The web has been buzzing about the recently released The World's Billionaires list by Forbes, and this made me think about if the data really matters to us since our lives are so far removed from people who have a net worth of more than 10 figures. Further, the list isn't totally accurate — there are apparently a lot of billionaires that didn't even make it to the list, because there are a number of people who keep their money in privately owned assets.
On the plus side, it's also great to have data and records, because it creates a culture of transparency. And as a bonus for the billionaires, Bill Gates once said that the Forbes list is a nice Rolodex to use when he's knocking on doors, trying to convince the other uber rich to be more philanthropic. It's also interesting to see who the most successful people in the other countries are, and it's a good indicator of how fast a country is developing. Case in point: China doubled its number of billionaires this year.
However, one of the main drawbacks is that the list almost seems like a public display of flaunting for the rich. The US economy is still recovering, and people are still feeling the bite of the recession. Perhaps a better list would be a list of billionaires who are doing the most for their country. This will send a message to people that although becoming extremely successful is something to be proud of; using that money to create visible social impact for society is even better.
Bill Gates was the richest man in the world for 17 years before dropping to second place in 2010 and this year, but he would have received the top spot if it weren't for his charitable donations. According to Reuters, Gates would have actually had $88 billion (topping Carlos Slim's $74 billion) if he didn't give so much money to his philanthropic causes. Thanks to his wealthy support, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest in the US.
What do you think of the Forbes billionaires list — should we have a list of billionaires who are doing the most good rather than a who's who of the richest people in the world?