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Defending the Billionaires

Nobody gets to the vast levels of wealth of someone like Bezos without being a gangster. Nobody.

Once again, someone is here to give voice to the voiceless: the poor, underrepresented billionaires who cannot defend themselves.

My disinterest in arguing with you could only be described as “sexual” in intensity. Go rant on your own blog.

          — A famous internet personality

Those are three choice quotes from an argument I got into on the popular blog of a popular San Franciscan. He was a shareholder and early employee of the first company to make a commercial web browser, became quite wealthy in the IPO, and then proceeded to buy a nightclub, and later a pizza parlor next to the nightclub. He also writes regularly, with undisguised loathing, of his distaste for wealthy people.

You can find the original argument using a search engine, but I do not care to direct people to it, and would prefer that you not look, and that if you do, that you leave it unmolested. There is no point in trying to educate those who do not wish to learn; it is generally a waste of time, and I don’t actually enjoy irritating people even if they are themselves less than perfectly civilized. The blog owner suggested I “[g]o rant on [my] own blog”, and so here I am.

The conversation that triggered the “ranting” which I reproduce below suggested, among other things, that the fact that Jeff Bezos is rich is evidence in itself that he’s a bad person, that it is impossible to get rich without foul means, etc. (In other words, it suggested the usual array of collectivist arguments for why envy of wealth should be a guide to political policy.)

The comments also implied that it is horrible that anyone would come to the defense of a wealthy entrepreneur, that one must be a terrible person to defend people who are so clearly not in need of defense. Let me, then, be that horrible person. I think that anyone who is slighted for no reason beyond bigotry and envy deserves defense — indeed, that such defense is necessary for a functioning society.

Here, then, are (lightly edited) my comments from the thread. I’ve separated the individual comments with horizontal rules. If you are a regular on this blog, you may accurately guess the content of my counterparty’s brief and non-substantive comments without reading them.


I always thought that envy was a vice, not a virtue, but I guess people are into reveling in it anyway.


I’ve found fairly few of the “Eat the Rich!” crowd who are actually virtuous, but boy do they do a good job getting angry with others for the “crime” of having earned more money. Such people also pretend it is a virtue to criticize business people for existing, and rich people for having their money, as though it was all a zero sum game, which of course it isn’t — the game isn’t even remotely zero sum. The world’s total supply of goods and services is not, after all, fixed, so it is not the case that one person having more means another has less.

Many of these adherents to the practice of vigorous public expression of thinly disguised envy are even fairly rich people themselves, even have businesses, but naturally they think of themselves as virtuous and anyone who has more money than them as being remarkably evil, or at least, so they proclaim in public. Somehow their own stores and restaurants and factories and the like aren’t evil, though, only other people’s are. (“I run a nice honest business, but he’s got more money than me, so he must be terribly, terribly bad” certainly reads a great deal like envy.)

There are, of course, societies that do operate on a zero sum principle, and those are precisely the societies where most such upper class critics of other people earning money would find themselves imprisoned for having even the “modest” businesses they themselves own. Those societies are also generally desperate and poor. (Many such people were happily chirping about how great Hugo Chávez was and how wonderful Venezuela was, even past the point where it became obvious that starvation was growing in a country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world. I’ve heard few to no retractions from the former admirers, many even claim that the Bolivarian paradise Chávez was building has somehow been ruined by foreigners, but the mechanisms they propose for this are universally implausible.)

Anyway, I find it interesting that people complain about others for no better reason than that they earn some large amount of money per minute, as though this was in itself a reason to think they were somehow bad.

Again, envy is a really, really ugly emotion, and this reads as nothing more than the sort of envy we usually try to teach children not to indulge in, but it seems that at least at the moment, we have political movements (on both sides of the supposed political divide) who anchor their entire program in the basest possible human emotions: envy, fear of people unlike themselves, dehumanization of those judged to be members of outgroups, etc. This tendency appears both among the “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!” types and among members of the “eat the rich!” crowd, though remarkably each believes that only the other exhibits such abhorrent beliefs.

