Do billionaires have too much money?

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Editor’s note: In this view of the future, students discuss billionaires and wealth disparity. Next week we’ll ask, “In response to Covid, American colleges have increasingly relied on distance learning, and once in place, those distance learning courses are proving hard to stop. Is this shift to online courses for traditional college education a good trend? » Students should Click here submit reviews of less than 250 words by May 3. The best answers will be published overnight.

The right question to ask is not whether America’s overall wealth disparity is increasing, but whether living standards are improving across the board. And the answer is yes. Widespread advances in technology have helped improve the overall quality of life across the country. Telephones, computers and e-commerce are examples. Behind every influential technology are billionaires who have been instrumental in its development. We should think of their wealth as a small percentage of the overall value they helped create, with most of the gains captured by consumers.

A cursory glance at the group of ultra-rich Americans reveals that much of their money has been earned in meritorious fashion, through a combination of skill, hard work and drive. In 2021, reports showed that more than 70% of America’s 400 richest men and 88% of millionaires are self-made. We should view these vast fortunes as the pinnacle of the American dream, not as phenomena to be ridiculed.

—Jeffrey Wolberg, Columbia University, Computer Science

Innovation creates value

Successful business moguls like Elon Musk are a fruit of American culture, not symptoms of its decay. The ability to build and succeed is an inseparable part of the American Dream, which has drawn people to this country for generations and created one of the most competitive and inventive societies in the world. Both the billionaire technocrat and the corner family store are created by this ideal.

Although the degree to which Americans realize this dream varies greatly, society must be careful not to confuse wealth equality with basic living standards. The economy is not zero-sum and trade achieved through innovation creates value across all socio-economic ranks.

Mr. Musk may be richer than Smaug, but the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by his companies, his revolutionary automotive and green technologies, and the prospect of space travel marketed as a competitive industry contribute more to the rest of us that he could never do it. personally profit. We may also have found Henry Ford’s opulent wealth boring when he put automobiles on the assembly line in 1913, but it’s worth not having to get around on horseback or bicycle.

Are the results fair or proportionate? No. And these tech moguls can have squeaky personalities. But just as we must separate the art from the artist, Americans should praise the rapid growth of our economy even if we don’t find ourselves personally invested in the people behind it.

—Nathan Biller, Colgate University, History and Political Science

It’s nothing new

The contempt for hugely successful entrepreneurs is not surprising given the rise of redistributionist ideology in some political corners. It’s an increasingly common political ploy to portray Elon Musk’s wealth as particularly bad for the rest of us.

So, for example, while acquisitions of media companies by billionaires are nothing new, Mr. Musk’s purchase of Twitter was greeted by some with hysteria. Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post and Laurene Powell Jobs owns The Atlantic, but blue-checked reporters say Mr Musk’s acquisition is new and dangerous.

This country experienced periods of immense economic inequality in the 1920s and 1870s. Moguls of that time like JP Morgan,

Washington Duke and Leland Stanford have left a lasting mark on our society – their names are scattered throughout prestigious universities, corporations and museums. Wealth is nothing new. What is unique to our times is the insistence of progressives on getting billionaires to succumb to their cultural control.

—Andrew Swanson, Hamilton College, Economics

Musk’s wealth is speculative

People have every right to scoff at the extreme wealth disparities that exist in America today. It doesn’t make sense for the money to be hoarded by a few people while everyone else has to spend their lives getting by.

The general population, however, does not understand the limits of Elon Musk’s wealth. He may be worth hundreds of billions, but that wealth does not exist in a bank account. Much is speculative, based on the businesses it operates. As of 2021, Tesla was more valued than automakers such as Toyota or General Motors,

despite its lack of heritage and low market share. It is easy to imagine that this valuation could decline, which would significantly reduce Mr. Musk’s wealth.

The average person would be outraged to see their wealth decline due to factors beyond their control. Mr. Musk is playing a game of speculation. He sometimes makes promises his companies don’t keep, and the market eventually corrects rogue speculation. Mr. Musk happens to thrive on speculative wealth, while others prefer the stability of a bank account.

—Nicholas Hiser, Stanford University, Symbolic Systems

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