Where in the world is it easiest to get rich? | Harald Eia | TEDxOslo


Translator: Zsófia Herczeg
Reviewer: Queenie Lee Where in the world
is it easiest to get … rich? That’s the question I asked my professor
when I studied sociology in the early 90s because he was having a lecture about social democracies,
the Scandinavian welfare state, and he was a classical
left-wing sociology professor, and he could not hide his enthusiasm when he talked about
these egalitarian societies with no rich people and no poor people. But I, on the other hand, I was writing
my master’s thesis about rich people. When I interviewed my informants
from the upper classes, they all said the same thing: “Life in Scandinavia is tough.” (Laughter) “We have to work twice
as hard to earn money because we have to struggle against: high taxes, strong unions controlling the wages and a generous welfare state
that makes people lazy.” As one rich guy told me, he said, “They call it
a social security net. Well, I call it a hammock.” (Laughter) And as every aspiring social scientist,
I started to go native; I started to feel sympathy
for these rich people. And that’s why I raised my hand
and asked my professor, “Well, what if you don’t care
so much about equality? What if your dream is to become rich? Where in the world should I have been born
to become really rich?” I still remember the puzzled look
on my professor’s face. But he answered the best he could. Something like,
“Well, if that’s your goal in life, you should probably
have been born in a society with free markets, low taxes, and minimal government intervention. And he added, “If you want to become rich, you should probably not study sociology.” (Laughter) That was a good answer
and the best guess we had back then. That is until I saw that the University
of Oslo professor in Economy, Karl Moene, actually had checked the facts: “Where in the world
is it easiest to get rich?” And before I share with you where you should go to earn money, we have to define “rich.” The UN talks about the poverty line. You know, if you earn
less than one dollar a day, maybe two dollars a day. But we have to define the richness line. It’s a more fun line, actually. And the most reliable report,
when it comes to rich people, the Wealth Report, they set the richness line at individuals with net worth
more than 30 million USD. In the consultant jargon,
these people are called UHNWI’s. That is Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. That guy, by the way, is not rich.
He is just a model. (Laughter) Actually, on the lower part of the model. (Laughter) And I have saved some money
by keeping the watermark there as well. (Laughter) Smart. (Laughter) (Applause) So, according to The Wealth Report, there are more than 170, 000 UHNWI’s in the world. And here is the top five list
of countries with the richest people. Number five: China, with more than 8,000. UK, Germany, Japan, and on top, of course, the United States
with more than 40,000 rich people. But of course, we are not interested
in the absolute numbers here. We are interested in rich people
per capita, per million inhabitants. And if we leave out the pure tax havens, like Cyprus, and Switzerland,
Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco – where we have an artificially
huge share of rich people – it turns out that we have
on number 5 Denmark – with 179 rich people
per one million inhabitants – Canada, New Zealand, Sweden
and on top: Norway. (Laughter) But where’s the US? On place 13. So what happened to my old professor’s,
you know, social democracies? There are no rich people there. But OK. 30 million dollars, that’s just pocket money
in a country like the US, where people can get insanely rich. (Laughter) Look at the watermark again? (Laughter) So, let’s raise the richness line
up from 30 million dollars up to … 1 billion dollars. And the most reliable source here
is the Forbes billionaires list. And according to the Forbes, if you look at billionaires
per million inhabitants. Number 5, Germany: 1.2 billionaires. 1.2 billionaires per million inhabitants. The United States 1.7, Norway 2, Sweden, and on top Iceland with 3.1 (Laughter) With a single billionaire:
Thor Björgólfsson. (Laughter) (Applause) He could have been a model. (Laughter) But the point is, the United States: 1.7
Scandinavia taken as a whole: 2.1 And the big mystery is … How can this be? How can Bernie Sanders’ dream societies, these socialist paradises be such a breeding place for rich people? (Laughter) That’s a mystery. (Laughter) There are two reasons. Reason number one is free education. Social democracies give free
higher education to everybody, and cheap student loans, and grants. That enables more people
to use their talents and earn money. We can see this
in the social mobility numbers. Imagine all fathers in a society, and we divide them into five groups
based on income: from the bottom fifth up to the top fifth. Then we look at their sons, and divide their income into five steps, and we see how many sons of the fathers