I’m sure I’ll now be told that it’s different here, but everyone claims their own vices are not actually vices and that the people they mindlessly hate deserve it. No one ever admits there’s something wrong with their own views. No one ever admits to having base and unreasonable emotions, no one ever sees themselves as the bad guy. I know people who honestly believe Mexicans are going to destroy U.S. society by committing the horrible crime of crossing the border and working hard, I know people who honestly believe that landlords are evil for wanting to charge market rents. The arguments are all the same, the claims that I’m a bad person for pointing it out and that the arguer’s personal hatreds are different from other people’s hatreds are dull and basically inconsequentially distinct from those of others.


“Earned”, right. How about crimes like not paying taxes, which are only crimes if you’re poor?

Don’t you own a business? How do I know you paid your taxes? I mean, you say you have, but everyone says they have, right? Shouldn’t I be protesting your wealth? I mean, you’re wealthier than all but a small fraction of a percent of the US population, and by world standards, you’re in the top tiny fraction of a percent. Clearly if you were a decent person you would be giving all your worldly goods up — no one “needs” to own a nightclub and a restaurant and the rest, right?

Only, that argument would be as unreasonable as all the others being made, even if it’s no different in any respect from the one you’re making.

Really, though, it is a fantastic signifier of that. Nobody gets to the vast levels of wealth of someone like Bezos without being a gangster.

Jeff Bezos’s company ships something to me several times a week. I use his service because it is vastly easier for me to get decent products at a reasonable price that way than any other. In doing this, he’s done me a huge service. A new clock for my office wall arrived not very many hours ago, as did a book I couldn’t possibly have found at the local store. He’s probably saved me thousands of hours over the years hunting around on foot only to get worse products at a higher price. I’m glad to have paid him for the service of saving me that time and providing me with better merchandise. Over the years, I’ve paid him only a small fraction of what those many hours would have cost me in lost earnings — he captured only a tiny fraction of the value that I captured.

Because hundreds of millions of other people find his products and services useful, they voluntarily use them, and as a result he’s very very rich — but only because hundreds of millions of people want to use his firm’s services. I could choose to buy from all sorts of firms, but I don’t, because his does better by me than theirs along a variety of metrics. (For certain products, like computer parts, I use competitors services, because they’re better.)

So he got really rich doing what he does well. Not by “gangsterism”, which would imply using guns to use violence to get your way. Which is, by the way, what most people who think he doesn’t pay enough taxes would like — they would like their prejudices and hatreds to be enforced by the police. They would cheer if (say) they saw a cop beating Jeff Bezos up. In this, they’re not much different from the people who think any given group, from blacks to bankers, need to be kept down by the police more of the time. And it’s true, he’s more able to defend himself than the average black person who is victimized by racists, but it’s not true that the sentiment being displayed is any more savory. In the end, it’s the same desire to see people who are part of an outgroup physically harmed, mostly just for being members of the outgroup.

Anyway, though, I’m sure loads of other people could make precisely the same argument about other people, say people who own restaurants. “How did he get wealthy enough to buy a restaurant? Normal people who work stocking shelves don’t have that sort of money. He must be a gangster. He must have stolen it. These excuses about how he worked hard and his company IPOed are garbage — it was theft from other people that got him his money.”

The problem is, of course, that the argument is false. But it’s easily applied to people who own nightclubs, not just people who own internet department stores.

Anyway, I’ve heard this same argument thousands of times. In no case does it seem to amount to more than “I’m envious of the rich person, and because it is socially acceptable to slag rich people, I’ll express that anti-social sentiment in public, pretending that it’s virtue and not vice.” Only, from what I can tell, envy is just about never virtuous, and should not, in fact, be socially acceptable.

34 comments to Defending the Billionaires

  • Chester Draws

    I’m 100% certain that Bezos pays every cent of tax he owes. I doubt he even does much tax avoidance, let alone evasion. There seems to be some confusion in people’s minds about him and the business he owns a share of. Amazon and Mr Bezos are not synonymous.

    I wonder where the envy crew stand on the huge wealth that Bill and Hillary Clinton have amassed. It seems to me that if you were looking for “gangsters”, then those who have gained huge sums of money with no apparent business acumen, indeed no apparent business at all, would be top of your list.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Chester: Politicians make their money without engaging in such debasing activities as producing goods or services that ordinary people would want to make use of, and are thus free of the taint of capitalism.

  • Jim

    “I wonder where the envy crew stand on the huge wealth that Bill and Hillary Clinton have amassed.”

