What does one do with a creature with no innate fear, and with no natural predators? That animal is the biggest, baddest, toughest thing in the wild. They can go wherever they want and do whatever they want. If there are a lot of them, like a school of sharks, the trouble gets even bigger and badder. Imagine now an entire nation of fearless, powerful, influential creatures, who have no equal and no one looking down on them. This is the essential reality in our world: There are a class of people who have a handful of equals, and they are under no authority but their own.
Do we want to live in a world with unchecked power? Most understand the general concept of wealth, and how it allows an individual to speed up construction, the decisions of others, shortcuts, ordering off the menu at restaurants and anywhere else. It opens up doors. There are about a thousand people, the top thousand in the world, who look up to no one else. They aren’t private airplane wealthy, they are private airports (plural) wealthy. Who tells them what to do? No one. Absolutely no one can tell them what to do. Not only are they above the common law of the country in which they happen to live, they have the power to rewrite laws to protect their wealth and power.
Do we want to be under the rule of individuals who answer to no one?
Is it possible for the hyper wealthy to be benevolent? What would be different about our world if they did? For those that assume the hyper wealthy are neutral or good, what would be different about our world if they used their wealth for evil?
I am arguing that morality has to enter the conversation about the accumulation of wealth. It is one thing for a town to be dependent on a single factory. There are plenty of sad stories coming out of mining, lumber, or other single resource communities that rise and fall on the success of a single industry – some towns rise and fall on a single business. When that last mine (or factory, or store) falls, the whole town falls. Now imagine if the whole world were that way. Actually, this is the way we live. I am not arguing that the wealthy will “go out of business,” I am saying a kind of moral bankruptcy would ruin the world just the same.
Our world is ruined in large part because the morality that is required to amass that kind of wealth is exactly the kind of moral code (read: corruption) that we collectively do not want in the hands of power. We will always have rulers (and rich, and poor) but we don’t want our rulers to be unchecked billionaires. I don’t believe we are stuck with billionaires, or that we must have a system that rewards them or protects their wealth.
I don’t believe that our moral language is adequate to condemn what is happening in our power system. Evil doesn’t cover it. A single mother starving to death so her children can eat is “evil.” What do we call it when, by the power allowed to a handful of people, millions of people starve?