With just over $18 billion to his name, capitalism has been good to Ray Dalio: He started his hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, out of a two-bedroom New York City apartment in 1975 and it now manages $160 billion in assets and is the largest hedge fund in the world, according to Forbes.
Quite literally, Dalio has built a fortune thanks to capitalism. But he's also keenly aware that it is a deeply flawed system.
"Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people. That's just the reality," Dalio said at the 2018 Summit conference in Los Angeles in November. Monday, Dalio tweeted a video of his Summit talk.
Dalio made the comment about capitalism during a discussion about wealth inequality.
"Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of the population's net worth is equal to the bottom 90 percent combined. In other words, a big giant wealth gap. That was the same — last time that happened was the late '30s," Dalio said. (Indeed, research from Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the National Bureau of Economic Research of wealth inequality throughout the 20th century, covered by The Guardian, bears this out.)
Further, Dalio points to a survey by the Federal Reserve showing that 40 percent of adults can't come up with $400 in the case of an emergency. "It gives you an idea of what the polarity is," Dalio said. "That's a real world. That's an issue."
And Dalio says the income gap will only get worse.
"We're in a situation when the economy is at a peak, we still have this very big tension. That's where we are today," he said in November. "We're in a situation where, if you have a downturn, and we will have a downturn, I believe that — I worry that that polarity will become greater."
In fact, Dalio said that the President of the United States should declare the current wealth gap a national emergency.
"If I was doing it, I think that you have to call that a national emergency," said Dalio. Then, reasoned Dalio, the President could "[take] responsibility for changing those metrics. I think there's a lot that can be done in private-public partnerships and so on to be able to change it, but I fear that that probably will not be done by the next time we have a downturn, and I fear for what that conflict is going to be like that."
Dalio is not the only billionaire to speak out about the problems with modern capitalism.
"The real problem, in my view, is — this has been — the prosperity has been unbelievable for the extremely rich people," Warren Buffett, who is currently worth $81 billion, told PBS Newshour in June 2017. "This has been a prosperity that's been disproportionately rewarding to the people on top."
The evolving economy "doesn't benefit the steelworker maybe in Ohio," Buffett said on Newshour. "And that's the problem that has to be addressed, because when you have something that's good for society, but terribly harmful for given individuals, we have got to make sure those individuals are taken care of."
That's not what's currently happening according to the billionaires, and it worries Dalio.
"I'm concerned because we're not working together around our common principles," Dalio said in a Summit follow-up interview, published on Jan. 8. "The amount of tolerance there is for the differences, the amount of empathy, the desire to work it out and find the common solutions, is diminished."
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