If you had a million dollars would you consider yourself rich? Would that be enough for you to live a comfortable life? What about $10 million, would you stop working then?
What if you had a 1000 million dollars?
At that point, would you no longer care just about yourself, and begin helping those around you? If you had thousands of millions of dollars, would you help improve your community? Would you invest in your neighbourhood’s wellbeing? Would you try to help starving people or the homeless?
These are all questions billionaires never ask themselves.
Because the mindset needed to become a billionaire, means you not only don’t care about the suffering of those around you, but you are actively profiting from it.
Because it is impossible to be a billionaire and be a good person. They are mutually exclusive.
It is also physically impossible to ‘earn’ a billion dollars. If you are on an average yearly wage of $50,000 per year it would take you 20,000 years to earn a billion dollars.
Can you name a single billionaire who has earned, with their labour and skill, their fortune? Let’s have a look at a few billionaires and review how exactly they ‘earned’ their fortunes.
Elon Musk – $93 Billion – Wealth inherited from family owned apartheid mines/ Worker Exploitation/ Political Interference / Tax Avoidance
Jeff Bezos – $175 Billion – Worker Exploitation/ Political Interference / Tax Avoidance
Clive Palmer – $16 Billion – Worker Exploitation/ Land Appropriation/ Political Interference / Tax Avoidance
Jay Z – $1 Billion – Worker Exploitation / Tax Avoidance
You may notice a pattern here, where by egregious wealth is not so much earned, as it is extracted by the exploitation of workers, political systems and of course, the planet itself. The key word here is exploited, none of this wealth was given to these billionaires willingly, it was given to them because the billionaires were able to leverage extremely unequal power dynamics onto those that produce the wealth for them.
Whether you are a struggling musician forced to hand over the royalties of your album to a record mogul or whether you are a child working in a cobalt mine for an eccentric tech-company or whether you are a warehouse worker who will have their pay cut if they try to take a toilet break, the end result is the same, the billionaire profits from the workers suffering.
But billionaires can’t be all bad right? What about the massive amount of philanthropy and charity work billionaires do?
Well on the surface it looks like billionaires are doing their part to help society and save the world, but well… they aren’t. At all.
Every now and then you will see a billionaire say something like “I am pledging $100 million to help fight climate change” This is a very clever PR move, but it ultimately amounts to nothing.
Firstly because of the key word in that sentence, ‘pledging’ this is a fantastic weasel word, that actually negates the entire commitment. I, too, can pledge to give $100 million dollars to charity, and my word on the matter carries the same weight as that of the billionaire’s, the pledge part holds countless caveats.
Also it is important to point out who they are pledging to. If you look closely you will almost universally find that the money is being pledged toward a charity or organisation the same billionaire created. this is also brilliant, because the organisation is really just a big washing machine.
It washes two things, the billionaires reputation and the billionaire’s money. Because that organisation will almost certainly be tax exempt, so by pledging hundred’s of millions of dollars into that charity, the billionaires does not have to pay taxes, and at the end of the year, the billionaire can simply take that money back like nothing ever happened, it did after all, never leave their possession.
Not paying taxes is a HUGE part of the problem here, these charities are designed to make the billionaire appear to commit themselves toward society, but really their ‘pledges’ are infinitesimal compared to what society would gain if those billionaires simply paid their taxes.
But billionaires aren’t just horrible to their workers, the planet and society at large, billionaires also destroy democracy itself.
They call it lobbying, but what it really is, is legalised bribery. Because once a politician accepts a massive ‘donation’ from a billionaire’s corporation, they are now bound to that billionaire, the politician’s entire political career now depends on it, and I guarantee you, your vote and your petition, do not stand a chance against that level of influence.
And because billionaire’s have direct access to politicians they can get politicians to change laws to always favour the interests of the billionaire, that’s why you see essential services become privatised (and then sold to billionaire owned companies) and why anytime the economy takes a hit, it is the billionaire’s company that gets bailed out, not the workers who are now unemployed. It’s also why you hear politicians talk about cutting ‘red-tape.’
Red-tape has another name, ‘regulations’ and regulations exist specifically to stop exploitation. Work Health and Safety laws exist to stop billionaires from cutting corners on unsafe working spaces, anti-child labour laws exist to stop billionaires putting children in factory sweatshops, and environment laws exist to stop billionaires from de-foresting the Earth for profit. These regulations were hard fought for and exist to protect society and the environment from exploitation. So, the next time you hear a politician talk about ‘cutting red-tape’ remember what they are really saying is ‘freeing heartless billionaires from any form of accountability for their destructive practices.’
Ok, so this is all well and horrible, but what can we do about it? How do we get rid of billionaires or at least limit their destruction? Well the end outcome will be the abolition of capitalism, we have dozens of practical economic theories, we don’t have to keep letting a dozen multi-national corporations destroy the planet so they can hoard infinite wealth.
I assure you, there are alternative economic systems that are better for the world than capitalism (literally any other system is better than capitalism, because only capitalism is based around the notion of driving all life to extinction for profit growth).
Short term however, the most important thing is to reign in the billionaire class and that means making them pay taxes and establishing a wealth ceiling, nobody needs a billion dollars. Nobody.
But if billionaires have all the money and political influence, how on Earth will we accomplish that? I would love to tell you that we can vote them away, but that would be a lie, wouldn’t it?
The only way we as a society get our political power back, is to take it, and that ultimately means striking.
Billionaires only gain their power through exploitation, if everyone collectively refuses to be exploited, then the billionaire loses all power.
I don’t pretend that this will happen tomorrow, or even necessarily in my lifetime, but it will happen, the necessity of saving the planet will eventually demand it.
And so must we, as a society, as communities, demand that wealth be gained ethically and morally. We must demand that the well being our planet and our communities always be prioritised, and that must be ingrained in our culture and in our values and in our politics.
We must learn from this period of horrific corruption and selfishness. That we may never permit someone to ever again exploit our people and our planet for profit.
This, possibly more than any other gift, we owe most, to our children and to the future.
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