Why Being Super Rich is Morally Wrong
There has always been the rich, the in between, and the poor in society. During the 50s and 60s, the gaps between these classes were not as great as they are today. During times when there have been great extremes, violence has been the end result (think French Revolution and Russian Revolution).
The question, however, is it wrong to be excessively rich when a majority of people are struggling simply to live?
Here are the reasons why some find mega wealth acceptable as well as the reasons why others would find it unacceptable.
Arguments Why Extreme Wealth is acceptable.
- Everybody can be wealthy.
- The mega-rich worked hard for their money. Therefore they’re entitled to keep it.
- The mega-rich are smarter, more talented, and work harder. Therefore they’re entitled to more of the pie.
- The mega-rich took risks and are therefore entitled to a greater portion of the reward.
- The mega-rich are entitled to a greater return because capital is worth more than human labor.
- The mega-rich contribute more to society than those without wealth. Therefore they’re entitled to mega-wealth.
- Wealth does not take away from the poor.
1. Everybody Can Be Wealthy
The idea that everybody can be wealthy is based on the fallacious statement that everybody can generate great income, and therefore if people don’t, they only have themselves to blame. They either didn’t want to, or they were too lazy to, or they weren’t smart enough to, or they didn’t make the correct choices, or they didn’t take advantage of the opportunities given to them.
Was it Mitt Romney who said that children should take a million loan from their parents to start a business?
Thomas Petty in “Capital in the 21st Century’ shows that most great wealth is inherited, generally as a result of property passed down through hundreds of years.
Malcolm Gladwell in ‘Outliers’ showed that most people who didn’t inherit, nevertheless came from the upper middle classes and had access to the kind of education and resources that enabled them to make a lot of money later. For instance, Bill Gates went to a private school that had computers where he was taught coding from an early age. Plus he had parents who could afford to buy him computers.
The ability to accrue wealth depends on some very specific factors. Without those factors present, wealth is not accrued.
Therefore the idea that everybody has the same opportunity and resources to be wealth is not a plausible reason to justify the mega-wealth of some.
2. The Mega-Wealthy Worked Hard For Their Money
If hard work justified mega-wealth, then most of humanity should be wealthy. Whether one sweats all day in the rice paddies of Outer Mongolia or flips patties at McDonalds for eight hours a day, it’s still hard work. Many people work hard. It’s not the hard work that generates the excessive income; it’s the system of unequal exchange. (Unequal exchange is covered in point 4.)
The point is that if it was hard work alone that entitled people to mega-wealth then most of the people on the planet would be entitled to mega-wealth.
Quite clearly, hard work is not a justification for mega-wealth.
How Economic Inequality Harms Societies
3. The Mega Rich are Smarter and More Talented.
While it’s true that some rich people are smarter, more talented, and work harder than average, it’s also true that there are far more people who are equally smart, equally talented, and work just as hard, and they aren’t mega-rich.
In fact, it can be argued (with a lot of evidence) that the people who made the discoveries, wrote the books, invented breakthrough products, played the music, and/or saved the world weren’t the ones to sit with the big bucks. It’s the people who market and sell these products to others who make the big bucks.
One doesn’t have to be smarter, more talented or work harder than others in order to be a super salesman (that’s basically what Steve Jobs was). One just has to be willing to brainwash, indoctrinate, lie, and/or convince others that they have to buy the product.
In no way does promoting a product in any way morally entitle someone to the greater share of the inventor’s product. Again, it’s just been an accepted strategy for so long that nobody has questioned it. It’s time to question it.
Myths About Job Creators
4, The mega-rich took the risks and therefore entitled to a greater share
Ironically, so did the labourer. In fact, it might be argued that workers take a far greater risk than those who invest capital.
Think about that for a moment!
A young man goes to school and decides to learn how to write software. He works hard, devotes all his energy to learning his craft, goes to university, spends a fortune for four years, acquires the necessary degree, and then goes to work at a software company.
Two years later, his skills become outdated and the company refuse to train him further as it is cheaper to hire new recruits coming out of university.
Just who took the greater risk here? The employee or the employer?
Employees take enormous risks no matter what they study as the world is changing so rapidly that their skills will be outdated within years.
In fact, the entrepreneur is the one who does the least investing. All he is investing money. The labourer is investing years in order to learn expertise in particular fields. And, clearly, there is a lot of risk in that these days.
So, no, the mega-rich are not permitted mega-wealth because they are taking a risk while workers aren’t taking any risk.