    Also the piles of moolah accumulated by the Chavez family – one assumes the people of Venezuela loved them so much they voluntarily donated every cent……

  • bobby b

    He’s a liberal woke guilt-tripped white guy who fell into a pile of money and now expresses his own self-hate by throwing hate at people just like him but more so.

    He’s apologizing for his wealth and status, and he’ll hate you forever if you point it out to him. He’s not having a political discussion – he’s crying “but I’m not like that” into the void.

  • Schill McGuffin

    Of course, “tax avoidance” is a pretty loosely defined term. Deducting one’s home mortgage interest is arguably “tax avoidance”, as is taking advantage of tax incentives concocted by governments to try to induce business owners to set up shop in their jurisdiction. The mentality that finds “tax avoidance” objectionable is the one that sincerely believes there’s a moral obligation over and above the letter of the law to turn over a large portion of one’s wealth to the government for thoughtful redistribution. I find it asinine.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    He’s a liberal woke guilt-tripped white guy who fell into a pile of money and now expresses his own self-hate by throwing hate at people just like him but more so.

    I’m not sure it is that simple. I suspect he doesn’t hate himself, does see himself as good, and is merely following the “obvious” “moral truths” he’s been inculcated with since nearly birth.

    Most people are told by society that wealth is indeed suspect, that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, etc. We are told by our schoolteachers that only the regulatory state restrained the evils of capitalism and that without it, evil men would sell their neighbors poisoned bread at every opportunity. We are told that the very best people are those who renounce the world and retreat into asceticism. We passively accept contempt for bourgeois comfort, as it’s expressed at every opportunity. Slowly we absorb those values, even if we think that we ourselves are not sufficiently advanced to embody them. Hating the things that make the world run becomes a religion, and like all other religions, reasoning about them is taboo and they’re something you absorb when you’re very young and rarely question.

    Then, when you see wealthy people, even if you yourself are wealthy, you presume that they must have done horrible things to achieve wealth, and when you see people proclaiming the evils of capitalism, you presume they must be good because they are saying what you’ve been told from an early age constitutes a good opinion.

    One needn’t be “woke” or “self-hating”, one in fact needs to merely be entirely ordinary in one’s views. If you spend little time questioning received wisdom, this is your default state as a well-educated person in the modern world.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . I suspect he doesn’t hate himself, does see himself as good, and is merely following the “obvious” “moral truths” he’s been inculcated with since nearly birth.”

    But if he has adopted these moral truths, how can he see his own status – rich white male – without self-hate? I agree that we’ve all been indoctrinated into the self-effacing, unselfish Christ-model as the highest attainment, but if you sincerely hold that view, I think it’s far more common to despise your own upper, entitled status than to reject a lifetime of learning and think of yourself as a morally upstanding exception. Acknowledging yourself as an exception puts a chink in the wall of your indoctrination, and most people will accept self-abnegation over leaving the cult.

    For him to think “I am a rich white male, and a moral man” is a contradiction that he’ll never accept internally. He can either question his entire basis of judging morality, or he can throw the game by privately believing he is not a moral man. I don’t think the human mind allows for any other possibility.

  • terence patrick hewett

    It is so sad that anybody will think that cash is of any importance whatsoever: you really do not understand human condition – that of pathos.

  • mikesixes

    No voluntary business transaction ever takes place unless it is profitable to both parties. This is just a plain fact- nobody buys anything unless it’s worth more to them than the money they have to pay for it, and nobody sells anything unless they can get more money than the thing is worth to them. Therefore you can see that anybody who’s gotten rich by selling people things they want at prices they’re willing to pay has performed a valuable service, providing an opportunity for his customers to profit along with him. There’s nothing wrong with getting rich through honest trade. People who get rich by getting politicians to rig the market for them (e.g. ethanol, wind and solar “entrepreneurs”) can go to hell.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    But if he has adopted these moral truths, how can he see his own status – rich white male – without self-hate?

    Through the magic of ignoring the contradiction.

    Believing contradictory things is quite standard after all. I know lots of people who simultaneously believe that high taxes on tobacco products will probably discourage their use (likely true), that taxes on sugary sodas will probably discourage their use (probably true), and yet who do not believe that artificial floors on the price of labor (a.k.a. “minimum wages”) will discourage the use of labor.

