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  • Translator: Zsófia Herczeg Reviewer: Queenie Lee

  • Where in the world is it easiest to get ...

  • rich?

  • That's the question I asked my professor when I studied sociology in the early 90s

  • because he was having a lecture

  • about social democracies, the Scandinavian welfare state,

  • and he was a classical left-wing sociology professor,

  • and he could not hide his enthusiasm

  • when he talked about these egalitarian societies

  • with no rich people and no poor people.

  • But I, on the other hand, I was writing my master's thesis about rich people.

  • When I interviewed my informants from the upper classes,

  • they all said the same thing:

  • "Life in Scandinavia is tough."

  • (Laughter)

  • "We have to work twice as hard to earn money

  • because we have to struggle against:

  • high taxes,

  • strong unions controlling the wages

  • and a generous welfare state that makes people lazy."

  • As one rich guy told me,

  • he said, "They call it a social security net.

  • Well, I call it a hammock."

  • (Laughter)

  • And as every aspiring social scientist, I started to go native;

  • I started to feel sympathy for these rich people.

  • And that's why I raised my hand and asked my professor,

  • "Well, what if you don't care so much about equality?

  • What if your dream is to become rich?

  • Where in the world should I have been born to become really rich?"

  • I still remember the puzzled look on my professor's face.

  • But he answered the best he could.

  • Something like, "Well, if that's your goal in life,

  • you should probably have been born in a society

  • with free markets, low taxes,

  • and minimal government intervention.

  • And he added, "If you want to become rich,

  • you should probably not study sociology."

  • (Laughter)

  • That was a good answer and the best guess we had back then.

  • That is until I saw that the University of Oslo professor in Economy, Karl Moene,

  • actually had checked the facts:

  • "Where in the world is it easiest to get rich?"

  • And before I share with you

  • where you should go to earn money,

  • we have to define "rich."

  • The UN talks about the poverty line.

  • You know, if you earn less than one dollar a day,

  • maybe two dollars a day.

  • But we have to define the richness line.

  • It's a more fun line, actually.

  • And the most reliable report, when it comes to rich people,

  • the Wealth Report,

  • they set the richness line

  • at individuals with net worth more than 30 million USD.

  • In the consultant jargon, these people are called UHNWI's.

  • That is Ultra High Net Worth Individuals.

  • That guy, by the way, is not rich. He is just a model.

  • (Laughter)

  • Actually, on the lower part of the model.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I have saved some money by keeping the watermark there as well.

  • (Laughter)

  • Smart.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • So, according to The Wealth Report,

  • there are more than 170, 000

  • UHNWI's in the world.

  • And here is the top five list of countries with the richest people.

  • Number five: China, with more than 8,000.

  • UK, Germany, Japan,

  • and on top, of course, the United States with more than 40,000 rich people.

  • But of course, we are not interested in the absolute numbers here.

  • We are interested in rich people per capita, per million inhabitants.

  • And if we leave out the pure tax havens,

  • like Cyprus, and Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco -

  • where we have an artificially huge share of rich people -

  • it turns out that we have on number 5 Denmark -

  • with 179 rich people per one million inhabitants -

  • Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and on top: Norway.

  • (Laughter)

  • But where's the US?

  • On place 13.

  • So what happened to my old professor's, you know, social democracies?

  • There are no rich people there.

  • But OK. 30 million dollars,

  • that's just pocket money in a country like the US,

  • where people can get insanely rich.

  • (Laughter)

  • Look at the watermark again?

  • (Laughter)

  • So, let's raise the richness line up from 30 million dollars up to ...

  • 1 billion dollars.

  • And the most reliable source here is the Forbes billionaires list.

  • And according to the Forbes,

  • if you look at billionaires per million inhabitants.

  • Number 5, Germany: 1.2 billionaires.

  • 1.2 billionaires per million inhabitants.

  • The United States 1.7, Norway 2, Sweden,

  • and on top Iceland with 3.1

  • (Laughter)

  • With a single billionaire: Thor Björgólfsson.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • He could have been a model.

  • (Laughter)

  • But the point is, the United States: 1.7 Scandinavia taken as a whole: 2.1

  • And the big mystery is ...

  • How can this be?

  • How can Bernie Sanders' dream societies,

  • these socialist paradises

  • be such a breeding place for rich people?

  • (Laughter)

  • That's a mystery.

  • (Laughter)

  • There are two reasons.

  • Reason number one is free education.

  • Social democracies give free higher education to everybody,

  • and cheap student loans, and grants.

  • That enables more people to use their talents and earn money.

  • We can see this in the social mobility numbers.

  • Imagine all fathers in a society,

  • and we divide them into five groups based on income:

  • from the bottom fifth up to the top fifth.

  • Then we look at their sons,

  • and divide their income into five steps,

  • and we see how many sons of the fathers from the bottom income

  • end up on top.

