Should billionaires exist?
With the news that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter to do with as he wishes, a storm of outrage ensued amongst a fragment of the populace. Some see him and his plans for free speech as no less than an attack on democracy. Rather ironic given that for a long-time we’ve believed that ‘free speech’ was in fact a cornerstone of democracy.
For many, a billionaire represents power — since a lot of money tends to buy power and concentrate that power in the hands of the few.
Those who are not squarely on the side of the billionaires tend to see them as unethical. They do not believe that it possible to gain so much resources through fair play and don’t agree that anyone should be able to amass so much. And, in about one third of cases, that wealth is inherited. But if we put a cap on billionaires, where do we draw the wealth line next? And will it cripple the ability of companies to grow?
Are billionaires really these shadowy figures that harm society? It depends on the billionaire.
Some exploit labor practices or build their power on the back of corruption. They have immense power to do either good or bad. They can influence policies and even overthrow entire regimes. And yet, they are unelected.
Some billionaires, however, are great philanthropists. More importantly, a number of them are also innovators who can have a tremendous positive impact on the world in ways that governments could not. For starters, they are capable of taking great risks with their own funds that companies or institution would never be permitted in. They can fail spectacularly, or succeed and transform the world. They can also focus on causes that might otherwise not get traction because they are less popular. They might not even always be motivated by the profitability of an endeavour. And, if their ventures are indeed profitable, it makes them self-sustaining long-term which can ensure that they benefit others for years to come. Billions of dollars also mean that something people support can scale indefinitely. You don’t get to a billion offering something that people don’t care about.
As you can see, billionaires can both be good for society as well as harmful. As Peter Parker’s uncle famously said: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Same applies to billions.
What do you think? Do billionaires do more good, or harm? Leave a comment below.
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