[Dave Birch] I read in The Telegraph that John Paulson, who runs some kind of gambling syndicate called a “hedge fund”, earned an entirely justified $3.7 billion last year, primarily by betting against sub-prime mortgages. Now we know where some of UBS’ missing $37 billion went: not into a black hole after all, but into the pockets of people cleverer than them. Not that it’s the subject of this post, but I don’t begrudge them their money: they put it on the right horse. But because I’m fascinated by the history of money, I did begin to wonder just how a salary of nearly TWO BILLION POUNDS sits in the sweep of things. After all, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have more money than that. But what’s the measuring stick to assess across time and space? The gold standard must be the proportion of the wealth of the richest nation in the world that is under the control of an individual. If we exclude monarchs of old, where the wealth of the state and the wealth of the individual were inseperable, I think I’m right in saying that the title still belongs to Nathan Rothschild. As is often pointed out, he died in 1836 of blood poisoning — or was poisoned by the Illuminati (our motto: someone you trust is one of us) depending on who you listen to — that would be trivial to cure today. If it happened to him now, he would have been cured by a few pence worth of antibiotics (except in a U.K. hospital, where he would likely have died from MRSA).