from the bottom income end up on top. How many sons go from rags to riches? If it was perfect social mobility, if talents and opportunities
were equally distributed, 20% from the bottom would end up
on each of these five ladders. So let’s look at the numbers
for the different countries. In Denmark, they are pretty close
to perfect social mobility with 14% that goes from rags to riches. In Norway 12, Sweden 11,
the United States 8. Because of free education, there are more self-made men
in Scandinavia than in the US. And if we look at those sons who don’t
end up on top but stay at the bottom, that go from rags to rags. Again, 20% would be perfect mobility. In Denmark, 25% ends up at the bottom, Sweden a bit more. Norway. And look at the United States. This is because education
in the United States is very expensive. But the second and
most important explanation for Scandinavia being such
a breeding place for rich people is this: Have you ever noticed
if you have been to the United States, when you drive around
and drive through a toll plaza, there are actually people sitting there
taking your money. Compare that to my local toll plaza. (Laughter) Just a sign with some
gizmo attached to it. And when you go to a supermarket
in the United States, there are actually people there helping
to pack your things into your bags. It’s very friendly and convenient
compared to my local grocery store. Like this. (Laughter) There’s nobody there. (Laughter) The biggest shock I had
when I went to the US for the first time, when I went to the restroom, there were actually people working there. Compare that to my local public toilet. (Laughter) There’s not even a cleaner there;
it cleans itself automatically. And the reason for this difference is that Scandinavian unions
are pressing up the minimum wages. It’s so expensive to have
these people working there. In Norway, tollbooth operators,
supermarket packers, and a restroom janitor would earn almost three times
as much as in the US. And that’s why we have replaced
these people with machines. That is why I was surprised
when I saw this article in The New York Times in 2014. Preparing for Chip-and-PIN Cards
in the United States. (Laughter) Because in the United States
people are still using paper checks as a method of payment, while Scandinavian banks have made us
start using Chip-and-PIN cards long ago. Because the minimum wages
here are so high. So Scandinavian banks can’t afford
having people manually control the checks. So Scandinavian companies, because of the unions
pressing up the wages, they have to downsize
and introduce new technology or else … they will go broke. And new technology increases
the productivity in a society, which in the long run
also increases profit. And on the upper end of the wage ladder, in the name of solidarity, Scandinavian unions hold back the highest
salaries of the skilled workers. So for example,
a Norwegian senior engineer – it’s my uncle, by the way. (Laughter) That’s why there’s no watermark there. (Laughter) Actually, he would look cooler
with a watermark, better. (Laughter) He earns, on average per year,
76,000 dollars, while his American colleague earns
more than 100,000 dollars. So American engineers … (Laughter) They are not only more good-looking,
but they are more expensive. Of course, this wage restraint
on high-skilled work is good for profit. So, the unions are in effect
subsidizing the capitalists. I wish I knew all this when I gave up
a career in social science because the beauty and the irony
of these findings, I think, is amazing. On the one hand,
you have my rich informants that complain about how hard
it is to get rich in Scandinavia. They had it all wrong. Not only is it easier to get rich
in a social democracy, but they are critical
to the very institutions that have helped them get rich. High taxes, which gives free education
and more talent into the economy. Strong unions that are helping
to increase productivity, and a generous welfare state
that makes the unions accept downsizing because they know that their members
will be well taken care of. So the unions cooperate
because of the safety net. So rich people are a bit like
Immanuel Kant’s famous bird, who thinks she could fly
even faster in airless space, forgetting that it’s the air itself
that gives her lift. On the other part
of the political spectrum, when Bernie Sanders is praising
Scandinavian societies, he forgets that these are not anti-rich
or anti-capitalist systems. Because the welfare state and the unions
work in tandem with capitalist dynamics. And I think that is the most
important lesson here. The economy is not a zero-sum game. We are in this together. And that is why Scandinavia
is a better place to fulfill the American dream … (Laughter) than America itself. Thank you so much. (Applause) (Cheering)




Comments
  1. More income inequality is created by the social welfare state with stronger union laws and protections.

