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By Alexis Brassey, Stephen Barber (eds.)

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They are overwhelmingly western, primarily American or European, and male, but they represent no single ethnic group, no single social background, and certainly possess no single business acumen or financial secret which can explain the acquiring of these awesome fortunes. Many, indeed most, of these billionaires, though, would not be in the mega-rich category without the aid of a substantial inheritance – for ‘inheriting’ remains the well-trodden route to great multimillion dollar wealth. The crucially central role of inheritance in wealth building is often underplayed by the super-wealthy and their supporters.

In the modern Wall Street regime those days are now over, challenging at least one element of the era of greed. ) If the new global super-rich do not amount to an old-style ruling class, they are certainly becoming an overclass: the mirror image of the more discussed urban underclass. In a very real sense the new super-rich are becoming transcendent – removed from their societies, separated from the rest of us. This is happening physically. Greed has meant that the higher levels of the super-rich have always lived apart: within their walled estates or in wealthy ghettos in the centre of Manhattan, London and other cities.

20 Greed and the Market 32 Berggren, N. and Jordahl, H. ‘Free to Trust: Economic Freedom and Social Capital’, Kyklos, 59, 2, 2006, 141–69. 33 Maitland, I. ‘Virtuous Markets: The Market as School of the Virtues’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 7, 1, 1997, 23. 1 Greed is also personal. It is the force that drives people to (attempt to) endlessly accumulate wealth in all its forms. And because people cannot achieve the same level of success in the game of greed, it is also a driver that separates people within and between societies.

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