The amount of power a person has can roughly be measured in terms of the number of human lives that are influenced by the decisions he/she makes. World leaders have power, central bankers have power, and yes, the super-rich also have power. While the decisions of political and financial leaders influence millions of lives through the policies they put in place, the super-rich influence millions of lives through their investments and their charity.
What gets funded gets done and those who have lots of money therefore have a lot of say about what gets done within our society. If billionaire investors move their money into shale oil and gas, we will see more and more fracking. But if those same billionaire investors move their money into sustainable energy, we will see more and more solar and wind power. For example, if the top 5% in the wealth pyramid shown below decided to move only 1% of their wealth into renewable energy, the total global investment in this crucial sector would instantly double.
While the majority of people hold most of their wealth in their homes (something that influences nothing but the housing market), the super-rich generally own a lot of stocks (something that directly influences global business trends). The top 10% of Americans currently own about 90% of the stock market, implying that this small fraction of people are in full control of the business direction taken by the world’s wealthiest nation.
In addition to the influence that the super-rich exert through their investments, they also exert a significant influence through the manner in which they got rich. In order to attract such vast amounts of wealth, you have to deliver a product or service that millions of people want to use. As an example, Bill Gates (the second wealthiest man on earth) exerts great financial power through his investments, but he has an even greater influence on society through the Microsoft operating system he championed.
All in all, the lives of the super-rich always have a lasting influence on the world. They take up a prominent place in history and their legacy lives on long after they are gone. For those who have a real desire to leave their mark on society therefore, accumulating vast amounts of wealth by adding great value to society is a very good way to do this. It takes great dedication and incredible amounts of work, but that is the price of leaving a legacy.
And yes, if you are one of the select few to reach the level of true financial power, remember that great power comes with great responsibility. Your decisions have a very direct influence on our environment, our economy and our society, all three of which are facing serious problems right now. Please use this tremendous power to help build a sustainable human civilization.