  2. Thanks a lot for clear statistics and we'll supported claim. I was long feeling scsndinavian countries are difficult to live, but this video has changed my view. Great! but don't know which one would be best to work and live as an Indian Technical marketing person – sweden or Norway or Denmark or Switzerland or ….?

  3. I have to critique some of this. Firstly, the billionaires per million metric used on Scandinavia even taken as a whole lacks credible exposure due to how small the total population is compared to USA. You even pointed that out with Iceland yourself (1 billionaire if he goes Iceland gets tied for the bottom).Any effective analysis would need to examine US states, regions, or cities broken apart to make a serious comparison unless this is comedic. And then you will find there’s leading and lagging states, and if you take New York State or Northern California you will then get a richer per capita different result. Your US analysis is what needs work, you are the expert for the Scandinavian part of the analysis.

    Where in the world is it easiest to get rich? I have to say New York City or San Francisco and I’ll explain why. You can live on the street or very tiny quarters and dodge the cost of real estate while receiving the wages that assume you are in need of those housing costs that you aren’t paying. There you can accept a competitive wage ….relative to your competition.

  4. Happiest countries and the best countries in which to live have been consistently Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, etc. Conservatives and the Right Wing shrug off these countries as socialistic – which is true due to high taxes, free education, national medical care, and high minimum wages among other things. What that means is that the best countries have no Right Wingers.

  5. What BS! I guess the fact that Norway is several million people floating on the worlds 4th largest oil supply has nothing to do with it.

  6. This talk just proves Bernie's point.
    The speaker hot one thing wrong about Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is not against getting rich at all, he is against getting rich at the expense of the poor because that would end up as obstacle to Social mobility.

  7. This talk is a joke. Income levels are highly compressed in Scandinavian countries as compared with the US which makes mobility appear higher. He provides no evidence that free education is a factor in productivity, and doesn't acknowledge that the US is more productive than Sweden.

  8. HIGHLIGHTS:

    This man has presented quite a few brilliant arguments for implementing Scandinavian policies more broadly which would appeal to the sentiments of those on the Right.

    If his facts and figures are correct, he presented a potently persuasive argument that higher taxes, strong unions and generous welfare state [emphasizing free education, grants and low student loans] have led to a higher per capita number of UHNWI and billionaires in Scandinavian countries than the US which has lower taxes, weaker unions and, relative to Scandinavia, less-than-generous welfare state.

    Here's one potent tidbit: A Norwegian engineer earns about three/fourths of his American counterpart in USD [I don't believe he accounted for taxes which would make the gap even bigger], which he used to argue leads to greater profits for companies, that the unions are, in effect, subsidizing the capitalists.

    The upshot is that higher taxes [gives free education and more talent to the economy], strong unions [help increase the overall productivity] and generous welfare state [allows the members of the unions to cooperate with downsizing because they'll be well taken care of].

    He finishes by critiquing the Right and the Left by saying that rich people are a bit like the famous bird in Kant's work thinking that the absence of air [read: social democracy] will make them faster when, in fact, it's the air that gives them more lift and, on the other end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders' supporters, miss the point if they think Scandinavian societies are not anti-rich or anti-Capitalist systems as the welfare state and unions work in tandem with Capitalist dynamics.

    "The economy is not a zero sum game, we're in this together and, therefore, Scandinavia is a better place to fulfill the American Dream."

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  10. Being in the 1% for net-worth at age 19, I can assure you that the United States is still the easiest country to get wealthy if you have the desire to do so. The ability to leverage such a large population, free market, and established industry is an opportunity unmatched for the aspiring millionaire. Power of numbers. 👌🏼

  11. Very funny, not exactly good data , especially when using his social comparisons. Did he forget to leave out the point that college is not necessarily equal success in the free market.

  12. General welfare system makes people dependent as well as lazy, however I’d argue it’s more of a power from dependence type of move rather than just “make the people lazy”

  13. Anywhere. Becoming rich is easy. The issue is what the trade off is. What are you willing to do for money? If you answer anything than it is the easiest thing.

