The super-rich are different from you and me. It's not just that they have more money. It's that they spend more. Much, much more.

In fact, the super-rich spend so much more of their mountains of money, according to a new line of thinking among academics, that they may provide a public service by smoothing out the little dents and valleys in the global economy. As scads of Russians, Chinese, Indians and South Americans have joined the billionaires club because of the rise of emerging markets' industrial might, worldwide recessions have become much fewer in number and far slighter in severity than in past decades.

This makes sense, even if it doesn't make you feel better. For just when many average people in the U.S. or Europe are slowing down their consumption of goods and services because of the loss of a job or a pending home foreclosure, there is an increasing number of super-rich worldwide to fill in the spending gap. It's sort of a perverse fulfillment of the trickle-down theory.

Rather than being resentful of the super-rich, perhaps we should all be grateful. The next time you run into a super-rich guy at your local Bentley dealer, give him a hug.

Plutonomics

The numbers are staggering and almost incomprehensible. According to research by Ajay Kapur, an analyst at Citigroup, the wealthiest 1 million people in the world account for as much spending as 60 million other households. The disparity between the bottom 99% and the top 1% has made any other class distinctions in the richest countries almost irrelevant. Welcome to the new world "plutonomy," where economic growth is powered by, and largely consumed, by the wealthy few.

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