Volunteer Label writer, Macey Williams, looks and questions whether we should be turning to some of the world’s richest in a time of need and desperation.
The number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade. As of 2019, there were 2,153 billionaires globally, worth a combined $8.7 trillion. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos alone counts for $131 billion of this figure, making him the world’s richest person to date.
Such staggering figures raise the moral question of just how fair it is for a small number of individuals to possess more wealth than half of the world’s population combined. The current economic system calls for a dramatic reshuffling of the world’s cash in order to diminish the clear wealth disparity that subsists today. This is an issue that is only getting worse, with a projection produced from the House of Commons revealing that by 2030 the richest 1% will own two-thirds of global wealth.
Such wealth disparity could be reduced by increasing taxes on top earners. This shared money would get used for the improvement of world issues including those of healthcare, education and investments in more sustainable infrastructure and cities around the world as well as the development of green energy and better public transport. Countries such as Australia, Sweden and Canada are proof that this is a viable proposal as they all do well in terms of economic growth, despite them having higher taxes for top earners. Billionaire Bill Gates himself urges for higher taxes on the wealthy and argues that taxing and redistributing the proceeds could help narrow the wealth gap between the richest and poorest individuals, which has widened over the past half-century. Raised taxes for the wealthy does come with concerns however, as it could consequently lead to an increase in tax avoidance and illicit activity of the very wealthy therefore having adverse effects. It is also socially divisive in that it encourages a potential class war situation where the poor and the middle class begin to resent the rich, and the rich, who find themselves paying an increase share in tax bill, resent the poor and the middle class in return.
Defenders of billionaires would argue that rich people should not be criticised for their acquired wealth and success. This stems from concerns that if potential future opportunities for individual wealth are limited, this could prevent prospective entrepreneurs from starting successful companies that have created millions of jobs, such as the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It is also important for us not to overlook the donations many billionaires have already contributed to philanthropic initiatives that are aimed towards making progress on issues governments have and continue to struggle with. For instance, Bill and Melinda Gates have reportedly given more than $45.5 billion to improve global health, promote education and fight poverty.
More recent contributions, however, have been widely criticised. Jeff Bezos’ contribution of $690,000 towards the Australian bushfires has been slammed due the figure being equivalent of just 0.00000073 per cent of the value of his $938.1 billion company. More shockingly, it amounts to less than he made every five minutes in 2018.
This begs the question as to how ‘selfless’ these donations really are and puts into perspective the effect billionaires could have on world issues if they were to distribute their wealth more generously.