Wealth is a delusion

Late last year, Bill Gates reclaimed his spot as the richest man in the world, overtaking Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by reporting wealth at a whopping $110 billion. Jeff Bezos has taken it back. In spades.

The fact that two mega billionaires passing the baton is considered newsworthy is evidence of our obsession with extreme wealth — and our weird belief that rich people deserve all of that money. I think it’s because we fantasize about a time in the future when we too will become filthy fucking rich. Maybe if we just put in a little elbow grease and work 21,000 years, we could join the list of billionaires in the world. I’m sure that’s how Kylie Jenner did it.

But they don’t deserve it. Your favorite multi-millionaires or billionaires don’t deserve all of that money. They either had such a privileged life that not becoming wealthy would have been personally embarrassing (Bill Gates), exploited their workers to keep costs low and profits up (Jeff Bezos), or some combination of those and a variety of other reasons.

“But Chika?” You may be saying. “The ultra-wealthy do so much! What about philanthropy? What about charity?”

In 2018, Anand Giridharadas released Winners Take All, a book that calls out the elite for their intentionally insufficient efforts to make the world a better place. In a time where millionaires and billionaires are hoarding wealth while the rest of the world is struggling to survive, we in the 99% still believe that charity and philanthropy are enough to make up for the utter havoc that extreme wealth causes.

Here’s the thing. When the rich and powerful try to use their money to “make things better”, they have zero incentive to treat the root causes. They also develop a complex, thinking they know how to solve the vast inequality better than the politicians everyday people have elected (See: why do we think the tech bro is the second coming of Jesus). At Davos this year, billionaire Michael Dell said “I feel much more comfortable with our ability … to allocate those funds than I do giving them to the government.”

Of course, you do, Michael! While the government is not a perfect institution, it is 1000% more democratic than someone who made their fortune off the wage theft of their employees deciding they’d rather donate a couple of mosquito nets than pay their fair share of taxes.

But I hate all rich people. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable when I say it, but it’s the truth. Whether you were born with a silver spoon up your ass or you managed to somehow pull yourself up by those bootstraps we can never stop hearing about, I just don’t like rich people.

Why? People whose main goal in life is to make money are never going to be satisfied. The drive to have more money than the people around you eats away at you, continuing to drive you away from community, away from people. And I don’t like it.

Research done by the University of Toronto found that it’s not the wealth that causes rich people to be stingy. It’s the massive differences in wealth. When rich people were put through a series of tests, one thing prevailed: they acted like assholes. Whether it was refusing to respect a pedestrians’ right of way, shoplifting, or lying about winning a computer game, rich people were much more likely to behave like a dick (and that’s a scientific term).

There is hope. The Toronto researchers found that when rich people were constantly reminded to be compassionate and empathetic, they would behave better. So, all we have to do is give Bezos and Co. the nudge to be better people. That, or we give them the Marx treatment.

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Chika is a freelance writer who writes about the politics of life. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter (she’s on both way too much).

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