One advantage to monstrous wealth, or so it seems to me, is a severe distance from the noise of the squabbling masses. What is the point of too much money if not to create a life apart?
But some internet warriors, roving the social media badlands in search of combat, are very concerned that these masters of the universe now face criticism from leftists who’ve taken up rallying cries like the Bernie Sanders favorite “Billionaires should not exist” and the more pointed, age-old slogan “Eat the rich.” To pro-inequality shitposters, the notion of a rando with 200 followers saying Elon Musk should pay higher taxes is unacceptable. And so, no matter your platform, if you express this opinion, you will contend with at least one angry, self-appointed Musk serf. The cause and its effect are common enough to warrant a meme:
Mentioning the name of a mega-rich individual isn’t necessary to provoke the response; all you really have to do is invoke and condemn their class. Take Bernie’s tweets, for example. Peppered among the happy replies from his supporters are comments that go out of their way to praise Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — essentially the holy trinity of tech dweebs whose mountains of money, according to the fanboys, must not be touched.
Here and there, the billionaire defenders pretend to be making a point about the incentives of capitalist competition (surprise, they’re good), yet the arguments usually betray a naïve romantic view of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, as if he earned every last cent by sweat and backbreaking toil. He shed his lifeblood — how dare we force him to fund the national infrastructure and services that allowed him to succeed! They don’t realize it, being loyal to the status quo by way of economic Stockholm syndrome, but the guy at the top couldn’t hack a day of their thankless work.
Voiced in tandem with the curious take on whether anyone “deserves” to make $308 per second is a fawning kind of gratitude for any philanthropy the billionaire in question has done. This is where you find the intersection between anti-socialist rhetoric and the fierce, dogmatic stan culture that colors public discussion of pop stars and other celebrities. You see, the billionaire defender might object, Bill Gates is a great man, he actually gives away his fortune to charities, and if the government seizes more of it, those organizations will suffer.
Sometimes that protest extends to the business itself, as if Gates et al are paying their companies’ employees out-of-pocket — if you cut their net worth in half, the specious reasoning goes, it translates to a 50 percent loss of jobs, investment and growth. The billionaires have said the same themselves, and of course, they’re full of shit. Moreover, while these guys are happy to throw cash at nice-sounding initiatives that generate glowing headlines, their execution can leave almost everything to be desired: Several years ago, the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation spent $100 million on an education venture that, instead of granting American schools any resources they wanted, sought to install a system for harvesting students’ personal data. After furious objections from teachers and parents, the program was shuttered in 2014. Cool stuff!
Perhaps the biggest frustration with these billionaire-loving bozos is their innate sense that people who make it into Forbes listicles are just plain better than them — a mindset perfectly skewered by a Mr. Show sketch called “Worthington’s Law,” in which characters are assigned an absolute value rank in society by their relative affluence. It somehow never occurs to those caping for the CEO caste that raising taxes on the One Percent isn’t punitive theft but redistribution, the way we start to fix our communal transit, education, healthcare and safety net. They’re committed to the neo-feudal arrangement of relying on the beneficent whims of well-intentioned overlords, even though it’s never materially improved their own lives, whereas Sanders-style tweaks to the IRS code offer a path to guaranteed Medicare for all.
Besides, to what degree are we to trust the moral intuition and practical good of oligarchs privately financing vanity projects if they enable the spread of extremist propaganda, won’t rule out voting for another Trump term and enjoy hanging out with the creepiest scumbags on the planet? You know who else was a big in the billionaire donor scene? Jeffrey fucking Epstein.
When you strip away the misplaced concern that billionaires might not be able to make ends meet or transfer their bankroll into investment vehicles disguised as noble nonprofits, what you’re left with is a group advocating for greed, the right to selfishly hoard resources, doling them out according to individual politics rather than federal mandate. And while I’m thrilled that Bill Gates wants to turn poop into potable water to improve sanitation worldwide, it doesn’t change the fact that his fellow citizens are drinking lead. Likewise, the space travel ambitions of Musk and Bezos would appear to overlook a few problems here on Earth.
It’s an issue of scale: When you’re that rich, you think galactically and historically instead of locally. All the more reason for that capital to be used at the discretion of elected persons representing, you know, the non-billionaires — including the weirdos who believe the financial elite should rule us as god-kings. They might see, then, that a few dudes having smaller yachts isn’t the end of the world.