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Have billionaires accumulated their wealth illegitimately?

BILLIONAIRES HAVE never exactly been popular with the radical left. But with a member of the nine-zero club sitting in the White House, and a decade of slow growth in living standards, some Democrats have taken to attacking billionaires to draw attention to their argument for root-and-branch economic reform. “Billionaires should not exist,” says Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate. Plutocrat-bashing has become part of the debate in Britain, too, where an election will be held on December 12th. At the Labour Party’s campaign opener Jeremy Corbyn, its far-left leader, attacked the Duke of Westminster, one of Britain’s wealthiest landowners, and Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul.Socialists argue that anyone who has become fantastically rich has profited from a rigged system. “Every billionaire is a policy failure,” goes the memorable phrase. To assess this claim The Economist has drawn on data from Forbes, a business magazine, on billionaires in the rich world, updating an index of crony capitalism that we first put together in 2014 (see chart).
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