  14. Before anyone thinks that this means that high taxes are good, it's worth noting that in the Nordic countries, high taxes are paid exclusively by the middle class. The highest income people have the lowest rates. The middle class goes along with this for two reasons. The minor one is that the rich don't use any of the social services that taxes support. The main reason is that the rich have made it clear that they will leave, and take the jobs that they provide with them, if their taxes are high. Even Ingemar Bergman fled. To Germany, of all places, where his tax rate at the time was 68% — but that was still cheaper than Sweden!

  15. Good points but he left out that in some ways Scandinavian countries are also more capitalistic.. it is actually easier to start a business there, more private sector fulfillment of govt services etc. And there is the problem of scale : US with 330 million people is not just Sweden scaled up it’s an entirely different animal. Scale matters. Some things get easier at US scale but a lot of things I suspect are far more difficult than what you’re faced with in say Germany with 60 million people etc.

  16. And he neglects to mention that by some counts if you add in the earned income credit to the 13 welfare programs distributed across 7 federal agencies the US already spends more on social safety net than any country In the world except France. This combined with one of the most progressive taxation systems in the world (poor pay virtually no taxes, top 20% of earners pay 70% of taxes, and one suspects that Nassim Taleb is right: you can’t compare different scales (small homogenous Nordic countries to giant heterogenous ones like the US). It’s not apples to apples.

  17. Scandinavia has better genetics as well, which is a HUGE factor. They have significantly higher average IQ than US.

  18. 10:40 BUSTED! I don't blame you cameraman..This is why I hope robots can take the place of camera men.. It's embarrassing getting labelled as as perv. I would like to see this attractive woman for a few more seconds but the camera guy couldn't let emotions get in the way of his job as he was emotionally embarrassed when the stunning blonde noticed him. Therefore, robots will be the only best options to to do camera work b/c we don't want creepy sociopaths as replacements who would smile and continue filming that hot blond with a noticeable bulge in his jeans..

  19. Poor Analysis, or perhaps presentation of idea was off, I felt the speaker is confusing co-relation vs causation. And making a uni variate or few insignificant variable analysis (high tax, min wage), ignoring population(demography and changes), historical levels, oil exploration(Capitalisms and socialism makes no sense if have used exploitation of natural resources to grow economy. Then your success or richness is no different than that of an Arab, or Venezuela in the past or libya under gaddafi, where education and lot of things were free.) I didn't find any reasoning why its a better system for anyone in free market to become richer by giving their wealth away except for those who are not bringing anything to the table and getting freebees. Unless what the video means is, it is easier in these countries to get rich by not doing anything. Moreover, we need to differentiate economies during analysis whom have abundance of resources like wood timber, oil, rivers etc with small population to compare economies which don't posses such things and grew. Also economies which are highly developed and rich due to oil eg. qatar or dubai, norway vs those due to technological innovation hard work and wealth creation say silicon valley or japan.

  20. Social mobility is more stagnant on an individual level in the US (perhaps), and on a national level in the EU. The poorest euro nations get poorer and the richest get richer. Basically, the Western Model is exhaust, eroding and soon collapsing. All this apparent affluency is visibly fading away, if you travel to China, UAE or Singapore, you'll understand it. The US is living on ghost money injections, the EU on uber taxation and government money redirectioning. Both will fall. Very soon.

  21. The interesting part is with a generous social safety net and “free” or cheaper education it allows for entrepreneurship. The ability to fail and keep going. The problem I see is Scandinavian countries have low populations and when scaling up I have doubts if their model can still work. The other issue is rampant illegal immigration in the US which can skew the labour market downwards.

  22. Compared to which State in the US? I am a Social Democrat as well and as you KNOW, inequality is rising in ALL Scandinavian Countries… Go an study Conflict Theory by Karl Marx, and then we can have a SERIOUS conversation.

