” . . . Even if we all were magically made equal in wealth tonight, we’d be unequal in the morning because some of us would spend it and some of us would save it.” — Lawrence Reed
Wouldn’t it be great to be a billionaire? You could buy whatever you wanted and not give a fig about the cost. You could live any place you desired, and if you got tired of your city digs you could helicopter to your country estate; why, you could buy your own island. You’d work at any type of career you liked, or none at all, and not care about the income. You could donate at a whim to charities — heck, you could start your own charity. If you got a yen to go skiing, you would hop aboard your private jet and fly to wherever in the world it was snowing on a ski slope. You might even become a superhero, like billionaire Bruce Wayne’s Batman.
And how hard can it be to end up a billionaire? There are lots of ways to do it. You could be born to enormous wealth. (Or, as a friend puts it, you’re “a member of the Lucky Sperm Club.”) You could marry rich. You could start a company that produces something so cool and desirable that everybody wants it, and you sell the company to a conglomerate for a billion dollars. You could create art or music or literature so popular that you become fabulously wealthy, like Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger or Pablo Picasso or Oprah Winfrey or JK Rowling. (If they’re not billionaires, they’re close.)
On the other hand, you could take over a country and loot it. Closer to home, you could build a fairly successful business, then bring your profits to Washington and spread them around as bribes for legislation that gives you unfair advantages, whereupon you corner the market and become a billionaire. Hey, people do it all the time.
But a billion dollars is way more money than any normal person knows how to spend. It’s obscene. Studies show that, above about $75,000 a year, more cash won’t make you happier. But a billionaire earns upwards of a hundred million a year just on investments. Meanwhile, children are starving in — which country is it this week? Darfur? Ethiopia? Somalia? It’s somewhere in Africa, or maybe South Asia — so having a billion dollars while others suffer seems a bit tasteless. Besides, when you’re that rich you have unfair advantages in society — you get more votes, so to speak — while the rest of us must make do with our paltry influence and low status.
We could pass draconian laws that extract most of the profit from these rich bastards. Granted, their combined income streams would reduce the national debt by a mere three percent. But it’s the principle of the thing, you know?
While we’re at it, there are others, besides the rich, with unfair advantages. Beautiful people get better jobs and more pay; they’re better liked and are thought to be nicer and more intelligent. We can put a stop to that simply by making it unlawful for them to wear makeup or buy clothes anywhere but the Salvation Army. Better still, we can line them up and press hot irons to their faces. That should do the trick. It’ll only hurt for a short while, and then we’ll all be more equal.
And what about brilliant people? Way too much advantage there. Kurt Vonnegut had the right idea: we force them to wear headphones that blast distracting noise so they can’t think straight. No more geniuses to humiliate us with their smarts.
Then there’s nice people. They, too, get better jobs and have more influence and so forth. I, for one, am frankly tired of how the nice people get all the good friends and attractive dates. Unfair! Let’s force them to take pills that inhibit the dopamine and seratonin transmission in their nervous systems, making them cranky.
Have I thought of everyone? Oh, wait, there’s skilled people: we can force successful TV stars to retire, and take away the tools from great artists, and the best administrators will have to serve several years as janitors, and so forth.
I think that covers most of the problem.
. . . Okay, I have a confession: I started out hoping this essay would be funny and satirical. But then it occured to me that there are millions of people who really would like my suggestions to come true. And now I just feel sad.
Anyway, wouldn’t it be great to be a billionaire?