According to 2016 Forbes, the top ten richest people in the United States are as follows – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg, Charles Koch, David Koch, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. With over 300 million people living in the US, these ten people make up ~0.0000031% of the population. Together, the ten richest people in the US have a total net worth of 523.3 billion dollars. Together, they make up 3.33% of the 16.7 trillion GDP. The average net worth of the top ten is 52.3 billion. The median household net worth in the US ~75,000. Although this a scary realty, it is a fair one.
According to the Solow Growth Model, workers earn the equivalent of their marginal product of labor (MPL). Thus, it is not surprising that the richest people have made ground-breaking and lasting contributions to the US and the larger economy. These contributions include Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Notice that most of these contributions are related to technology. Technology, A in the Solow Model, is a key factor to long-run growth for output. Technology, as we have seen with Microsoft, is constantly improved upon through previous innovations. The 2017 Microsoft Office is much more advanced than the first one released in 1992. By increasing A, these 10 people are significant producers of long-run growth.
Technology is a newer source of wealth. The richest men in American History, John Rockefeller (1900’s) claimed his wealth through the oil industry and Andrew Carnegie (1800’s) through the steel industry. Both of these contributions largely affect natural resources, N, to boost output. Now, technology is overwhelmingly the current and future “field” – not just for the top ten, but for all individuals.
A drawback of such great wealth in few hands is the power of saving verses consumption. A very wealthy person saves more than the average person. As we know, great savings may lower the money supply and impede short-run output. In the same breath however, great savings increases long-run growth, as seen in the steady-state solow model. By increasing technology and saving, the top ten are promoters of long-run growth. (The saving verses consumption issue should be considered when discussing tax policies.)
A few interesting side notes: All of the top ten richest people are men. Also, it is likely that a percentage of their incomes are sourced from foreigners. Websites and software can be spread easily from country to country.