  23. Interesting talk but he leaves out a lot of details and key political points and simplifies a lot of complex issues, including these two. First, millions of mostly poor people run to the US, not Scandinavia, which floods our generous welfare system and affects those stats. Maybe not after the first generation, but certainly after the second and even more so after the third generations, those income brackets are more fluid, as you would expect. Secondly, the US can't have the luxury of permanent high taxes, because we're 80% of NATO's military budget, which lets Scandinavia live in peace, almost for free, subsidized by the USA. Once those and other considerations are taken into account, including the rich cultural diversity, the opportunities in the US look better to most.

  24. He should have classified the wealth by rich person by country. No hard science here, but the free education sort of makes sense. No proof that it is the main driver of wealth, but it certainly helps. Remember, those smart enough to go to university, usually find a way despite the high cost and those who barely made it through high school are incapable of learning even if university were free. Also, successful people do business all over the world, which completely changes the results.

  25. New Zealand is only on that list because we let in the immigrants with the most money and they take all the good jobs

  26. When examining any of these statistics, you have to account for the massive immigration differences between the US and any other country on the planet. Especially, since the vast majority of immigrants to the US are coming in with very little capital or education.
    Sadly, for the presenter, if you do control for immigration the narrative he is attempting to create, is turned literally upside down. Proving that social mobility and personal wealth is, in fact, better in the US than in these socialist scandanavian countries.

  27. Is that all you have learnt in your life and studies? You probably better give a conference how to be a good human. Yes, you're a good comedian, nothing more. I'm sorry for the people wasting thier time to become clever. They are all looking for a miracle. Another kind of sect.

  28. The speaker is correct that Scandinavia is not socialist as Bernie Sanders thinks but capitalist with high taxes and strong unions. But the only people getting rich or financially independent are very few people who happen to be the major shareholders of a large company. For the average college graduate who has a law, engineering, medical or business degree there is virtually no chance to become financially independent. Moreover, all of these countries are small and relatively homogeneous whose defense bill is picked either directly or indirectly by the USA and their neighbors.

  29. The rich are brilliant at convincing Americans that Socialistic Democracies keep people from getting rich.

  30. my sympathies are not always with the rich because sometimes they get rich through scummy means, but the ones who are industrious really do have to work much, much harder.

  31. Can't wait for the economic update after importing all those migrants…what are their jobs going to be? Besides bombers, rapists and haters of western culture at minimum wage. Not a mention of the homogeneous Scandinavian culture….whereas America has every sort of people. We only have 5% of the world's population and produce 50% of the world's inventions…but alas. We could also select out the same relative group(s) of Americans for a direct comparison and I'll bet the results would be very different. Like the stat that San Francisco has one billionaire for every 11,000 people!…I'm moving tomorrow! Oh Sh*t….never mind.

  32. I am not sure the cause and effect follow…it might be interesting to think about the impact immigration might have on Scandinavian societies…I doubt if the system would survive high immigration from Asia / Africa

  33. Small homogeneous countries are different than large counties?!!!! We can cherry pick parts the United States that are better than Scandinavia this is unhelpful. It does prove that sociology is not a real science.

  34. Africa has failed to develop, because Africans are not united among other reasons. Africans are good at admiring other continents or countries and not learn from them. Africans are comfortably living the shadow of life, because reality is just too hard a challenge to them, self pity makes Africa lose its value. Africa is so much afraid of the truth. Africa is not convinced that her education standard as failed her, or may be Africa is the one that as failed to apply correctly her education. Africa is not economically independent and will remain so as long as she thinks that their is nothing within her but their is something out side her. Africa increases her chances to be used because she loves to beg for anything and anyhow.

    Africa dies fast than its sore called development.

    maclenny ( youth representative)

  35. I have a question. How do the numbers stack up when they are normalized against cost of living? Here in Wisconsin, I live very well when I'm earning $50,000 per year. Rent for a modest place is around $1,000 per month, utilities about $250. Monthly expenses for groceries, detergent, toiletries, paper towels, etc come up to about $250 to $300 per month. I've been offered work in San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, New York, etc. for $100,000 and more, but I always turn them down because my real wage and standard of living would dramatically decrease. I'd be happy living in Central America earning $10,000 per year if rent were $120 per month, for example. What do these numbers look like in the real world when cost and standard of living is considered?

