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Who do you consider "Rich?"

The "Rich" seem to be causing a lot of problems these days. The general consensus is that we should tax, limit, restrict and all around get them under control. But who are they. What do you mean when you say that someone is "rich?" The top 1% of income earners? The top 5% of net worth? Anyone who makes 5 times as much money as you do? Just where exactly would you draw the line?

A modest income in my location enjoys luxuries that would make my grandparents (or a subsistance farmer in the 3rd world) green with envy, but no one would call them rich.

What is your definition?

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    Dec 12 2011: The man who knows himself is rich.

    I hope the opportunistic Krisztian doesn't see this comment as a chance to make a joke!

    I hope he doesn't reply like this: 'This topic is about taxing the rich, or limiting income. so your proposal is to find out who understands himself, and tax them'?

  • Dec 12 2011: Hi Everyone,

    Well, no one can say that topics don't take one a life of their own. Thanks to everyone for their insights.

    My original intent was to discuss fiscal policies. Namely, at what point does someone's wealth make them subject to special taxation and regulation. Also, how does one measure "economic wealth" in the first place.

    A secondary intent was to get people thinking beyond the trite "____ therich" slogans. Perhaps helping create a more actionable dialog. Or at least produce something that can be debated.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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      Dec 12 2011: I think the point a few of us has made, that wealth is a perception is extremely relevent to your question Doug. Beyond that, I beleive that attempting to establish relative income equality is important in all societies for the health of the society as a whole. I do not think it should be achieved purely by taxation, that would be too simple a solution which would create problems. I do think economies need to be regulated in order to achieve relative income equality. To establish a comfortable sustainable range, we could look at countries which already have a relatively healthy society, i.e., low stats for infant mortality, crime, violent crime, mental health, and of course poverty and extrapolate from there. Sweden could be a good place to start.
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    Dec 12 2011: It depends on context.

    I have lived and worked in Africa, India, China (and other places) and I would consider a poor person from a developed country rich by African and Indian standards and well-off by Chinese standards.

    I would consider poor people in China well-off by African standards.

    And so on.

    In Canada (where I am from) or the USA, I would consider someone making $250,000 a year, or more, to be rich.
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    Dec 11 2011: A satisfied and contended individual in rich. I have come across many who are low income earners and having less net worth, but they are so self worth, they make the rich envy their life style.
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    Dec 10 2011: Rich are the persons who earns more than the majority of the people living in their society, who gets basic needs followed by the quality of additional needs and who also help for the well being of the society.
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    Dec 10 2011: Rich is a person who lives in wellness and creates wellness for others to live in.
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    Dec 9 2011: Hi Douglas!

    Allow me to share a personal anecdote. We made a friend when moving to a new country that was a secretary, she didn’t have much education and lived doing some product sales, and her formal job. She was not poor in the sense of not having food or clothing, she lived in an apartment she owned, etc. we visited her several times and one thing that always impressed me was the state of the buildings and everything there, mostly broken and abandoned (not her house, but the common areas). I always imagined that those building must have being nice when they were built and now where neglected.
    My understanding is that the concept of the rich is related with the concept of status, you measure it by comparison, not by absolute metrics.
    Go to a very poor village in a remote location, choose a person and give that person 500USD a month, he/she will be rich, and that will have a huge impact in his/her position and life in the community. Give the same 500USD to a person that lives in Manhattan and it is likely to go unnoticed.
    The argument comparing the person today with the person 100 years ago doesn’t work for the same reason, people do not compare that way. Even if a middle class person today in a developed country lives longer and arguably better than a king 1000 years ago.
    I don’t know your income status, but I think I can assume you are far from homeless and much better than most people in the world in terms of earnings, but can you tell me you never felt poor? Seeing the guy with the Ferrari, or the private plane, or who is able to give his kids a better education than you, or doesn’t need to work, etc? I know I have. Does that make sense?



    PS sorry for the long post
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      Dec 11 2011: Hi Julian, If someone living in a slum sees a wealthier person who has more, it does not necessarily make such an individual feel poor or deprived. I learned that concepts of wealth and poverty are subjective when I lived in India. However the constraints of a low social strata, or poverty are extremely real and not easy to overcome, even if you have all your health and youthful vigour.

      The Real documentary team did a great doco in conjunction with the BBC. They took a group of highly privileged people, super wealthy if you will, and asked them to be homeless for several weeks. Some of the individuals taking part hoped to prove that homelessness was due to laziness, or some other weakness and were very confident they would be able to show it. Not surprisingly, although they tried absolutely everything, not one participant managed to change their circumstances, there were too many things stacked against them. It was interesting to observe, how quickly the people taking part began to accept their situation and cease to struggle against it, and how much empathy they had for people struggling with poverty afterward.

