Economics Society

The Wealth Clock: What Does It Really Count?

I came across this interesting post by Ida Ince at Critical Legal Thinking about the “Wealth Clock”, which purports to display wealth distribution in Germany.


Following in the traditions of the Doomesday and US National Debt clocks, the Wealth Clock, is an attempt by some “Ger­man trades uni­ons, aca­dem­ics, and mil­it­ants” to push the government into new taxes on the rich. As the author notes:

…the Wealth Clock itself dis­closes a dia­lect­ical motion which sets over against the bound­less growth of Germany’s private wealth amongst its richest 10%, the like­wise “bound­less” impov­er­ish­ment of its poorest 10%. Two dif­fer­ences united in their dif­fer­ence by an under­ly­ing notion. The impli­cit argu­ment of the Wealth Clock is that it is in the recip­rocal uni­fic­a­tion of these diver­gent series at a higher level, that of the cap­it­al­ist pro­cess, that the rel­ev­ant polit­ical trans­ition bound­ar­ies can be loc­ated. For the uni­ons pro­mot­ing the clock, it is the spectre of such a trans­ition which should spur Merkel’s gov­ern­ment to insti­tute a 1% wealth tax on per­sonal wealth start­ing at 500,000 euros.

The author goes on to make an interesting (and much clearer, if incorrect) point:

The Wealth Clock sees itself expli­citly as a polit­ical counter-​proposal to the notion of tax­pay­ers’ Fed­eral Debt. It wants to show how great wealth is in Ger­many. DGB Hesse [one of  the sponsor labor groups] con­clude that what can be eas­ily seen from these fig­ures is that the pub­lic give away money by waiv­ing appro­pri­ate tax­a­tion of high asset and income levels — money that is not then avail­able for redu­cing debt and for import­ant tasks, for example in edu­ca­tion and training.

It’s fascinating that the author think the “public” is giving away money, since this implies that all the money not being taxed belongs to everyone in Germany, which is a ridiculous notion. The reason this statement is interesting is that it shows, yet again, that sooner or later, those left behind in economically developed countries will wake up, and that in the absence of real dialogue all sorts of ideas can fill the void. Thus, the Wealth Clock is, I think, important because what it’s really signaling, is that those fortunate enough have the lion’s share of the wealth, be it through their talent and hard work or the luck of a timely inheritance, should also wake up and start to discuss what that that outcome, good for them but not so good for others, means.


Read more:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: