Amazon founder Jeff Bezos might be the poor man’s Elon Musk, but he’s also the richest person on the planet.
According to the Bloomberg billionaire tracker, which is its own little slice of wealth-worshiping dystopia, Bezos’ net worth just topped $106 billion. The vast majority of his wealth is in Amazon shares, CNN noted, and their price going up is largely what pushed Bezos way ahead of his main competition on the race to be super-rich—namely, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Bezos might not be the richest person ever in history, as some headlines stated this week, but he is definitely the richest dude in recent memory.
This is great for Bezos, a human being with the same finite energy and time in a day to perform labour as me, but I couldn’t help but notice this morning when I checked my bank balance that I am not also rich. What the hell?
Putting aside the fact that I can’t imagine what Jeff Bezos actually does in a day in terms of real work that justifies making $6 billion in 20 minutes, as he famously did in 2016, just what in the world does he even do with all that money? According to CNBC, anyway, Bezos buys houses, private jets, giant clocks (???), and spends it on the usual billionaire stuff like vacations and trying to build a spaceship even though the country he resides in already has an underfunded public space program.
Even after all of these excesses, as this week’s news reminded us, Bezos is still worth $106 billion USD. I do not believe that, even if he cashed in all of his Amazon shares, he would be able to spend that much in a lifetime. Even if Bezos leaned in to charity like Bill Gates has—Bezos’ lacklustre philanthropy is infamous—he would still have billions of dollars. For normal human beings, it is simply an unfathomably large sum of money, and it’s yet another stark reminder of something that economists from across the spectrum have been saying for some time now: People like Bezos are getting ever-richer, while average people aren’t seeing in-kind improvements to their lives. It’s gotten so bad that in 2017 a World Economic Forum report suggested “reforming market capitalism” before wealth inequality gets so bad that the whole system falls apart at the seams.
And where will all of Bezos’ money go? Perhaps Amazon will continue to cannibalize the economy’s infrastructure (mainly by leeching off of public services like the mail), stock market larks, or maybe Bezos will jump on the cryptocurrency train and park his wealth on a digital ledger where it will magically snowball into more and more money. None of this is very productive for society, frankly, and I have a much better idea:
Jeff Bezos, give me some money.
Jeff, if you’re reading, hear me out: I’ll use your money to pay my rent, and buy groceries, and pay my friends’ rent and grocery bills. We’ll take some time off and put on a play; we’ll solder some circuits for fun and come up with something new; we’ll be productive in that essentially human way that you can’t always be when you’re not the wealthiest person on Earth. And won’t it feel good to contribute to something productive like that?
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