Social Justice

Wealth of world's five richest men doubles as five billion people get poorer: 'It's not democratic'

As the richest get richer, an unlikely group is calling for a wealth tax: millionaires. The Big Issue meets a millionaire who wants to pay more tax

wealth - elon musk

Elon Musk is the richest man in the world, according to Forbes's list of billionaires. Image: Flickr/ Ted Conference

The combined wealth of the world’s five wealthiest men has surged from £321bn to an eye-watering £688bn in just five years.

That’s the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos seeing their bank accounts boom.

Meanwhile, the wealth of the poorest 60% – encompassing nearly five billion people – has fallen.

This is according to a new Oxfam report on inequality and global corporate power. It argues that if we continue on this current trajectory, the world is on track to witness its first trillionaire in the next decade. 

But the sobering reality persists that poverty is not anticipated to be eradicated for another 229 years.

Not only this, but the surges in wealth were supercharged – these billionaires are £2.6 trillion richer than in 2020, and their wealth has grown three times faster than the rate of inflation.

In the UK alone, the top 1% own 36.5% of all financial assets, with a value of £1.8 trillion.

While these staggering figures are likely to provoke most average-income to lower-income earners, there is an unlikely group of individuals who are fighting against wealth inequality – stinking rich millionaires. 

Patriotic Millionaires UK, as they call themselves, a nonpartisan group of British millionaires, are campaigning for a wealth tax which would bring in considerable amounts of money for the government.

To do this, the group leverages the power their wealth brings to advocate for an end to extreme wealth and ensure those with it make their fair and proper contribution. 

Julia Davies, a millionaire who wants to be taxed more. Image: Supplied

Speaking to The Big Issue, Julia Davies, one of its founding members, said the level of wealth that some people in the UK hoard is incomprehensibly high for the average person.

“A billion is 1,000 million and I think it’s really difficult for people to get their head around what that means,” she said.

“Who would ever decide that it’s a good idea to have that amount of wealth in the hands of a few people who’ve accumulated it by exploiting our natural resources, with the sole aim in mind of accumulating wealth?”

Davies started her career as a commercial lawyer, eventually taking the leap in 2003 to set up Osprey Europe alongside her ex-husband. 

As the company grew, so did her wealth, When she decided to sell her stakes a few years ago, she found herself more comfortable than ever before.

“I no longer have to worry about money at all,” she said. ”That gives you incredible freedom.”

“I’ve got that at a much, much lower level than being a billionaire. So, all that money that they have is in excess of the level which enables you to live a really good, secure level of lifestyle for yourself and your family.”



It is this extreme wealth inequality that Davies and Patriotic Millionaires UK are grappling with, which, as Davies asserts, is a threat to democracy and progress.

“There are people now that are cumulating a level of wealth that gives them greater power in governments, and that’s not democratic,” she said.

“It threatens the ability of our governments to make decisions for everybody, instead they are being pressured into making decisions which prioritise that small number of people.”

To tackle this, the group are looking to government for a “low level of wealth tax” (approximately 1% to 2%) on anyone with over £10 million.

“If you’ve got £10 million, you’re sorted. If you’ve got wealth above that, if you have to pay a small amount of tax on that, that’s not going to affect you having a really nice house, you being able to take yourself and your family on really nice holidays many times a year, you being able to drive whatever vehicle you choose to have or you buying whatever you want,” Davies said.

In response to this campaign, government officials have encouraged the super-rich to voluntarily contribute more tax, but for Davies, this does not accurately tackle the scope of the issue.

“Willingly paying more tax is philanthropy – tax is something you have to pay,” she said.

“If the proposals that we are calling for come in place, I will willingly pay more taxation. If those proposals aren’t being put in place, I’m not going to give my philanthropy to this government.

“That’s why it’s not democratic. I’m just deciding, do I direct my money towards nature restoration, community energy, or the circular economy, and that’s where I’m directing my money. If the proposals that we’re talking about are brought in, that would be taxation, and I would willing to pay an extra level of wealth taxation.”

This income for the government would provide a “significant extra sum of money”, which Davies believes could be funnelled into greater infrastructure for transport, climate action and healthcare.

“We desperately need investment in our public services infrastructure. All of this is just passing the buck down the line to everybody’s going to be paying taxes in the future.

“What we need to move from is this acceptance, like a free pass for very wealthy people to behave in a way that other citizens don’t get away with. 

“Other citizens are having to contribute in a very significant way to our public services and infrastructure, wealthy people should be doing the same. That shouldn’t be a controversial proposal.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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