There are thousands of billionaires, and they are making things worse. Here’s why.
Why we should worry about billionaires
- Us humans struggle with large numbers. Because of this, many of us cannot fully comprehend the billionaire. We underestimate their wealth and power.
As the memes say: “People don’t have a strong intuitive sense of how much bigger 1 billion is than 1 million. 1 million seconds is about 11 days. 1 billion seconds is about 31.5 years.”
- Because we cannot fully comprehend the billionaire, they often escape proper scrutiny. The lack of scrutiny should be a worry, because:
- Studies have shown that wealth reduces empathy and compassion for others. And that wealth can cloud moral judgment.
- Also, higher than expected levels of psychopathic traits exist among people found in the upper echelons of the corporate business sector.
Examples: How the very rich, who may (or may not) lack empathy, wield power
- They buy and manipulate the media, further obscuring, and empowering themselves. E.g. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. Gawker.com closed after a lawsuit funded by Peter Thiel.
- Distort democracy. E.g. “Far-right parties’… funded by massive cash infusions… sometimes openly attributed to the richest, most powerful people in Europe”
- Destroy lives. E.g. “The secretive wealthy family behind the opioid epidemic are using the same tactics to kill public education”
- Perpetuate inequality. E.g. “Richest 25 Americans reportedly paid ‘true tax rate’ of 3.4% as wealth rocketed”
How can the power of billionaires be challenged?
- Tax them so their wealth is redistributed more widely.
- But also: Take a critical interest in them, and their activities and change the law accordingly. In summary: “Every Billionaire is a Policy Failure.”
- As Anand Giridharadas says: “I think we’re all passengers in a billionaire hijacking. We were all drugged on the plane, and these guys are now terrified in the cockpit because they’re realizing that in the back there we just woke up.”
Billionaires are very real. Here are the names of 25 of them:
|1||Jeff Bezos||$181.2 B||57||Amazon||United States|
|2||Bernard Arnault & family||$158.5 B||72||LVMH||France|
|3||Elon Musk||$157.4 B||49||Tesla, SpaceX||United States|
|4||Bill Gates||$126.2 B||65||Microsoft||United States|
|5||Mark Zuckerberg||$102.9 B||36||United States|
|6||Warren Buffett||$95.1 B||90||Berkshire Hathaway||United States|
|7||Larry Ellison||$89.9 B||76||software||United States|
|8||Larry Page||$89.0 B||47||United States|
|9||Sergey Brin||$86.4 B||47||United States|
|10||Mukesh Ambani||$80.0 B||63||diversified||India|
|11||Amancio Ortega||$77.4 B||84||Zara||Spain|
|12||Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family||$75.4 B||67||L’Oreal||France|
|13||Steve Ballmer||$69.8 B||65||Microsoft||United States|
|14||Carlos Slim Helu & family||$64.0 B||81||telecom||Mexico|
|15||Alice Walton||$63.4 B||71||Walmart||United States|
|16||Jim Walton||$61.7 B||72||Walmart||United States|
|17||Zhong Shanshan||$61.5 B||66||beverages, pharmaceuticals||China|
|18||Rob Walton||$61.0 B||76||Walmart||United States|
|19||Ma Huateng||$60.7 B||49||internet media||China|
|20||Michael Bloomberg||$59.0 B||79||Bloomberg LP||United States|
|21||Gautam Adani & family||$55.7 B||58||infrastructure, commodities||India|
|22||MacKenzie Scott||$54.5 B||50||Amazon||United States|
|23||Phil Knight & family||$49.8 B||83||Nike||United States|
|24||Jack Ma||$48.0 B||56||e-commerce||China|
|25||Daniel Gilbert||$47.1 B||59||Quicken Loans||United States|