worth $25B which is well within the top 100.

Why does the link go to directly to self made, energy billionaires?

Why does the link go to directly to self made, energy billionaires?

I noticed that too. The link was submitted with a search string appended, methinks, rather than in canonical form.

Submitting canonical links is friendly to HN users:


The submitter was probably playing around with it before submitting the link and didn't notice the URL was being updated.

Wow. The infographic is cool but some of the copy is incredibly snarky. On Mark Zuckerburg under 'intelligence' "Sister Randi likes to pretend she was a television production assistant." That said I think it's more interesting to see who the next 900 richest people are than the top 100. maybe just me though.

Interesting that 71 of the 100 are self made. Of the 29 that inherited their wealth, 12 are female, however of the 71 that are self made, none are female. Very surprising that the disparity is that huge. Also surprising that only one of the 100 is black. We have a long way to go!

You'd expect close to half of people who inherit wealth to be women, because about half of births are women. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of entrepreneurs and business moguls.

I'd be interested to see how the numbers play out if you include spouses in the lists.

Is this list accurate? I don't see Bloomberg (the person). According to Wikipedia, he's worth 25B, so I would expect to see him.

If you click the little "i" in the top right you can get the full methodology. In there it explains why Bloomberg the person is missing

>Bloomberg News editorial policy is to not cover Bloomberg L.P. As a result Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, isn’t considered for this ranking.

given that its from bloomberg.com maybe this is intentional :-)

Is there a reason why the Rothschild family doesn't appear on the list? I'd imagine that they are still billionaires.

Well, it's a list of individuals, after all this time, I imagine that wealth has been split between quite a few of them.

Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothschild_family#Conspiracy_th...

Wouldn't Laurene Powell technically have a very nice spot on this list?

No, she apparently misses it by just a hair. Didn't Jobs also miss this list while he was alive?

Someone have checked the "map" part? It shows a world map with a slider of the last year net worth changes. Something happens at April 18 and August 2.

It's interesting how the richest man in the world comes from a third world country (Carlos Slim from Mexico).

One of the reasons that many developing countries such as Mexico have a hard time developing a robust economy and a strong middle class is precisely because their wealth is concentrated in an oligopoly made up of a handful of powerful families who wield vast political and economic power. You'll see this all across Latin America, and in most other parts of the world.

Also, as you can see from the Russian billionaires on the list, many influential people have made vast fortunes when state-owned monopolies were "privatized" and became privately-owned monopolies.

I was going to question whether Mexico is a third world country but I did some googling and yeah, I guess that's an okay assessment. But I think the term "developing country" would be more appropriate.

I think Mexico can be more easily grouped with the BRIC countries, rather than, say, Kenya and Cambodia.

I guess the only point I really want to make is that naming and labeling is a difficult problem, even outside of computer science.

Well, yeah you're right Mexico is supposed to be the 8th economy by 2050, acording to HSBC, Mexico will be above France, Canada, Italy, Turkey and S.Korea


Is it really? Asif Zardari, the president of Pakistan, is estimated to have $1.8 billions. There was a recent uproar in India about some people storing billions in foreign banks etc.

Point is: if you redirect money from where it was intended to be, you can make a lot of money. Especially in 3rd world countries where systems to keep this behavior in check are too weak or non-existent.

(I don't know how Mr.Slim made his money though; I'm commenting more on the surprise for billionaire's from 3rd world countries)

slim has a monopoly on the mexico mobile communications industry.

One inaccuracy: Ortega (founder & ceo of Zara) doesn't pop up when you choose apparel.

Interesting, only 1 British. Zero in Singapore... seems likely incorrect.

Big mistake:

They drew eyebrows on Larry Ellison.

(Reference image: http://allthingsd.com/files/2012/05/larry_ellison1.png)

#6 and #7 on the list are the Koch brothers. Under the categories "inherited" or "self-made" Bloomberg lists them as "self-made". Only 29 of the 100 are listed as having inherited their wealth. Ibn Saud's grandson, Alwaleed Al Saud is #16 and is also listed by Bloomberg as self-made. I guess even if you're the grandson of the guy your country is named after, you can still be listed as self-made by Bloomberg. Happy to see these self-made guys pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and became billionaires.

It's a fair point. So is the fact that it's extraordinarily easy to destroy vast amounts of wealth very quickly.

Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations, is a classic inheritance saying for a reason. Hand someone a large sum of money as inheritance and I would argue they're just as likely to destroy it as preserve it (much less grow it substantially).

It's far easier to destroy $50 million than to multiply it by 1,000 times (which is what the Koch brothers did).

Indeed. The Koch brothers inherited a substantial business from their father... IIRC >$10m in inflation adjusted revenue today.

Fuck billionaires.

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