      I do agree your comment to a degree, that perception of status has a part to play in our idea of our own wealth, but I think the affects of disparity in a society, create very real and concrete difficulties for individuals, which multiply the nearer to the bottom strata you are.
  • Dec 9 2011: Rich is someone who hires someone to do the chores he doesnt feel like doing.
    Anyone who isnt rich gets hired to do things Rich people dont want to do.
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      Dec 9 2011: according to this definition, everyone on this globe is rich. we all hire people to work for us. our food is made by others, our clothing is made by others, our hair is cut by others, we are healed by others, our children are educated by others and so on.
      • Dec 9 2011: My mistake, I did'nt think about it that way. I was thinking of medial jobs, like gardening, cooking cleaning.
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        Dec 11 2011: Not everyone on the globe, but for once I agree with the principle behind your comment, Krisztian, most of us who live in 'the developed world' are rich, whether we think so or not.
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    Dec 8 2011: A person that is fulfilled.
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      Dec 9 2011: this topic is about taxing the rich, or limiting income. so your proposal is to find out who is fulfilled, and tax them?
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        Dec 9 2011: In this context rich must then be everyone above the poverty line.

        The common international poverty line has in the past been roughly $1 a day. In 2008, the World Bank came out with a revised figure of $1.25.

        Subject to where one lives this may be the case since the poverty line is normally adjusted to the national PPI (purchasing power index)
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    Dec 7 2011: What bothers me is the direction this all seems to be headed: The government can spend their money better than they who earned it.
    • Dec 8 2011: I don't think that's where the conversation was going.

      'rich' is merely a label that doesn't say anything about the people who belong to it.
      rich is an adjective: having a great deal.
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        Dec 8 2011: yeah, they don't say that. because direct and honest talk is not trendy these days. however, behind the "tax the rich" arguments, you always find that.

        let's use some logic.

        the rich would use the money somehow. if the state would use the money in the same way, there is no need to tax at all. if the state wants to use the money in a worse way, taxation is harmful. hence: proposing taxing the rich implies the assumption that the state can spend the money better. or, it can imply that we want the money to be spent worse?
        • Dec 8 2011: Ah, I see what you mean.

          Well, I'd like to make the argument that the more money a person has, generally the less efficiently they spend it. The poor generally try to make every penny count, while the less poor have margin of error. The state-level/district level can allocate funds more efficiently than the national level. Of course this is an over simplification, but I do believe there is a certain truth to it.

          In this context, the national government might be too big to allocate money with efficiency. However, the same argument could be made about private individuals who have so much money that they too do not allocate them efficiently.

          To me, it is not a question of who spends money in a better way. I think that the solution doesn't lie in merely 'taxing the rich' (though i definitely don't think we should give tax breaks either). I think the solution lies in:
          1. ensuring that there is income mobility (which is a problem in the US)
          2. ensuring the rich are not able to get richer by preying on the vulnerable, or playing with the political system (if they get richer, it is because they contributed greatly to society)
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          Dec 10 2011: Governments get a bad rap for wasting money, and its a good thing that people keep an eye one what they are doing. However, often the government does spend money better than the private citizen. They do things like plow the snow off the roads in the winter, while if the money was left in the hands of wealthy citizens, they'd just fly south for a vacation and play golf.

          We have to remember that when people "earn" lots of money they do so in an environment the government invests in to support the economy. How well would these businesses function without roads, electricity, clean water, or a healthy educated populace to draw employees from? How well would they function without security or the rule of law? Is all of that supposed to be payed for by donation? Should we have a toll on every road, a fee for every school?

          I pay my taxes (which are substantial) and I don't see anything wrong with that. People in countries that have such infrastructure should just quit whining about their taxes and be thankful for what their government provides for them. There is a reason why people try so hard to immigrate to these "over taxed" countries.

          p.s. The idea that anyone who is rich has earned it is absurd but thats another conversation
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    Dec 7 2011: Whoever has more food, clothing and shelter than his needs require.
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    Dec 7 2011: "Rich" will simply mean the top earners. The percentage and the income level may be different for each country , region and society.
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      Dec 8 2011: Not all the "rich" earn their fortune, some inherit or steal, I wonder if we should replace the word "earners" with another word or phrase. Perhaps "net worth" would work. Do you agree Mr. Gupta?
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    Dec 7 2011: my definition is as always: over 10 times the world median income
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      Dec 7 2011: Krisztian, what is the amount of the world median income?
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        Dec 7 2011: i couldn't find any data, but i estimate it between 2500 and 3500 USD per year
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          Dec 7 2011: Thank you!
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          Dec 9 2011: Hi Krisztian:

          I would assume most of the people in this forum are rich by your definition (even if they don't feel that way)