Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is part of the growing circle of elite business players questioning wealth disparity in the world today.
Amid heated debate about whether the rich should be more highly taxed, the billionaire philanthropist weighed in with his own view during the Milken Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi this week.
“We have to try and do everything we can to lift the vast majority of people up, when for the last few years the vast majority have not seen their living standards improve,” Branson told an audience on Tuesday evening.
“I don’t think we should throw out capitalism. But for those of us who are fortunate to have made wealth, we have a responsibility to throw that out there and tackle some of the great problems. If we don’t do that, then we deserve to have very heavy taxes leveled on us.”
The comments come as public discontent over wealth inequality is hitting a fever pitch. Calls for higher taxes for the rich are gaining traction. The rising prevalence of populist rhetoric and growing popularity of anti-establishment politicians, economists say, is in large part a result of the sense for millions across the developed world that they’ve been left out of the recent decades’ economic growth.
But billionaires at elite investor and “thought-leader” summits like Milken and Switzerland’s Davos — while seemingly gripped by this phenomenon and how it will affect their business models — are divided on how to respond to it.