    This seems fantastic if you presume people are uncomfortable if their beliefs contain large self-contradictions, but I think the evidence available is that most people do not feel the least bit uncomfortable about internal contradictions in their belief systems. They’re totally fine with them, in fact. They handle it through the magic of not seeking logical consistency or even sensibility in their beliefs in the first place. If you’re not thinking too hard about your own beliefs, you’re never going to even notice!

    Humans, including all of us in this discussion, are not fully rational creatures. We suffer from all sorts of cognitive defects. Some of us fail less at being rational, some fail more. None do a very good job of it. Most don’t even try. If you’re not even trying, you’re unlikely to notice anything is wrong.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Lang Hancock became rich in Western Australia by noticing the red colour of the ground, and thinking that could be Iron in the soil, and thus starting a mining boom. I suppose he might have terrorised the mountains and plains, but I don’t otherwise see how he could be called a gangster.

  • bobby b

    “If you’re not thinking too hard about your own beliefs, you’re never going to even notice!”

    Well, I suppose that if you keep yourself occupied by excoriating those more transgressive than yourself, you can keep your mind off of your own failings.

    It’s interesting to watch people draw lines. A guy in the top 0.10% blogs about how evil one must be to get into the top 0.00010%. When most of us draw this line (should we think it proper), it’s going to fall far below your blogger friend’s position.

  • Eric

    When most of us draw this line (should we think it proper), it’s going to fall far below your blogger friend’s position.

    I’ve noticed the tendency is to draw it just above one’s current economic circumstances. That way there’s no conflict between “tax the rich” and “my taxes are too high”. Once you reach a certain level it gets to be ridiculous, so you pretend to want people like yourself taxed at a higher rate as you take advantage of every opportunity to avoid paying more.

  • George Atkisson

    The above post and comment section is just one more reason I visit here daily. A rational discussion with logic and a keen understanding of human nature. That plus a civil discussion of differing views.

    Thanks to all who post here. 😄

  • David Bishop

    George Atkisson
    Indeed.

  • pete

    Round my way jobs at Amazon are getting the same reputation as jobs at Sports Direct or in care homes – something to be considered only when you are desperate.

    I think most liberals and most libertarians who are keen Amazon customers would be appalled if they or any of their relatives had to work there.

    Bezos could still be very rich and treat his workers much better, but he chooses not to do so.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Bezos could still be very rich and treat his workers much better, but he chooses not to do so.”

    No, he chooses to employ more workers.

    In a free market wages are determined by supply and demand, not the whims of the owner or the employees. As the price of labour rises, more people are willing/able to work for that wage, and fewer employers are willing/able to employ them at that wage. The price settles at a level so that the price of workers exactly equals the demand for workers. If the price is different, then you either get employers competing between themselves to get workers (raising wages to attract them), or workers competing between themselves to get jobs (offering to work for less just to get a job). If an employer pays above the going rate, unemployed workers or workers in even worse jobs come along begging to be given a chance, promising to work harder and longer than they’re contracted for just to keep it. Are you going to tell them “No”?

    With every £1000, you can employ 50 people on £20 each, or 100 people on £10 each. (Of course, with more workers you’re going to increase that £1000 too, but ignore that for now and assume it’s fixed.) If you employ 50 people on £20 each, the other 50 people get £0. It’s these other 50 people that always get left out of the moral equation when people ask for higher wages.

  • Fraser Orr

    @pete
    Round my way jobs at Amazon are … something to be considered only when you are desperate.

    And I imagine that those who are desperate are very thankful that the job is available.

    Plus didn’t Amazon just raise all their wages to the magical $15 per hour? Or are we demanding $20 per hour now? (I might add their stock price crashed when they did making me poorer, and no doubt the stuff I buy from Amazon more expensive.)

    If you don’t want a crap job get some decent skills so that you can contribute more value that “pick this off the shelf and put it in this box.” And if you work at Amazon and demand ridiculous wage raises, like what they just got, you might want to look at those little robots scooting around the factory and wonder what that might portend when you demand of $100 per hour.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    In regards to the white guilt of the interlocutor the OP was engaging, I believe the attitude is “yes I am a priviledged rich white male. But I am woke. I am one of the good ones who recognizes it. I am trying to ‘do’ something about it. So I might be all priveledged and stuff, but I am part of the solution not part of the problem.”

