I disagree with Farhad Manjoo about many things, but it is rare for me to read his column and think it stupid. His column in the New York Times today is irredeemably stupid. It argues that government should simply “abolish” billionaires because — here’s the level of thinking at play — “billionaires are bad.”
A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.
At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power, it silences dissent, it serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good.
Implicit in the above is that someone somewhere is empowered to determine who deserves what and what counts as a contribution or social good. We already have a system for doing that, one in which everybody gets an equal vote. “I have an idea, a business, a product — would you like to buy some?” People decide for themselves, just as if they had minds of their own!
A billion dollars does buy some political influence. So does a New York Times column.
Up against the wall!
Any time your best thinking tells you that the best solution to a social problem is the elimination of a class of people, it’s time to have another cup of coffee and think a little harder.
Manjoo, and the New York Times, should be embarrassed.