Should Billionaires Exist?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

When 26 of the world’s richest people own the same wealth as half of the world’s population, should there be a limit on how wealthy people can be?

In a society where an estimated 39% of the worldwide poor have no formal education at all, it’s worth thinking about this question.

When asked if billionaires should exist Senator Bernie Sanders said it was ‘a moral and economic outrage‘ that the three wealthiest Americans control as much money as half the country. Labour MP, Lloyd-Russell-Moyle stated that billionaires shouldn’t exist at all in a radio interview. What has led to these political figures expressing such a strong disregard for the top 1% of the world’s population? 

The most obvious answer is income inequality, which seems increasingly incompatible with the idea of democracy. The structure of the economy allows disproportionate amounts of wealth to be distributed. Some people think billionaires deserve their wealth as they have worked hard for it. Individuals like Bill Gates have contributed greatly to our society by building the world’s largest software business which created modern technology we still use today.

Are billionaires really self made though? It’s debatable whether some of the richest people in the world have accumulated all of their wealth single-handedly. An example is Kylie Jenner, now labelled as the youngest self-made billionaire at 21 years old, beating Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the title at 23. Jenner’s claim that she set up her successful makeup company Kylie Cosmetics with her own money earned through modelling has stirred some controversy. As someone associated with such a successful family growing up in a affluent neighbourhood and being promoted on a popular reality television show, her fame and socioeconomic status has clearly contributed to her success.

The concept that rich people succeed merely because of hard work and their own merit is not the central issue, it’s the benefits they reap that makes global income inequality a pressing matter. Wealth tax and redistribution schemes are both potential methods of tackling social inequality but what changes could they bring about? Wealth tax is essential to end the extreme divide between the rich and the poor, it is not just a matter of wealth concentration, it’s a matter of power. This tax is based on the market value of personal capital which includes real estate, ownership of unincorporated businesses, bank deposits and so forth. Taxing billionaires on their wealth would give the public a right to decide on how the money should be spent. By hoarding their wealth, billionaires are permitting social inequality which undermines the principles of democracy and freedom.

It is possible for people to have a vision and come up with an extraordinary invention, but the important question is what makes it acceptable for certain people to have such influence and power in the world? What makes these people worthy of possessing so much wealth when there are issues like homelessness, world hunger and poverty that they could help solve? Billionaires have the capacity to improve thousands of lives; is it right that they can choose to keep so much wealth which they cannot possibly spend in a lifetime?

The truth is that no one really needs that amount of money. The fact that the wealthiest 1% can control 50% of a nation’s wealth suggests that society is heading towards an oligarchy. This money could be invested in areas like healthcare and education so that people can have the quality of life they deserve.

The simple reality is that billionaires are not required in society. They reflect an imbalance in the order of things. Limits should be imposed on wealth, everything has a limit and inequality is certainly no exception to this.

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Head of Outreach 2019-20. Second year English student, passionate about many things especially dance, politics and history.

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