  • How many sons go from rags to riches?

  • If it was perfect social mobility,

  • if talents and opportunities were equally distributed,

  • 20% from the bottom would end up on each of these five ladders.

  • So let's look at the numbers for the different countries.

  • In Denmark, they are pretty close to perfect social mobility

  • with 14% that goes from rags to riches.

  • In Norway 12, Sweden 11, the United States 8.

  • Because of free education,

  • there are more self-made men in Scandinavia than in the US.

  • And if we look at those sons who don't end up on top but stay at the bottom,

  • that go from rags to rags.

  • Again, 20% would be perfect mobility.

  • In Denmark, 25% ends up at the bottom,

  • Sweden a bit more. Norway.

  • And look at the United States.

  • This is because education in the United States is very expensive.

  • But the second and most important explanation

  • for Scandinavia being such a breeding place for rich people is this:

  • Have you ever noticed if you have been to the United States,

  • when you drive around and drive through a toll plaza,

  • there are actually people sitting there taking your money.

  • Compare that to my local toll plaza.

  • (Laughter)

  • Just a sign with some gizmo attached to it.

  • And when you go to a supermarket in the United States,

  • there are actually people there helping to pack your things into your bags.

  • It's very friendly and convenient compared to my local grocery store.

  • Like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • There's nobody there.

  • (Laughter)

  • The biggest shock I had when I went to the US for the first time,

  • when I went to the restroom,

  • there were actually people working there.

  • Compare that to my local public toilet.

  • (Laughter)

  • There's not even a cleaner there; it cleans itself automatically.

  • And the reason for this difference

  • is that Scandinavian unions are pressing up the minimum wages.

  • It's so expensive to have these people working there.

  • In Norway, tollbooth operators, supermarket packers,

  • and a restroom janitor

  • would earn almost three times as much as in the US.

  • And that's why we have replaced these people with machines.

  • That is why I was surprised when I saw this article

  • in The New York Times in 2014.

  • Preparing for Chip-and-PIN Cards in the United States.

  • (Laughter)

  • Because in the United States people are still using paper checks

  • as a method of payment,

  • while Scandinavian banks have made us start using Chip-and-PIN cards long ago.

  • Because the minimum wages here are so high.

  • So Scandinavian banks can't afford having people manually control the checks.

  • So Scandinavian companies,

  • because of the unions pressing up the wages,

  • they have to downsize and introduce new technology or else ...

  • they will go broke.

  • And new technology increases the productivity in a society,

  • which in the long run also increases profit.

  • And on the upper end of the wage ladder,

  • in the name of solidarity,

  • Scandinavian unions hold back the highest salaries of the skilled workers.

  • So for example, a Norwegian senior engineer -

  • it's my uncle, by the way.

  • (Laughter)

  • That's why there's no watermark there.

  • (Laughter)

  • Actually, he would look cooler with a watermark, better.

  • (Laughter)

  • He earns, on average per year, 76,000 dollars,

  • while his American colleague earns more than 100,000 dollars.

  • So American engineers ...

  • (Laughter)

  • They are not only more good-looking, but they are more expensive.

  • Of course, this wage restraint on high-skilled work is good for profit.

  • So, the unions are in effect subsidizing the capitalists.

  • I wish I knew all this when I gave up a career in social science

  • because the beauty and the irony of these findings, I think, is amazing.

  • On the one hand, you have my rich informants

  • that complain about how hard it is to get rich in Scandinavia.

  • They had it all wrong.

  • Not only is it easier to get rich in a social democracy,

  • but they are critical to the very institutions

  • that have helped them get rich.

  • High taxes, which gives free education and more talent into the economy.

  • Strong unions that are helping to increase productivity,

  • and a generous welfare state that makes the unions accept downsizing

  • because they know that their members will be well taken care of.

  • So the unions cooperate because of the safety net.

  • So rich people are a bit like Immanuel Kant's famous bird,

  • who thinks she could fly even faster in airless space,

  • forgetting that it's the air itself that gives her lift.

  • On the other part of the political spectrum,

  • when Bernie Sanders is praising Scandinavian societies,

  • he forgets that these are not anti-rich or anti-capitalist systems.

  • Because the welfare state and the unions work in tandem with capitalist dynamics.

  • And I think that is the most important lesson here.

  • The economy is not a zero-sum game.

  • We are in this together.

  • And that is why Scandinavia is a better place

  • to fulfill the American dream ...

  • (Laughter)

  • than America itself.

  • Thank you so much.

  • (Applause) (Cheering)

Translator: Zsófia Herczeg Reviewer: Queenie Lee

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Where in the world is it easiest to get rich? | Harald Eia | TEDxOslo

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    Alan Wang   に公開 2019 年 10 月 15 日
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