• Nika Farb

Should Billionaires Exist?

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

If you ever read the news, you’ve probably come across countless articles bashing Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and every other billionaire for what they do with their wealth.

There’s tons of content online about how much money Bezos makes every second, and how he’s yet to stop world hunger, end famine although it would take $11 billion of his wealth to do so annually.

After talking to a lot of my friends and coworkers it’s been brought up quite a few times that people think Billionaires shouldn’t exist.

If you’re one of these people, or of this mindset. Ask yourself why? Does this stem from a place of jealousy? When is enough money, too much money? Is it 5 million, 50 million, 1 billion?

Where are we capping it?

If we cap it, aren’t we also capping the source of motivation for people to go out and innovate?

Billionaires have the platform, reach and resources that even some governments don’t have. Like Bezos donating billions to support technologies to end climate change and educating the homeless so they never have to live on the streets again.

As a society we can be really critical of the other. Naturally emotions like jealousy arise. Again, all this is just food for thought, and these are important questions we need to be asking ourselves.

All the energy and time we spend thinking about what billionaires should be doing with their money, we’re not spending, thinking about how we can create more.

When you focus on your self-interest, and make a profit, you have the choice as to what you want to do with that profit.

Instead of viewing profit, or self-interest negatively, keep in mind that you have the power to support the industries/and people that you choose.

If you want to see change in the world, think about what industries you are supporting with your dollar. You have the power to support the change you want to see in the world. If climate change and the environment is something that is really important to you, think about what you as a consumer can do to drive change. What industries are you supporting?

Only in our capitalist society do you have that choice. If you just read the word capitalism and had an allergic reaction, let’s dig into that a bit.

Let’s dive into the history of capitalism - specifically things that aren't normally written about in business pages or in newspapers

To start, let’s look at what capitalism is.

Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit instead of being controlled by the state).

The 2 Major Elements of Capitalism:

  • Right to own private property - where through paying taxes, the government is required to be able to protect that private property

  • Exchange between legally free individuals (as opposed to serfdom - what we had in the Middle Ages, or Slavery

Capitalism started at some point in the Middle Ages. There was lots of trade back in those times, but most households tended to consume most of the things they produced, and produced most of the things they consumed.

Can you guys imagine making all the things that you consume daily? Not just food, but imagine making your own furniture, cookware, soap, makeup etc.

That’s a crazy thought.

Only in the 18th century did people start buying most things they needed.

There was growth of what's called a market oriented household - so some people who produced honey would sell it and trade for other goods.

People started working for others to gain money instead of just for their household - this created wage labour - or jobs.

How have we thought about money through the ages?

In Ancient Greece - commerce was seen as not honourable, and the pursuit of economic self interest was seen as a threat to civic virtue (high moral standards). Aristotle believed that commerce tended towards excess and that people were driven by greed.

In Christianity - wealth was seen as promoting pride and lending money was condemned as usury.

In the Gospels - section of the bible in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - riches are deemed a threat to salvation. I went to a Catholic School and I remember one of my religion teachers talking about how you can't take any of your earthly possessions with you to the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Medieval Europe, the stigmatized activity of lending money was permitted to Jews, who were seen as beyond the community of the saved. So it didn't matter if they were committing usury (practice of lending money at unreasonable interest rates - or lending to earn a profit). Usury was seen as a sin for Catholics. That’s where historically negative ideas about money might come from and where biases about Jews originate.

If people are driven by self-interest, and we live in a society where you can be rewarded for self-interest, why not take advantage?

We aren’t claiming that a capitalist society is without its flaws, but rather, that you can make the most out of the current situation, and do so in a virtuous way.

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