WealthSpike: Don’t think wealth has much to do with hard work and innovation

Billionaires and multi-millionaires will often say they made their fortune through a combination of hard work and innovation, but is that true? Not much, says a Swiss academic, who argues that wealth is seldom due to either.   

Professor Ueli Mäder, a sociologist from the University of Basel, reckons that most acquire wealth because they were born into rich families, or marry into it. Speaking to the Swiss news service, SwissInfo, Mäder said: “Not one billionaire has achieved it through sheer hard work...Many people have the feeling that they should be able to pat themselves on the back. It’s self-deception.

“I sometimes meet an entrepreneur in Basel who says to me: 'Mäder, you always support people who are dependent on state support'. However, the entrepreneur inherited his company and doesn’t appear to notice that he didn’t earn his wealth.”

He added: “There are many people in Switzerland who give 100 percent to their work and still don’t get anywhere because they work in low-wage sectors. Hard work alone is no guarantee of wealth.”

Mäder did offer some words of comfort to the very rich. He told SwissInfo: “I know some rich people who criticise these developments (growing inequality) themselves, who recognise the danger and who are urging more restraint.”