First: Elon Musk is going to fund clean water for people in Flint. Good news! Yes, Mr. Musk, this is a good thing you’re doing and we’d love it if you did more of it! All rich people, please do more of this!
Second: there’s discussion of Kylie Jenner’s mention in Forbes for being a near-billionaire. I’m less interested in whether she should be recognized as a “self-made” billionaire (clearly she is not) and more interested in the fact that nobody should hold that much money at a given time. A pretty young woman from a rich & famous family does not need to have that much money in her possession. Nobody should have that much money in their possession. We shouldn’t call them billionaires, we should call them money-hoarders.
First, pay your employees sufficiently. Make sure they have healthy working conditions and proper compensation including benefits. Second, pay your taxes. Third, give to charity that distributes wealth downward. Still have money left over after that, sure, fund space exploration. The point is, the bragging point should be in how much money has been donated, rather than how much has been accumulated.
Instead of calling them billionaires, we should call them money-hoarders, and yes, that is meant as an insult. Yes, that does include the billionaires we like. They may have many fine qualities, but having accumulated that much money is not a point in anyone’s favor.
Rather than congratulating people for having money in the 10-figure range, we should instead praise them for how much they’ve given away. For example, JK Rowling gave money to charity until she was no longer a billionaire and no longer on the list of wealthiest people. This is a good thing! I’ll bet she still has much more dough than she’ll ever be able to use, but the point is, her having given a lot to charity reflects better on her than ranking on a Forbes list ever will. Another example is Bill Gates. He’d be richer than Jeff Bezos if not for his charitable donations? Cool! Let’s talk about how much money he’s put into making the world a better place!
Here’s a simple reality that capitalism would like us to forget: money is a means to an end. Money is not an end unto itself. You’re hungry, so you use money to get food, and you eat the food. You don’t eat the money itself. You use money to pay for housing and utilities, but money all by itself does not keep you warm and dry. You use money to see a movie, but money itself is not entertainment.
Up to a point, saving money is constructive. You build up wealth so you can have nice things, or in my case, to budget for a spell of unemployment. You might want to have some to pass on to your children so they can have some nice things. They should still pay estate taxes, though.
Beyond a certain threshold of accumulation, money stops being useful. Once you have more money than you will ever be able to spend on nice things for your family, what’s the point? That amount of money under the control of one person doesn’t achieve anything except to make sure that money isn’t available to other people. Having allowed that much dough to pile up in your liquid assets is nothing to be proud of. If the tax structure makes it impossible for anyone to become a billionaire, that’s a good thing.
Show off your wealth by spreading it around.