  36. Where tf did this guy go. I've been using chips cards for ever and no body works in bathrooms unless its fantasy

  37. I feel like the Scandanavian countries need to start paying us for their national security. We are paying for most of their security blanket.

  38. I love how he skips over the fact scandavia is a much smaller country with a fairly homogenous population. Also he seems to skip the fact that the government can essentially pick winners and losers. I’d like to see how many of those rich people are in the government of have government ties.

  39. He forgets that nothing is free. Someone is footing the bill for this free education. I wonder who that could be?

  40. Lol, no his conclusions are incorrect and misleading. It is an absolute joke to make such ridiculous claims from one variable. I know he is a far left liberal arts teacher but this is truly applaing quality of effort.

  41. I guess for PC reasons we can't note that these Scandinavian countries citizens all speak the same language and are 99 + % White.

  42. I am interested in knowing the basis for linking a billionaire or a millionaire to a certain country! Because I think those UHNWIs live, work and earn money in several places. You might be born in Sweden and run a business in the USA!! I also do not see Arab countries? where are all the UHNWIs from Saudi, Qatar and UAE??

  43. The secret for success of the Scandinavian countries is that almost all the population is white. At least for now. No form of government, social democracy or capitalism works in countries with a low average IQ.

  44. He’s Norwegian And The Best Spot Is Even Norway!😂 BTW I’m Norwegian, He Has A Norwegian TV Show Called: Brille/Glasses, It Explaines A Lot And It’s Very Funny!

  45. Unions vary from one nation to the next. In some countries strong Unions have been very harmful to productivity. You only have to look at the productivity of the car industry in the UK during the1970’s. The Unions were very adversarial and were frequently striking, which cause a huge reduction in productivity. In Germany on the other hand the Unions are arguably beneficial and behave very differently. This has a lot to do with cultural differences. In the UK there was a class war taking place between the Unions and Management.

  46. It's funny how these people can claim all kind of great things and yet if you look what they have done or given to the world it's always nothing. They didn't produce the internet or given it to the entire world. Cell phone wasn't created there neither the Twitter, Google or Facebook. They don't have the strongest military in the world neither are they asked to intervene in any world crisis.

  47. The lay is in title. "Where in the world is it easiest to get rich?" It can be true if average age of rich family in Sweden or Norway is significantly lower then age of american billionaires families. But I check that. Almost all Sweden billionaires and multimilionaires are holding wealth for generations. There are no Zuckerbergs over there. So it is not easy to become billionaire in Sweden. It is easy to hold wealth. This guy laying or dont understand what he is talking about. Also example that comparing two engineers, american vs norwegian, shows that system is set to prevent any new competition against existing ultrarich. In essence, it is build for "engels" like types. People that never achieve anything themselves but want to dictate others how they shall live.

  48. Then explain why Scandinavians immigrants (1st -4th generation) out perform Scandinavians in their home countries. Ps. That’s true of every single country. You need a supportive and non intrusive government AND a culture that values education and hard work.

  49. Interesting and entertaining, but all I heard as correlation….which does not make causation! A lot of statistics that justify the socialist agenda of redistribution of wealth. No matter how you put it, weath redistribution is theft. I'm certainly not rich by any means, but I have studied and worked hard to excel in my profession, even changed professionals is wasn't meeting my desires and needs. I satred iut of VERY meger means and have built a VERY comfortable life…..if i can so can others! I'm not saying there wont be outliers that can't, nothing is perfect and if thats what you want, wake up! We are all responsibile for our own actions and choices in life, some will lead you to higher achievements than others. Our society is so focused on blaming others to get "free" stuff rather than working hard to earn what we need. There is no "free" education as the speaker puts it, only redistributed tax money to provide education to those whose parents didn't plan or don't want to pay for their education. I do think there are deeper issues here though…like the fact that our education system is way too expensive (for reasons I don't go through here…it will just spark even more banter) and the fact that in today's digital age there is very few jobs that one should really need to attend university for….you could get the same education for a fraction of the cost and time online and be just as capable, but that doesn't fit the narrative. Bottom line, stop blaming others, take responsibility for yourself and get in gear!

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