|Some poverty stats (BBC)|
The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world's population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.* The charity's research shows that the share of the world's wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year. On current trends, Oxfam says it expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world's wealth by 2016. [...] The charity said the research, published on Monday, showed that 52% of global wealth not owned by the richest 1% is owned by those in the richest 20%. The remaining population accounts for just 5.5% of global wealth [...] In October, a report from banking giant Credit Suisse also said that the richest 1% of people own nearly half of the world's wealth.It is also the case that a large proportion of the world's antiquities of illicit or unknown origins in private hands are in the 'art' collections of individuals in these groups, who are exploiting this wealth differential to supply themselves with brag-worthy geegaws.
The high-end collectors in turn are emulated by 'the disposable-cash-20%' with status-enhancing 'affordable pieces of the past' supplied by the middle range dealers. In their imagination their framed-papyrus-fragments-on-the-man-cave-wall, cabinet-toned portrait coins of the Roman emperors or 'just-think-who-might-have-touched-this-widow's-mites and salacious-scene-oil-lamps, they feel entitled to think of themselves as in some way intellectual (if nothing else) heirs of the gilded elite of the bygone ages of humanism and the enlightenment. They are not, they are just exploiters of the archaeological record and of the wealth differential which encourages looting. It is these people who tauntingly suggest on their forums and websites that if "archaeologists want to STOP looting", it is "they" (archaeologists, and thus not collectors) who should "stop world poverty". Pull up the ladder Jack.
Rearranging the world's economy in the interests of conservation and social justice is obviously not a task which conservationists can carry out alone. The publication of this research coincides with the start of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos which attracts top political and business leaders from around the world. Oxfam intends to use the charity's high-profile role at the forum to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.
* The BBC's head of statistics, Anthony Reuben, said in order to be part of the wealthiest 1% of the world's population, an individual would need to be worth just over half a million pounds. "So it is not necessarily talking about people who own yachts and ski chalets. Owning an average house in London (without a mortgage) would just about put you in the 1%."