  • llamas

    Pete wrote:

    “Round my way jobs at Amazon are getting the same reputation as jobs at Sports Direct or in care homes – something to be considered only when you are desperate.”

    Pardon me, but what other motivation is there for getting and keeping a job? Any job? You call it ‘desperate’ – I call it ‘in need of food and shelter’. ‘Desperate’ is another way of saying ‘out of available choices’. Well, if Amazon was not offering work at whatever rate they pay – how much more ‘desperate’ would a hopeful worker be then? Are they somehow less-desperate if they have no opportunity to work at all?

    Desperate is as desperate does – not everyone sees working at Amazon like you do. In the US, there is a distinct sub-culture of Amazon ‘gypsies’, who travel the country working short-term gigs at different Amazon facilities. Amazon encourages and facilitates these people, which allows them to work as they like. When Amazon opened a new facility one county over from me, the line of people applying for work was long, and working there is generally considered a good job with benefits and plenty of OT for them as wants it.

    “I think most liberals and most libertarians who are keen Amazon customers would be appalled if they or any of their relatives had to work there.”

    You know what? I don’t want to mine coal, or lift potatoes, or dig ditches, either. The world is full of unpleasant jobs that I’d just as soon not do, But what does that have to do with – anything? Or are you suggesting that a person should only benefit from the work of others if it’s work they’d be prepared to do themselves?

    Regarding the apparently-hellish conditions that Amazon workers must endure – I assure you, there are plenty of jobs out there that are 1000 times worse than the worst day working for Amazon. As proven by the number of people that work there.

    “Bezos could still be very rich and treat his workers much better, but he chooses not to do so.”

    Guess what? Slavery has been outlawed for a while now. Amazon’s workers are not ‘Jeff Bezos’s workers’ – he does not own them, he is not responsible for their welfare. They are free individuals who make the choice to go work for Amazon. Amazon is operating in a free labour market in the best interests of its shareholders, including ME. I want them to buy everything they buy – including labour – at the lowest price they can, and sell it at the highest price they can.

    Bitter experience has shown us that nothing good results from anyone trying to decide what someone ‘should’ be paid – and that includes Jeff Bezos. And since when do you get to demand that one person give his money to another person – for any reason? Or to insult him for not doing so? Who made you the arbiter of who should own what?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sigivald

    A foolish Canadian Socialist (“but I repeat myself”) has asserted, in all sincerity, that magically once yearly income gets to a million dollars it “can’t have been fairly earned”.

    It was stolen from someone, and it’s illicit, and the government can just take it because shut up.

    I do not discuss serious topics of policy or economics with this person; we share no priors.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Generally: I think far too many people forget that, in spite of the progress we’ve made, the world remains a place where resources people would like to have far exceed what the world has available, and that the only two choices are to work hard to create new resources or to convince others to give you some of their resources in exchange for the ones you’ve constructed yourself.

    I’d love for it to be the case that everyone could lie back and sip nice cocktails all day without doing a lick of work, but sadly, food doesn’t come from nothing, deck chairs don’t spontaneously arise, etc. For there to be food and deck chairs and cocktail napkins, someone has to create them.

    As for the post-scarcity side, I don’t think there ever will be such a thing. The energy and mass available in a finite volume of the universe is always going to be limited, and thus intelligent entities that want access to those resources will always face limits.

    In such a world, yes, pretty much always people will have to do things they don’t really love doing in order to get the resources they want or need. Some of us have skills valuable enough that we don’t have to work in warehouses, and others don’t and so they do, in fact, work in warehouses. I’m not going to pretend that working in a warehouse (or in a coal mine) is fun and relaxing, but I’m also not going to pretend that the coal will mine itself or that packages will ship themselves.

    The people who have voluntarily chosen to work in warehouses packing boxes for delivery will not have better lives if we forcibly stop them from taking those jobs — they took the jobs precisely _because_ they judged they would be happier with them than without them — and the main result of saying that their employers “must” pay them more or provide them with a cushier job will be that fewer people will have jobs, as supply and demand is not an optional part of world but is deeply embedded in the structure of a society of independent actors who trade.

