There are many extremely rich people in the world. In 2020 Jeff Bezos is said to have $113 billion which is the combined GDP of Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. You might think that he would be the world’s richest man ever. However, it turns out that there were even wealthier individuals in the past.
From Genghis Khan to J.P. Morgan
It is difficult to compare and estimate the riches from the people in the past since nowadays a lot of things have changed. How much is the land of the person emperor worth? What about the people of Genghis Khan? Once when there weren’t currencies it is strange to consider estimating such things. Still, it is quite entertaining. Marcus Licinius Crassus’s wealth, for instance, was around $2 trillion. He was buying Roman swathes, legions and so on. Rockefeller is another example of extreme wealth – he was estimated to have around $650 billion.
We can look at this topic in a different way too. Maybe we shouldn’t estimate everyone’s wealth, but in order to answer the question we should look for the individual who was so rich that he defined the value of money. There are 2 such people in history. Their spending could potentially change the whole movement of the economy.
In 1324, Mansa Musa of the Malian Empire went on the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. He has 60 000 people with him on this quest and just as much gold. He left fome of it in each city he passed through, by making the poor ones rich and creating new mosques every week. His spending in Cairo and Medina had a huge effect on the value of common goods. After he realized what he had done, he bought all of Cairo’s gold at a high price and in this way fixed the hyperinflation. He was like a macroeconomic cycle.
During the Incan Empire the organization was very interesting. There wasn’t any currency or markets. The society was like a family with the emperor Atahualpa controlling everything. People served him well and he then gave them everything that they needed: food, clothes, houses, goods and so on. When he got kidnapped by the conquistadors, he mustered an unbelievable ransom – he filled a big room with gold. It could be estimated to be around $230 million if we calculate it today. Nevertheless, the Spanish killed him and the precious metals that flooded Europe afterwards created a massive inflation.
Try to wrap your head around the fact that ½ of the world’s wealth is held by less than 100 people. Even if Bill Gates ventures on an extremely expensive holiday, he won’t be able to cause a currency crisis. And if a billionaire was kidnapped maybe the ransom could send a continent into recession, don’t you think?