Millions Of Millionaires

y2k wealth
The past decade has led to an explosion of millionaires but CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason looks at what it will take to be truly wealthy in the next century.
On the eve of a new century, America is creating fortunes as never before.

The booming U.S. economy has created 6 million new millionaires in the last decade alone.

According to MIT economist Lester Thurow, America has 250 billionaires.

Author of Building Wealth, Thurow says in the next century, the technology revolution will give birth to more multibillionaires like Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder now worth more than $100 billion.

"Gates' wealth is equal to the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of the population, which is 110 million people," Thurow says.

Not since the turn of the last century, when the gilded age produced robber barons like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, has the U.S. economy made so many so rich.

Exactly 100 years ago, Carnegie began building his New York mansion, now the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, with the profits from his steel empire. "Well, Carnegie in today's dollars, was a genuine billionaire. And I don't know what it cost to construct it, but the answer is a lot," Thurow says.

"At the turn of the century, they were playing on this technological revolution, electricity, oil," he adds.

That revolution lasted 25 years. But this time, Thurow says, something is different, "If you think of human history, the wealthiest man in the world has always owned natural resources: land, gold, oil."

But then came Bill Gates.

Thurow points out that Gates owns no land, gold or oil, and he doesn't really even own patents. What he does is control a knowledge process. And that's a brand new way to create wealth that has never existed before in human history.

Technological knowledge will be currency in the new millennium, according to Thurow, who notes that this revolution has 20 years to run.

"And with new technologies, you make new rich people. And it's almost that simple," says Thurow.

So as we enter a new century, we may also be entering another gilded age.

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