We love to hear about billionaires. They are everywhere. They’re on the news, have their own tv shows, movies, and even make their way into the government.
We consistently give massive audiences to self-made billionaires. The people who, unlike the aristocrats and monarchs, didn’t simply inherit their wealth. A self-made billionaire is someone who has earned their success and their wealth.
The most compelling stories are those of billionaires who went through sheer hard work and grit to conquer the American dream and made a better life for themselves, those around them, and our society as a whole. However, there are several reasons why this is just not true.
The self-made Billioner story
We all love to hear their stories. How they had nothing. Then through hard work and dedication now they have everything. But these success stories are not completely true. In some cases, the story is simply a blatant lie.
Take Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. The last decade’s favorite billionaire duo loves to make a compelling story of their 100% self-made fortune.
Jeff Bezos says he was just a regular guy who built a strong work ethic at his McDonald’s job. He loves to highlight how it was his hard work that eventually got him a spot at Princeton University then on wall street. One day he risked it all on the crazy idea of selling books on the internet. He started amazon out of a garage with nothing but a dream and it became the internet giant it is today.
Elon Musk tells a very similar story of a hard-working kid who was bullied for being too nerdy. He says he had about $100,000 in student debt after college. But he climbed out of adversity and overcame the student loan debt with the sheer ingenuity of his entrepreneurship.
These stories are of course exaggerated. While some parts of the story may not be false, but the overall image they’re trying to sell you is a lie.
It wasn’t the novelty of amazon alone that catapulted it to the center of the internet. Jeff Bezos’s parents gave him an initial investment of $300,000 and although Musk likes to play up his version of the everyman story, his father is famous for owning a profitable emerald mine and also works as a property developer in Apartheid South Africa.
These people didn’t start from nothing. It wasn’t just hard work and dedication. Billionaires never get to these positions alone. They get there in any combination of these three ways.
- Family wealth and privilege.
- Labor exploitation.
- Government help.
Family wealth and privilege.
This explains the success of a lot of the billionaires that sit at the top of our social hierarchy. we’ve already seen how much of a role family wealth played in the success of even the self-made celebrity billionaires like Musk and Bezos. So it should come as no surprise that the great majority of billionaires have similarly favorable advantages.
Society is divided into two classes. The owner class and the working class. The owner class people own businesses, factories, farms, and so on. They offer a deal to the working class. Work or Starve. As you already know, just about every single one of us takes that deal.
The owner class says, when you work for this amount of hours, you will be paid this amount of money.
In order for that deal to be profitable for the owner class, they need to pay workers less money than the value they actually produce. The money that you make for the company will always be more than the money the business puts back into your hands. Otherwise, it has no money to give the people who own the company, the stakeholders, who may never have even stepped foot on the premises.
If you want an idea of just how much value business owners steal from their workers, just look at this Ohio pizza shop where for one day the owner decided not to siphon off that surplus value and instead put it back into the hands of the workers. That day, employees made $78 an hour.
Every single capitalist business in the world relies on it whether they want to or not.
Billionaires receive ridiculous government supports but they fiercely get in the way of the rest of us enjoying the same benefits so that they can earn more money than entire nations.
Elon Musk talks about the government in very disfavorable terms. He regularly criticizes government control, does everything he can to avoid taxation, and defends the belief that all markets should be free.
But without the government’s 4.9 billion dollars in loans and tax breaks, Musk’s companies like SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity would not exist. In 2010, Musk borrowed $465 million from the US government for the creation of the Tesla Roadster.
Pharmaceutical research is another classic example of this. Large amounts of government funds are used to produce the innovations that are needed for life-saving medication. But then, the private sector buys these innovations and profits from them.
Big Pharma is a good example of this. They have been abusing the patent system by creating patents on generic versions of necessary drugs, thus making the cost of the drugs astronomically high for those without adequate health insurance. Low-income households suffer the most from Big Pharma’s monopolization of drug patents.
No billionaire has ever achieved their wealth by ethical means and to respect them as icons of self-made success is to give them a pass for their selfish, parasitic behavior.
Imagine for a moment a world without billionaires. Imagine a world where you could actually get the full value of your work. How much less stressful would your life become. How much more pleasant and fair life would be if it wasn’t for some people at the top keeping far more than their share.
Hundreds of millions of people’s lives would be instantly improved. At the end of the day, we create enough for everyone. let’s just stop pretending that having so much of it in the hands of so few people makes sense.