Ah, billionaires. It is a truth universally known that billionaires are quite hated in society. They are surrounded by a society that is simultaneously sycophantic and antagonistic, drooling at their riches and glorifying their success, but openly resentful of their bank accounts. And rightly so. Billionaires have a bank account that is worthy of the contempt they receive; it is high time we cease the glorification of their wealth, because their relevance is disorienting.
The bank accounts of billionaires are abhorrent. In 2018 alone, there were 585 billionaires in America, with a combined wealth of over $2.8 trillion. The wealthiest, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, has a net worth of $160 billion. The world’s “eight richest individuals have as much wealth as the bottom half in the world, and the three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the United States” (). This is ridiculously excessive. Perhaps a better word for it would be selfish. Yes, I understand that success is often the precursor for wealth, but how much wealth is too much for one person to have, to the extent where it becomes intrinsically selfish?
I have an answer: $1 billion. A billion dollars is wildly excessive and more than enough for one’s needs, even taking into consideration the most lavish of excesses (and this is coming from someone who is known to be lavish in her expenses). It is far more than one can claim to deserve, however much they have earned that wealth as a result of their success, or however charitable their acts in society. Because at some precipice, money corrupts. It is inevitable because of how relevant money can be in every crack and crevice of society. Money can buy political power, mutate into a monstrous giant of influence, silence dissent, and inevitably perpetuates the desire for a heftier bank account. Money has a certain irredeemable nature entwined with it, and billionaires are incredibly susceptible to this.
Such is the nature that is exemplified in how billionaires view money. They don’t see money as something that is to be spent. Rather, billionaires envision money as a fluid entity that has the simultaneous purpose of investing and creating. Take, for example, Richard Branson, the billionaire of the Virgin Group, who has a real-estate portfolio listing places like Necker Island to Mont Rochelle in South Africa, used as retreats and hotels; these properties are assets that are a part of Branson's $4.1 billion net worth (1). Money, to Branson, is in the locations he owns, the countries his influence reaches, and the contacts he has in each. Money is the pliant substance that allows billionaires to do whatever they want to do, whether that be transforming a vision into a reality in business, or buying the individuals in a room in Capitol Hill discussing policy. Money is powerful and relevant, and billionaires are powerful and relevant because of it.
Greed is inevitable. And honestly, we can’t really blame billionaires for wanting more. After all, were we in their positions, would we act any different? But we can hold them accountable. If billionaires’ wealth were capped to $1 billion, and the rest invested back into society, perhaps we wouldn’t hate them so much. Perhaps we would even reach a point where billionaires became irrelevant, and we could toss aside the sour glamour we adorn them in, emerging awake from the world we resided in where their wealth was disorienting.