Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Inequality: Chinese Politicians Wealthier than US Peers

Wall Street activists and the left should look at this, wealth of politicians in China and the US have been ballooning

Reports the Bloomberg,

The richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president and his Cabinet, and the nine Supreme Court justices.

The net worth of the 70 richest delegates in China’s National People’s Congress, which opens its annual session on March 5, rose to 565.8 billion yuan ($89.8 billion) in 2011, a gain of $11.5 billion from 2010, according to figures from the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy. That compares to the $7.5 billion net worth of all 660 top officials in the three branches of the U.S. government.

The income gain by NPC members reflects the imbalances in economic growth in China, where per capita annual income in 2010 was $2,425, less than in Belarus and a fraction of the $37,527 in the U.S. The disparity points to the challenges that China’s new generation of leaders, to be named this year, faces in countering a rise in social unrest fueled by illegal land grabs and corruption…

The wealth gap between legislatures holds with statistically comparable samples. The richest 2 percent of the NPC -- 60 people -- had an average wealth of $1.44 billion per person. The richest 2 percent of Congress -- 11 members -- had an average wealth of $323 million.

The U.S. figures come from a downloadable database on the website of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. The U.S. figures are inflated because the database includes members of Congress who were retired or defeated in the 2010 elections as well as their replacements.

The wealth of members of Congress did increase at a higher rate than that of their Chinese peers in the most recent disclosures as U.S. equity markets outperformed China’s. The average wealth of the richest 2 percent of Congress rose 22 percent in 2010 from 2009. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index rose 12.8 percent in 2010.

Funny how the news above attempts to paint the wealth of politicians as mostly derivative of conventional economic means.

In reality a significant portion of the wealth of politicians account for as economic and financial benefits from political inequality: the greater the political power over society, the more access to what Bastiat would call as “lawful plunder”.

From the great Frédéric Bastiat in The Law

Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.

Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws! Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.

It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears, for everyone to suffer a cruel retribution — some for their evilness, and some for their lack of understanding

Accounts of lawful plunder are manifested through gaming or manipulation of the laws to secure their self-interests, e.g. insider trading, anti-competition laws and etc…, crony capitalism, logrolling and or corruption through earmarks (pork barrel) or through other means.

The same Bloomberg article gives us some clues

“The rich in China have strong incentive to become ‘within system’ due to the relative weakness in the rule of law and of property rights,” Victor Shih, a professor at Evanston, Illinois-based Northwestern University who studies Chinese politics and finance, wrote in an e-mail.

Transparency International’s corruption perception index also gives us more hints


China is perceived as more corrupt compared to the US which could partly explain the wealth inequality between Chinese and American politicians.

Bottom line: Unknown to most, (wealth or income) inequality mostly emanates from political actions, particularly instituted arbitrary laws which facilitates “lawful plunder” that works to benefit the political class, their cronies and their dependants at the expense of everyone else.

Laws create corruption, to quote the legendary investor Doug Casey, and corruption engenders laws.

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