‘At some level, no one deserves that much money.’ That’s what Mark Zuckerberg has said about his fellow billionaires. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have both said that the super-rich should pay much more in taxes. When even billionaires are questioning their own right to exist, should we not do the same? To their detractors, the very existence of billionaires is a sign of policy failure. Only under a system that is rigged in favour of exploitative rent-seekers could a class of people holding such a vast proportion of the world’s wealth have emerged. As for the defence that billionaires do a huge amount of good through their philanthropy, why should the underpaid and disadvantaged have to rely on the largesse of these self-appointed benefactors? What we need is an economic system that distributes wealth fairly – not through charity but via a democratically accountable state.
That’s the argument of the billionaire-bashers, but is it a fair one? Don’t we all in fact benefit from the way the world’s greatest entrepreneurs are able to provide us with products and services more cheaply and efficiently than ever before? Do we really want to see a world where there is no incentive for the next Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates to take a risk? In fact, some economists argue that concentration of wealth promotes economic growth. Billionaires often reinvest their money in their own companies, creating more jobs, or in the stock market so that other businesses can do the same. Making Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg poorer is not going to make the 99 per cent any richer. It might make the envious feel better but it isn’t a rational economic argument. Let’s leave the billionaires alone.
Speakers subject to change.