Why Do We Allow Infinite Wealth Accumulation?

Here’s the date when billionaires will own 100% of the economy

A young rich kid in a supercar in front of a Versace store
Photo by Jacob Vizek

Jeff Bezos controls Amazon. And Whole Foods. And The Washington Post. And IMDB, Zappos, Souq, Blue Origin, Kiva Systems, Alexa, DPReview, Fabric.com, Woot, Goodreads, Twitch, Audible, Elemental, Quidsi, Annapurna Labels, Accept, Living Social, Twilio, HomeGrocer, Bill Me Later, eZiba, BankBazaar, Kozmo, Ionic, Songza, and Wine.com. Plus he has VC stakes in Lookout, Juno, Grail, Workday, Vessel, Domo, Fundbox, Stack Overflow, Everfi, Remitly, Rethink Robotics, General Fusion, MakerBot, Unity Biotech, General Assembly, Business Insider, Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Twitter. And he’s working on acquring MGM. Plus he owns at least eight mansions and 100,000+ acres, a bunch of penis-shaped rockets, and a $500,000,000 hyper-yacht.

Bernard Arnault controls LVMH, which has swallowed more than seventy of its competitors, including Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Dom Pérignon, Loius Vuitton, Moët & Chandon, Marc Jabobs, Stella McCartney, Loro Piana, Princess Yachts, Bulgari, Sephora, and Tiffany & Co.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns massive chunks of nearly fifty companies including Apple, Amazon, Amex, Bank of American, Chevron, Kraft, Mastercard, Sirius, Visa, Wells Fargo, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, GM, Merck, T-Mobile, GEICO, and Coca-Cola, which itself has eaten more than 400 competing drink companies.

Blackrock, which owns a piece of 5,480 companies including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Nvidia, Tesla, JP Morgan, Paypal, Home Depot, Disney, Exxon, Pfizer, Pepsi, AT&T, Nike, Walmart, McDonalds, Costco, and Netflix, just bought Reese Witherspoon’s media company for $900 million, adding to its $9 trillion Smaug-like horde.

It makes you wonder when monopolists will stop growing larger and larger.

And then one day it occurs to you…

They will not stop until they are stopped.

The facts

There are now 2,755 billionaires on the planet, not including “royalty” and dictators.

In the year 2000, they controlled less than $1 trillion.

Today, they control more than $13.1 trillion.

13.5X in a generation.

And they’ve grown their wealth by $5.5 trillion during the pandemic so far.

The world’s richest eight men now own more than the bottom 4 billion.

On the flip side, there’s never been as much suffering and deprivation in human history:

Clearly, there is no limit to the depth of poverty and deprivation to which our global society will allow humans to fall — never forget that millions children are still trafficked for rape annually and that nine million people die from starvation each year — yet somehow elite individuals are allowed to amass unlimited plenty in a world of deprivation?

It begs the question: Is it moral and right for us to allow individuals to hoard extreme wealth in the face of overwhelming widespread poverty, documented democratic subversion, and environmental catastrophe?

If humanity saw itself as the global family that it truly is, it would be morally impossible to not limit the amount that one family member could control while another suffered and died.

“Earned” wealth

It is impossible for an individual to legitimately earn a billion dollars.

If someone earned $100 per hour — more than enough for anyone to live in luxurious comfort — in order to truly earn a billion dollars, they’d have to work 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for five thousand years.

So how is a billion dollars actually amassed?

By skimming a profit off the backs of untold others:

  • off the workers they employ

  • off the suppliers they squeeze

  • off the carcasses of the competitors they destroy with monopoly

  • off the planet they unsustainably extract from

  • off the governments from which they gain subsidies and advantages

  • off the stable societies they sell to while evading taxation

  • off the democracies whose rules they change at will

  • off the shareholders they dupe

How is the ability to skim achieved? Through unfair advantage.

A more equitable predistribution of wealth and opportunity isn’t optional for the survival of our species: it’s now required for the survival of all species.

Decentralize everything

Here’s a short thought experiment.

Which is better: 2,755 billionaires and their $13.1 trillion, each monopolizing roughly one industry apiece and subverting democracy, or 131,000 centa-millionaires in competition?

How about 1,310,000 deca-millionaires?

Or 13,100,000 millionaires?

13.1 million millionaires would do far more for the economy in terms of spending, hiring, diffusing power, avoiding democratic destruction, increasing competition, and sparking innovation.

Are there truly enough benefits to the global population to merit supporting the costs of maintaining billionaires? Surely not. No rational person can make the argument that 2,755 billionaires are globally preferable to having 13.1 million more millionaires, or 131 million more workers each controlling a $100K stake in the businesses wherein they constitute all of the wealth-creation.

Mathematical doom

I believe — as do most of the working masses and the desperate poor—that it is morally wrong and utterly inhumane to be a billionaire whilst millions starve and billions suffer.

Full stop.

To paraphrase the Bible: “The poor will always be among us because the rich will always be above us.”

The world and planet can’t afford to support billionaires anymore.

Corporatism is a gross inefficiency and major source of economic inequality; it is anti-democracy; it is ecological unsustainability.

We should replace it with an economy of sole proprietors, partnerships, cooperatives, not-for-profits, and for-benefits — all the wealth to all the workers — massively diverse, all competing and cooperating and innovating within a body of economic law that enforces ecological sustainability (as defined by biology) and economic fairness (as defined by real democracy.)

If we don’t, we’re mathematically doomed.

Charting our trajectory to zero

When will billionaires stop amassing more wealth?

The answer is clear:

They won’t.

Our total global wealth is currently $431 trillion.

In the past twenty years, billionaires have grown their wealth by 13.5X, to $13.1 trillion, far outpacing the poor and total growth in global wealth.

At their current pace, billionaires will control $176 trillion in twenty years and $2.3 quadrillion in forty.

You read that right: If we do not stop them, billionaires will control the entire globe’s resources within our lifetime.

From there, it’s simply a game of thrones to determine which few families will survive.

In the winner-take-all economy, elites will not stop until they are stopped.

Why can’t voter-shoppers fathom this fact?

The solution is frightfully simple

It’s a radical idea that will be common sense to future generations:

Individual private wealth must be limited.

That’s right: No more billionaires.

Every dollar over $1 billion in net worth will be taxed at 100% or placed in a commons trust.

As one Redditor put it:

Once you reach $999,999,999 we give you a plaque that says, “congratulations, you won capitalism,” and we name a dog park after you.

A global Billionaire Ban will have wonderful implications for protecting democracy and making the economy more robust and fair. Obviously democracy we can argue over the exact number for our new global limit — 10 million, 100 million, even 1 billion — so long as we agree on the underlying fundamental that private wealth must have an upper limit.

And we need to move quickly.

In the time it took you to read this article, the world’s billionaires gained $62 million while sixty people moved into slums and thirty children died of hunger.

How many more people must suffer and die before we re-structure the global economy for widest-spread wellbeing?