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93 BC, Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus (circa 115 - 53 BC). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archive—Getty Images

Two thousand years ago, Marcus Crassus became one of the wealthiest men in Rome. He did so in a way that's not very popular right now: he stole things from others. The best example of that happening in modern times was in Russia in the 1990s, where privatization of assets led to reallocation in an "untransparent way," says economist Sam Wilkin, author of Wealth Secrets of the One Percent. "It made a lot of people very rich, very suddenly." Intellectual property rights are a similar case, he says; some people are able to hire teams of lawyers able to attack and take other people's property. Patent trolls act like legions from ancient Rome to attack companies and seize their property, Wilkin explains, because "the property rights they have, in terms of intellectual property, are pretty ill-defined."