On August 8th, Vox released an article by Adam Roberts, titled “I was born into the 1%. I think having this much money is wrong.” The crux of Robert’s argument revolves around the supposed immorality of acquiring and holding large amounts of money.
Roberts explains that his move further into politics, and his subsequent move to the left of the spectrum, caused him to question the origins of his family’s wealth. Here’s where Roberts makes his first mistake. Early in the article, he conflates the acquisition of his family’s wealth, through the means of equity investment, oil drilling, and banking, as being a primary factor in problems such as global warming, extreme economic inequality, and “endless wars.” Here, he builds his foundation for the case of the immorality of wealth.
By establishing his wealth as the primary cause of political, environmental, and societal problems, it allows for the seemingly natural pivot to the immoral nature of accumulating vasts amounts of money.
Like many who decry the alleged immorality of wealth, Roberts fails to account for the economic driving force that millionaires and billionaires are. In a capitalist system, there are the employees and the employers. Without employers, there are no employees, and vice versa. Without those who hold large amounts of money, there would be no big businesses, like Walmart, Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft, which employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and provide products that benefit ALL Americans.
Without billionaire financiers and businessmen, no one would have the monetary inertia to create businesses capable of providing cheap and innovative goods. It’s not the mom and pop stores on main street that have provided you with the 50” 4K TV in your living room that only cost $200 dollars. That would be the multi-billion dollar companies that, paired with unrivaled competition in the free market system, and yes, billions of dollars in investments from wealthy financiers, that create these products and services.
Aside from the economic argument, which refutes this assertion on its own, there is also a moral argument in favor of millionaires and billionaires. Aside from those who receive riches from their parents, the 1% accumulated their wealth through the products of their labor, which they grew through investment in the US economy or through creating products and services that bettered the lives of those in the middle and lower classes.
Despite all this, Roberts feels the moral superiority to declare that billionaires are immoral, and have money they “don’t need.” Roberts also claims that the system that allows for the creation of billionaires is immoral and a policy failure. He argues that the system works for the few at the expense of everyone else, but economics says otherwise. His ire for those who buy yachts and other expensive luxury items is unfounded, as the production of these items creates jobs and millions of dollars in compensation for US workers. When someone buys a yacht, they aren’t throwing their money away, they are putting it in the pockets of everyday Americans.
It is not the job of politicians or self proclaimed “morally superior” activists to declare that large sums of money are unnecessary or unneeded, because the same money and those very people are the engines of the US economy that has created the wealthiest citizenry in world history, where even those who live at the lowest levels of the economic scale live in luxury compared to the rest of the world.
This is not to say that the wealthy shouldn’t be generous and philanthropic, but the amount of money they possess and the allocation of their resources are entirely up to them. Roberts’s fatal mistake is a combination of failing to understand basic underlying economic realities and believing that monetary inequality is starkly immoral. Those who work to grow their money deserve to spend it as they please, and starting a war against billionaires will only ensure that everyone will become equally poor. By disallowing billionaires to exist, large-scale economic growth will become impossible.
There are things that can be done to better our capitalist system, such as deregulating industries and lowering taxes, which would allow companies to pay working Americans higher salaries and better benefits, but blaming wealthy Americans is the wrong place to start.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.