Astronomical Wealth

I've been thinking a bit about economics in the Imperium as I continue to work on Tarvenhive.  In particular I've been thinking about the upper end of the wealth distribution, since that is where the power will tend to lie.

One has to start somewhere, so the sensible place to start seemed to be with the developed world today, since I suspect that a hive city should be at least equivalent to the present day developed world in terms of technology, manufacturing and overall wealth.  Now, I've set the population of Tarvenhive as a little under a billion, whereas the present population of Europe is 730 million and that of North America is 520 million, so Tarvenhive is either roughly one and a half Europes or 2 North Americas in terms of population (and as a first estimate in terms of economy too).  Using the whole of Europe or North America, rather than just say the EU or the United States also seems helpful because that way, for Europe we include places like Russia, Belarus and Ukraine as well as France and the UK, and for North America we include places like Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala as well as the USA and Canada.  This seems like a good idea since although on average I expect a hive city is equivalent to somewhere like the UK or the US I also suspect that it would probably have rather greater income inequality.

In terms of totals Europe has a GDP of $20 trillion while North America has a GDP of $17 trillion, so overall I would expect Tarvenhive to have a GDP of something like $30-40 trillion at least.  So much for totals, I don't know about other people, but for me once money gets that insane it starts to loose meaning.  Slightly more useful I think is to think about the wealth, and comparative size, of the upper classes, since their wealth, although still vast, is somewhat more comprehensible.

A useful bottom level to 'the rich' is someone with a net worth of more than $1 million, which is used by a lot of other organisations as well.  In Europe there are about 3.2 million people in this band (0.4% of the population), while in North America there are slightly more, about 3.35 million (0.6%), so if I want Tarvenhive to be a bit more unequal, more like North America, then Tarvenhive would probably have at least 7 million people who are the equivalent of US dollar millionnaires in 2011 money, maybe as many as 10 million (1% of the Hive).  Rather nicely this is similar to the population I had envisaged for the Upper Hive.  Above this there is a convenient definition of 'ultra-high net worth individuals' as those with a net worth above $30 million that roughly picks out the '1% of the 1%' as it were, the top 1% of those with a net worth above $1 million.  So Tarvenhive would have something like 70-100 thousand such people, which is rather a lot of extremely wealthy people.

Finally then how rich is the richest person in Tarvenhive?  Well the richest person in Europe is Bernard Arnault with $41 billion, while the richest person in North America is Carlos Slim with $69 billion.  So the richest person in Tarvenhive probably has the equivalent of at least $80 billion, probably more.  In particular once you start getting up to this level things get more complicated because the richest person in Tarvenhive won't just have interests in Tarvenhive, they will have holdings in other parts of Tian as well, and possibly even off world.

If you start thinking about the fact that Tian as whole probably has 100 times the population of Tarvenhive (maybe even more), then a person with a net worth of $80 billion isn't exceptional.  If you go down to number 100 on the list of the worlds wealthiest people they have about $9 billion dollars, so if the ratio between the richest person on Tian and the richest person in Tarvenhive is similar, the richest person on Tian might well be pushing towards being a trillionnaire, especially since they will definitely have assets offworld as well as on Tian itself.  That would be larger than the GDP of a country like the Netherlands or Indonesia!

Dragon Lord

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Perhaps compare it to cities in semi-periphery countries instead

Would the developed world really be a fitting comparison? I was more thinking about those megacities you'd tend to see in developing countries to be slight closer to what a Hive city might be. Cities such as Mexico City, the metropolises in Latin America, India and China might be a closer fit.

Lacking facilities, population boom, insane economic inequalities, urban violence, poverty, and so on. In the Imperium hive cities are centers of production, then perhaps it's better to look at Indian and Chinese cities as a model, rather than the European or North American ones. I would imagine that in such cities the "bottom level of rich" is way smaller than in Western cities. A hive city would be very similar. Only at the top do you have a small elite living in luxurious circumstances, the rest is less fortunate (which in most cases is the understatement of the millenium).

To measure the richest of the rich, it is indeed a better idea to compare them more to the elites of places on earth that are primarily producing goods (China, India, Brazil, etc.). Note that the owners of the technology generally don't live in those places (but are in Western countries). The owners of hive city technology are the Adeptus Mechanicus, an external party. The elites in your hive have most likely moved off world, leaving only their representatives (who are relatives) as the elites of the city. Meaning that whilst these figures are very...very wealthy, they are not the truly wealthy of the Imperium since they move off world to a Paradise World or something as soon as possible.

This 'flight of the wealthy/capital' is something you need to show a bit more in here as well I think :)

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It is difficult finding

It is difficult finding appropriate comparators.   I was kind of imagining the Hive City as being somewhere between the megacities of the newly industrialised countries like China, India and Mexico and the developed world.  This is partly because I was envisaging a higher base technology level.  Just as much inequality, possibly even more, but with all sectors of society at a higher level of access to technology than today.  That's why I went with the whole of North America, or the whole of Europe, since in the case of North America, Mexico makes up a quarter of the population and in Europe it includes all of the former Soviet bloc countries and Balkan states.  Also, Carlos Slim, the richest person in North America (and the world) is actually Mexican.

The issue of the rich moving offworld (or having always lived offworld) is one that had occurred to me, but I decided that I would have to gloss over that because it complicates things too much.  In the case of Hiveworlds I also wonder whether the effect might actually be less pronounced than one might initially imagine, since the spires of the upper hive are (or at least can be) almost completely cut off from the rest of the hive.

In terms of ownership of the technology, in the case of Tian and Tarvenhive at least, a lot of the technology is in the hands of the Hive nobles/their families.  This is part of my ideas for Tian as a whole and is a result of the previous insular attitude of Tian which desired native ownership of technology and was willing to cap their tech-level to achieve it.  There is now an influx of Ad Mech technology and personnel from the new forgeworld, Proteus, that is resulting in a raising of the local tech level and is also linked with the surging economy of Tian (and Proteus too).  Some of the populace of Tian will be suspicious of this however and uneasy about making themselves too reliant on Ad Mech technology.

We had some interesting discussions about this over on Dark Reign as well that I had been meaning to summarise and post up here, but I'm afraid they might have been lost now.

Dragon Lord