The case for restricting wealth seems rather intense. Indeed the onus of proof is on those who defend the sanctity of the existence of billionaires, to show why they should be allowed to amass or even siphon off millions of dollars. However, this is not the end of the road. The erecting of a so-called “wealth ceiling”, as championed by Belgian- Dutch philosopher Ingrid Robeyns so that “no one has more than an upper threshold of valuable goods”, seems rather baffling in the contemporary age of economic slackness.
Indeed, a world without billionaires, would have profound contemporary significance. With the positive implications ranging from a steep fall in disruptive climatic conditions on the environmental front to reduced incidences of poverty, on the economic front, the grass might seem greener on the other side, however not correctly so, and this is where we get a glimpse of a different picture.
The absence of billionaires, who generate a great deal of professional productivity through greater avenues of employment, would disrupt global order to a greater extent. There would be an increased dependence on conventional forms of work, even in the present century characterized by globalization, as a result of which the economic landscape would remain outcast.
On a different note, it cannot be denied that billionaires do serve as role models to people, particularly due to their creative and financial agility, in the pursuit of wealth assimilation. Now if they were to be banned, there would be a significant dip in the aspirational levels of the common man, who may not want to become a billionaire, but at the end of the day, strives for gaining and retaining wealth, an aspect touched upon in the subsequent paragraph.
In light of these broader aspects, the fact that a world without billionaires, has both elements of truth and prevarication, and this is what this piece seeks to delve into, through a detailed explanation of the aforementioned facets.
THE RAPID ACCENTUATION OF WEALTH AND THE RISE OF BILLIONAIRES:
Before analyzing the finer nuances of the unprecedented rise of global ills, with the nefarious role of CEOs and entrepreneurs of international acclaim, it is imperative to address the key question; “How do billionaires actually accumulate wealth?”. The Teen Vogue, a renowned magazine stated in 2017, that “ closer proximity to avenues of power, corporate connections and favorable taxation policies”, allow the well off to significantly exert their influential status.
This shows that not only do we find the existence of a multidimensional perspective on the proliferation of wealth, but also a larger aspiration on the part of billionaires to undermine settled socio-political and environmental structures, imperative for survival of those who lack massive financial bandwidth.
The driving force behind the emergence of billionaires, as argued by Morgan Housel, author of “The Psychology of Money”, revolves around the distinction between getting wealthy and staying wealthy. Quoting contrasting instances of Jesse Livermore and Ronald Read, with different approaches to wealth accumulation, Housel contends that the underlying factor that separates billionaires from the lay individual, is that former understands the need of wealth retention, through a combination of both paranoia and rationality, something the latter never delves into.
Moreover, recent economic literature has also shown that as a result of this lack of understanding of the need to stay wealthy, there has been growing clamor for the prospective abolition of billionaires, stemming more from envy rather than reasoning.
A WORLD WITHOUT BILLIONAIRES: THE FOUNDATION OF OUR SURVIVAL?
While billionaires are adept at creating and retaining wealth, they use the same, for fulfilling their personal interests rather than playing a larger global role, which demands their consequent annihilation. In this regard the key question that arises is that “ what would a world without billionaires look like?
The so-called positive factors favoring the absence of these economic hegemony, seems to outweigh the negative ones, and therefore, it is imperative to discuss the same at length.
Firstly, The absence of billionaires would entail a uniform and streamlined framework of taxation. As per recent research, nearly 2 billion people could be lifted out of poverty, in line with the UN SDGs, thereby reducing instability to a great extent.
Secondly from the social perspective,should billionaires cease to exist, there shall be a rapid decline in hierarchical inequalities stemming from orthodox social outlooks, with the strengthening of financial prowess, as articulated by the UBS Billionaire Ambitions Report of 2022
Thirdly, the environmental perspective takes into account the higher carbon emissions caused by billionaires. A survey conducted in 2019 showed that over 125 billionaires contributed to more than an average of 3 million tons per year, thereby putting forth a context of lapse of environmental consciousness on the part of these cash rich individuals, who indirectly stall the collective progress in this front.
Therefore, an absence of this group of individuals could spearhead the process of environmental durability to a great extent, especially with the contemporary emergence of issues of climate change and concerns with global sustainability in general.
NECESSITY OF BILLIONAIRES: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
As mentioned before, billionaires play an important role in determining global order, to a significant extent. In this regard, their absence could prove to be disadvantageous, if we take into account the following aspects, which constitute an opposition to the argument against the existence of billionaires in general.
Firstly, if the critique of billionaires appeals to an idealized model of government, then there should be greater emphasis on an idealized form of billionaire spending. Therefore, opposition to billionaire taxation, in the light of a broader philanthropic purview in turn leads to an effective billionaire altruism. Thus, welfare initiatives in the field of mental health, global sustainability and endeavors for women and children, prove to be credible, only if there is an increased proportion of financial backing by these men and women enjoying considerable opulence.
Secondly, drawing on the perspective of non philanthropic, it could be said that the incidence of ordinary billionaire investment could reap productive gains. Critics quite frequently overlook the cardinal aspect of distribution in zero net terms, which takes into account the collective benefit of all, through a streamlined framework of productivity, that billionaires could possibly bring about substantially.
Lastly and most importantly, the class context is an aspect that plays an integral role in consolidating the economic context of billionaires. In view of the present discourse of newer avenues of employment and the consequent rise of the middle class, from the sociological perspective, an increase in the scale of billionaire productivity and investments, have led to class solidarity and durability in society, as a result of the benefits reaped by the not so well off sections of the society.
In lieu of these broader facets of the issue, the very notion of existence of this rather controversial prospect of wealthy individuals constitutes nothing but a double edged sword.
What the world would like in the absence of billionaires, might have seemingly less cumbersome aspects, if we consider the superficial point of view. While equality across all spheres may prevail, without billionaires, however it has to be acknowledged that the dynamism and professional prowess brought about by them, in the course of wealth assimilation, enlivens the aspirational levels of lay individuals, in the pursuit of material happiness.
1. Christensen Martin, Maitland Alex and Quentin Parinello (Jan, 2023): Top 5 ways billionaires are bad for the economy. https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/top5ways-billionaires-are-bad-for-the-economy/
2. Thomson Jess ( Oct, 2022): What would happen if the world gets rid of billionaires. https://www.newsweek.com/billionaires-onemilliontimes-worse-environment-1758656
3. Baggini Julian (April 2023): Philosopher at large: Should we ban billionaires? https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/views/columns/60885/philosopher-at-large-should-we-ban-billionaires
4. Rebekka Iyres ( Dec 29, 2021): Billionaires should not exist. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/billionaires-shouldnotexist