    However, the good part of all of this is that as the world’s capital stock grows and we become more and more efficient at deploying it, the lives of almost everyone, coal miners and warehouse workers included, become better. The difference in lifestyle between someone today and a century ago is pretty damn high, and things would probably have been 5x better off if we’d had the couple percent growth along the way that voters decided to give up in exchange for a perception of short term safety.

    What would the world look like if the average US income was $150k and not $50k, a 3x difference which would have been easily achievable with higher growth? I can’t say, but I think both that things would have been vastly better and that many people would continue to complain that they weren’t perfect.

    The difference in standard of living between Mexico and the United States is about a 1% difference in GDP growth compounded over a century. The United States and the United Kingdom, though, are themselves the result of a GDP growth rate a couple percent lower every year than it could easily have been. Think on the difference between Mexico and the US, and then think on what a US that was not 5% richer but 5x richer would be like.

    Think on what the lives even of warehouse workers would be like now if we hadn’t tried so desperately hard to improve the lives of people today at the expense of the future.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Don’t know if Pres. Trump is still a billionaire, but there are a lot of different reasons why those who are considered rich or super-rich stay in business and try to run their businesses as profit-making enterprises overall (I suppose it can be strategic to lose on one business or deal in order to gain big on another).

    I’ve thought quite often that past some point for these folks, it’s not really about the money for its own sake, not even about what all you can spend it on — toys, luxury, hobbies, living circumstances. It’s about markers.

    So I’ve never read the President’s book The Art of the Deal, but I was struck by a comment that states this thought perfectly:

    If you read The Art of the Deal, #11 in his formula for business success is – Have Fun – “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”

    (My boldface, and I added the first comma for clarity.)

    https://www.thenewneo.com/2018/10/23/trump-the-unlikely-populist-redux/#comment-2409192

    . . .

    I’ve also left this comment, slightly edited and making a related point, at the previous Samizdata posting, from Johnathan Pearce on “A Statement of Corporate Philosophy I Can Get Behind.”

  • Paul Marks

    And Mr Bezos tries to win over these leftists by giving them money and funding the Washington Post – yet he is still a “gangster” to the leftists.

    The sad thing is that this leftist is a small business owner – real life has not managed to cure the evil ideas that he was taught at school and university and are reinforced by the mass media (including the mass media that Mr Bezos and other billionaires – they fund the very ideas that would DESTROY them). A business owner supporting policies that would not “just” destroy “Big Business” (as he hopes in his evil – for it is EVIL that is rotting his soul)

    Many States in America are doomed – things are already past the point of no return in New Jersey (their reaction to business enterprises and rich individuals leaving the State was to INCREASE tax rates even more), and the midterm elections will seal the fate of New York and California.

    But will the United States itself fall into the politics of Class War and even more taxation and Welfare State projects? Who wins the Congressional elections will decide that. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House? The politics of San Francisco as the politics of United States? In two weeks we will know.

    The recent cuts in Federal tax rates can be reversed, and if the Democrats gain control of Congress President Trump will be so tied up in B.S. “investigations” that he will be helpless. Defeat in 2016 did not make the Democrats more moderate – it made them more extreme, they are capable of truly dark madness now.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    He’s right, though- I would not have bought ANY of the Harry Potter books, except the author put a gun to my head and told me to buy her books. After a while she was rich enough to let her gang do the same. I never reported this to the police because I was ashamed. How about the rest of you?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Uh-oh! 🙂 Peter Thiel interviewed by Maria Bartiromo for Fox, on “Leaving Silicon Valley,” several more issues. Admittedly, not directly On Topic.

    8+ min.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_NhYV63K5E

  • Albion’s Blue Front Door

    People and money can be summed up by Mr Jones winning ten thousand on the lottery. Out of kindness, Mr Jones then gives his friends Mr Smith and Mr Green a thousand each, who thank him. But in reality Mr Smith and Mr Green hate Mr Jones because, in their words, ‘the mean old bastard is loaded, so he could have given us a lot more.’

  • the other rob

    …and the midterm elections will seal the fate of New York and California.

    By happy chance, one of the meds that my dermatologist has me taking is also the cure for Typhus. So if anybody needs anything rescued from LA County, I’m willing to risk it.

    Humour aside, they have medieval diseases reappearing. Medieval. Diseases.

