Should there be billionaires?

Professor Wolff, I am a tremendous fan and major supporter of your message. I never miss an episode of “Economic Update.” Thank you so much for lending an articulate and well-reasoned voice of sanity to these issues of economic injustice kept so long in the dark. Keep up the excellent and vital work! Now… My liberal/progressive framework tells me that there are evil, scheming billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers, and there are nice, philanthropic billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. Personally, I can’t understand why we don’t view ALL billionaires with the same level of concern for mental health that we might reserve for someone who hoards a large quantity of anything else, say old newspapers or cats. However, from a purely economic standpoint, what are the ramifications of having a society and economic system that allows individuals to become billionaires? Is it “ok” to have billionaires? Is compensation at this level ever justified? Can the existence of billionaires ever be healthy and indicative of a robust economy? Or, as I suspect, are people of such disproportionate wealth suggestive of a certain sickness/malignancy of the system? In addressing this question, perhaps you can give us a sort of “economics of billionaires 101”—commenting on how and why the number of billionaires worldwide has gone from a few dozen in the early eighties to more than 2,000 today—and sharing your own thoughts on these men and women of lofty esteem and influence in our society. Thanks!

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  • Ben Angel
    commented 2017-04-11 06:23:51 -0400
    If 10 children came to a birthday party and 1 kid took over half the cake, the next two took two pieces each. That would leave only one piece of cake left for the other seven children. Most of them would end up with crumbs.

    Bill Gates gives a lot of his money away. This is commendable but should it be necessary? If the systemic problem didn’t exist?

    It could be argued that corporations and charities need billions of dollars to achieve their goals. Not individuals though.

    It seems to be a kind of compulsive obsession disorder. Else it’s a deliberate strategy to create scarcity. The wealth itself isn’t important but power over us. Partly by limiting the money supply and keeping jobs scarce. The rest of us are kept in a hamster wheel.
  • Ben Angel
    tagged this with good 2017-04-11 06:23:49 -0400
  • Joel Nott
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-04-10 05:16:45 -0400