Most of us live with restraints on our actions, from limited resources to personal ethics to the force of law. Unlimited resources often do away with the other two. So what keeps billionaires from doing what they want?
While much of the world lost money and struggled to access limited resources throughout the pandemic, the 10 richest people on Earth spent the last two years getting even richer.
The US is home to eight out of 10 of the obscenely wealthy. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the richest man in the world prior to the pandemic, with roughly $133 billion. By early 2022, Bezos’s net worth had risen to $177 billion.
In August, Elon Musk passed Bezos, becoming the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $219 billion.
The remaining eight also saw boosts. As a collective, their fortunes went from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion, just as much of the world’s income was plummeting.
At the same time, Bezos and British entrepreneur Richard Branson took a quick day trip to space, having what Bezos called “the best day ever,” just because they could afford the $5.5 billion cost of the ride.
If Musk becomes the person who controls and maintains who has a voice and what is allowed to exist on one of the world’s largest social platforms, the already delicate ecosystem of information sharing is likely to crumble entirely.
How to become a billionaire
Realistically, you can’t.
If you put $1000 in savings every day and never touched a cent, it would take three years to get to a million dollars. It would take 2,740 years to reach a billion.
Obtaining that obscene amount of money can only happen at the expense of others. When wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, the cost is often incredible hardship and compromised well-being for the many.
Bezos makes more money in 10 seconds than some of his employees make in a year. The average starting pay offered at Amazon is $19.00 an hour, or $39,520 annually. This rate varies by state, going as low as $11.50 in North Carolina.
Studies over the last few years have shown there is not a single state in which even a $15 wage would permit someone to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
Last year there were 745 American billionaires, while around 11.5% of the population lived below the poverty line. During the pandemic, the collective fortunes of the billionaires increased by $2.1 trillion.
The disparity has by no means reached its end game. A sobering report by the Institute for Policy Studies highlights the scale of rapidly-increasing wealth in line with the decreasing conditions of workers who often can’t afford time off.
There are few policies in place to limit the extremely wealthy from taking advantage of their workers. They are forced to meet minimums, but little push exists to go beyond that. There is no ethical way to justify this—and there’s no economic justification, either. According to a report by Oxfam America, Jeff Bezos could give every one of his 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus, and he’d still be as rich as he was at the start of the pandemic.
More to the point, there is little standing in the way of the ultra-wealthy getting anything they want, regardless of the damage to the common good whether 10 minutes in space, a social media company to play with, or a nation to set afire.