This entire principle can be labelled a methodology of unequal exchange.
Let me use an analogy here.
I have a cow. You have two goats. Is one cow worth one goat or two goats?
As the cow is twice the size of a goat and will produce twice the milk of a goat, it can be argued a fair exchange would be two goats for one cow. However, in an economic system where profit is to be made, the ‘entrepreneur’ would demand that he pay only one goat for the cow.
This would mean that the goat owner would progressively become more rich while the cow owner would progressively become more poor.
And that is the inherent problem with an economic system based on profit.
In a system of equal and fair exchange, both labourer and investor would take their real worth.
5. Capital is Worth More than Human Labour
Says who? By what moral reasoning is money worth more than the time, energy, skill, and effort of workers?
This is one of those ideas that were fed to the masses some two hundred and fifty years ago at the start of capitalism. It was necessary to do so in order to convince workers that they weren’t entitled to as much money as the ownership class were. The ownership class (aristocracy, etc.) were losing money as a result of democracy replacing monarchies and not being able to buy slaves, justify feudalism, and many other practices.
6. The Mega-rich contribute more to humanity than those without wealth
While it’s true that some of those who are mega-wealthy do have foundations that contribute to various causes in some ways, it’s also true that many of those situations were caused by the super rich.
For instance, let’s take Africa. Africa has continuously been plundered of its wealth by the ownership class. Workers on mines, in oil, on farms are paid a pittance resulting in their extreme poverty. As this poverty is a result of not being paid sufficient money to provide for themselves, it’s the wealthy who created the problem in the first place.
The pittance that comes back in terms of ‘giving’ is only a small proportion of what should have been earned by the workers.
In addition, had people being paid a decent wage, many people would work together to sort out the local issues as they would have the discretionary income to do so.
The rich also claim that they provide jobs, and that if the jobs weren’t there, then the people would starve. On the contrary, the people can always grow vegetables while the rich wouldn’t be wealthy. The rich cannot be wealthy without labour, but labour can definitely labour independently of the wealthy.
So, no, as much as some of the mega-rich supposedly give, they also caused the situations, and they, therefore, do not particularly contribute more to humanity than those without wealth. It can definitely be argued that the destruction of earth’s environment lies 100% at the doors of commerce. That’s hardly a contribution towards humanity.
Do you believe that you should be paid more for your job?
7. Wealth does not take money away from the poor
Obviously the rich do not understand arithmetic. Only a finite amount of money is printed. If most of that is sitting in rich coffers, it means that there is less for the poor.
Of course, that is not what the rich mean. They mean that they are not stopping the poor from going out to become rich themselves.
So now we’re back to where we started…
Everybody supposedly has equal opportunity (point number one).
Excuses! Excuses! How mega wealth begets mega power and power corrupts
Abraham Lincoln once said that the measure of a man was the way he responded to extreme wealth and power because it was such a corrupting influence.
With mega-wealth comes the ability to bribe. In the United States, lobbying is nothing more than legalized corruption.
Recently, it came to light that the sugar industry bought off three scientists to say that sugar was the cause of heart disease (it was). The scientists therefore claimed that fat was (fat is necessary), therefore fuelling the rise in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes type II.
When corruption is the outcome of mega-wealth, how can mega-wealth be considered ethical?
Do you believe your CEO is worth his paycheck?
Extreme poverty and destruction of the earth
How is anything that leads to the extreme poverty of many and the pollution and destruction of many species and the planet ethical?
Why do some seek excessive wealth? And why are they willing to underpay staff, overprice goods, and destroy habitat, send various animals into extinction (elephants for tusks, sharks for their fins, etc.)?
When a society are taught to look up to and admire those who are wealthy and powerful, there is a great motivation to become wealthy and powerful. Once that status has been attained, it is such a powerful opiate that it is virtually impossible to give it up. What happens instead is that people want more and more. Some might call it greed, but in reality, it is a drug to the ego.
Until humanity stops its worship of wealth and power, this problem will not disappear.
Billionaires make money at the expense of others, often ruining the earth in doing so. Their methods involve unequal exchange, wage slavery, underpaying inventors, creators, discovers, over pricing of products, destruction of the habitat, bribing government officials to pass laws that benefit them unfairly, avoiding tax, and more.
Business creates poverty for the many and wealth for a few. By virtue of the fact that virtually all billionaires use the above unethical methods to attain their wealth, it can probably be argued it’s not possible to become a billionaire without using immoral methods.
Ergo, being super rich is morally wrong.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger