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Alexander Lebadev: member of Freeland's 0.1 per cent

In her work for the Financial Times and Thomson Reuters, Chrystia Freeland has a press-seat view of the lives of the very rich. It's nice work if you can get it, and between trips to Davos, the Hamptons and the other stomping grounds of the global elite, Freeland has written Plutocrats, in which she takes 350 pages to announce what F. Scott Fitzgerald said more pithily 75 years ago: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."

According to the numbers, the rich today are even less like you and me than they once were. In the 1970s the top 1 per cent of American earners captured about a tenth of national income. Today, their share has risen to nearly a third. The numbers in Britain are similar. One particularly jaw-dropping            illustration of economic inequality is the total net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett: their combined $90 billion fortune matches the wealth of the poorest 40 per cent of Americans.

 Freeland has reported from "exclusive conferences in Europe, conduct[ed] interviews over cappuccinos on Martha's Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms, [and] observ[ed] high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan." At one such party, diners nod as one guest says: "The thing about 20"meaning $20 million per year"is 20 is only 10 after tax." These are not the worries of the 1 per cent, but the 0.1 per cent. It is this top rung that has pulled away from the rest so dramatically in recent years and this is the group Freeland sets out to study. Just as there is confusion over the point at which "middle-class" becomes "wealthy" (see Lionel Shriver, page 18), it is unclear exactly where Freeland draws the line between the rich and the super-rich. She leaves readers puzzled as she jumps to and fro between the 0.1 per cent and the rest of the 1 per cent. There is a difference between plutocrats and the bankers and lawyers who work for them.

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