  • No-one so far (unless I missed it) has noted that a (relatively) rich businessman in San Francisco has an obvious reason for being afraid of the woke and so seeking to keep in with them. I do not insist this is the explanation – or necessarily any part of it. Indeed, PerryM may happen to know that the guy is (for a lefty) sincere and wholly uninfluenced by even a subconscious fear of what a flash twitter mob could do to his (presumably pleasant to him) San Francisco lifestyle and circles of friends, let alone his profitability. But I think this discussion of motivations could include considering it.

    People with fewer of the stigmata that arouse the SJW mob than he appears to possess have (usually post-facto) noted that PC culture is snitch culture and (as US diplomats found of the soviets in the war) “you can’t bank gratitude” with it. You must endlessly re-earn your place with the hunters, not the hunted.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    @Niall: So far as I can tell, he’s quite sincere. That said, I don’t doubt that many others deliberately attempt to protect themselves from the mob by winning their favor.

  • Paul Marks

    Niall – San Francisco (and California generally) proves the policy of funding the left (and appeasing them by attack Freedom of Speech) DOES NOT WORK – as the taxes and regulations keep increasing.

    The billionaires are (NOT all of them – but many of them) wicked fools – they are wicked because they have made an alliance with the left against freedom (see what the Social Media companies are doing to political dissent – even of ex Democrats such as the “Walk Away” movement of moderate Democrats disgusted by the move to socialism, Facebook has actually attacked the Walk Away movement, essentially shutting them down), and the billionaires are fools – because the left will cut their throats anyway.

    Take the richest man of all – Jeff Bezos (in Washington State), he is NOT sincere Perry Metzger. I know for a fact that Jeff Bezos knows that higher taxes and more regulations cause harm – yet he funds the Washington Post and other leftists who push for what he KNOWS to be harmful, push for it every day.

    Jeff Bezos may be very clever at making money – but he is a wicked fool, wicked because he aids the collectivists, and a fool because they will destroy him no matter how much money he gives them.

    He will celebrate if the Democrats take Congress on November 6th – and then be amazed when they betray him.

    No he is not a “gangster” (gangsters tend to have more common sense) – but why am I supposed to care about Jeff Bezos, Perry Metzger?

    Why should I care about a man who actually FUNDS the people who would destroy him?

    If I see a man attacked by a group of bandits – then I will come to his aid. But if I find that man (Jeff Bezos) has, for years, been FUNDING the bandits……

    Well then I walk away – the bandits can do what they like with such a man. I do not care if they skin him alive – which they most likely will.

    It is like bursting into tears because the Duke of Orleans (the richest man in France) has been beheaded by the Revolutionaries – the Revolutionaries he FUNDED (for years). Sorry – but I will shed no tears for such wicked fools, even if their heads are (literally) hosted on their own petards.

  • bobby b

    “Why should I care about a man who actually FUNDS the people who would destroy him?”

    The irony here is that Mr. Metzger’s blogger friend was attacking Bezos for not adequately funding the people who would destroy him.

  • Tedd

    There’s another aspect to the issue of the ‘gap’ between ‘the rich’ and ‘the not rich.’ People like Bezos aren’t actually as rich as they appear to be on paper. My net worth comes almost entirely from equity in a house and savings in the form of shares, mutual funds, or cash. That means that I can, in principle, turn my net worth into cash within a few days and it will be very close to the current paper value. Someone like Bezos, though, has most of his net worth in one public corporation (or a small number of public corporations). If he tried to turn his net worth into cash all at once he’d only get a small fraction of its paper value (since the act of his selling shares would drastically reduce the share price). So, yes, he’s still very rich but, apples to apples, probably something like an order of magnitude less rich, compared to me, than it looks like on paper.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, Tedd, and that’s a very good point. What you’re worth “on paper” can be very, very different from what you’d get if you cashed out.

    This is something that even people who depend on their retirement savings, such as their IRA, should know. I took used some of the money in my IRA to fund a Roth several years ago, and it took something like 3-4 years for my income tax payments to settle down, because the withdrawal from the IRA was taxable, of course, and pushed the tax due way up beyond what was normal. And that meant having to withdraw even more to pay the increased taxes — which withdrawal was itself taxable. And so forth.

    (Never, ever believe that you don’t pay income tax on your income tax. You most certainly do.)

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