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Spacex founder Elon Musk celebrates after the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Billionaires Do Not Give Anything to Society—They Take From It

The rich do not compete; they destroy the competition. The rich do not create wealth; they accumulate it. The rich do not create knowledge; they kidnap it. The rich do not create ideas; they demonize them.

Jorge Majfud

Speeches around the world about the fortunes that billionaires contribute to taxes and how much the poor and the middle class receive from this forced generosity, are a literary genre in itself. Even more, this genre is cultivated by the poor below, as the genius of propaganda, Edward Bernays discovered: you should never say that what you want to sell is good, but make others say it instead.

In reality, billionaires do not give anything to society. They only tax back a minimal fraction of what they have taken from it.

That the poor and the workers (excuse the redundancy) defend the rich as kind donors, is the direct result of such a publicity strategy and it is not just a massive inoculation but an exploitation of the consumer's weakness, as is the desire to distinguish himself from his equals and, one day, even if it is a very distant day, to become part of that unattainable elite.

In reality, billionaires do not give anything to society. They only tax back a minimal fraction of what they have taken from it thanks to their position of power in business (which is pretty much the only way to get into the one percent club).

This return is conveniently described as "redistribution of wealth" as if it were a donation or a robbery that those below, the lazy workers, do to those self-sacrificing and intellectually gifted above. But the very word hides the truth. It is not a distribution of the wealth produced by a small sector of society, but a redistribution of the wealth produced by the totality of society, not only the existing one but all the societies that preceded us and left to humanity a legacy of knowledge, discoveries, inventions, social struggles, and progress.

In other words, every economic system is a system of wealth redistribution, either from the top down through taxes or from the bottom up through production and consumption.

But social myths are functional to power and, as such, they are a semantic mask, an ideological mirror that reflects reality, but reversed it left to right. Since in reality, it is the billionaires who steal from the workers every day and in a massive way (they steal not only wealth but also political representation), the ideological narrative insists that those who want to take from the billionaires to give it to the poor are perverse with "taxes that punish success." This is another myth deeply rooted in society. It is the product of the same propaganda process of those who have disproportionate social power, that is. Those who dominate the economy and finances. Those who own the big media or are their subsidiaries through advertising. Those who are overrepresented in politics, as much as the Pro-Slave states and ruling class were in the 19th century. The same logic makes it not a few workers (especially in the United States and its colonies), as it were not a few slaves in the past, to repeat another myth: but the rich who create jobs. It is the rich who create prosperity.

Another myth indicates that the rich are successful because they know how to compete. Many of them can be creative, but their creativity is not invested in creating something new but rather in taking possession of what has been created. Praise for private projects such as Elon Musk's Space X is presented as the paradigm of private innovation. The paradox is that his entire space project is based on almost a century of successes and failures of government space agencies such as NASA, the Space Program of the Soviet Union, and, long before, the discoveries and progress of the Nazi government of Germany. Space X not only uses all this accumulated knowledge for which he did not invest a coin but even the same NASA facilities and its money, that is, tax money.

The rich do not compete; they destroy the competition. The rich do not create wealth; they accumulate it. The rich do not create knowledge; they kidnap it. The rich do not create ideas; they demonize them.

Everything or almost everything was created by salaried inventors and researchers and almost everything was financed by some government.

Small and medium-sized entrepreneurs compete every day to offer a service and, in this way, obtain profits that allow them to survive and, as far as possible, prosper. But mega-companies like Amazon or Walmart base their success not on competition but on the progressive destruction of that competition, which begins with the annihilation of small businesses through practices such as covert dumping. Then it continues with the annihilation of other monsters, as in the United States it happened with all kinds of chains like Sears or Radio Shack. It can be argued that Amazon's service is effective, but anyone at any time in history with superior capital accumulation will be effective because every new innovation will be at their disposal.

They are now fawned over as the ones who "created the world we live in." What did Jeff Bezos invent? What did Bill Gates invent? What did Steve Jobs invent? What did Mark Zuckerberg invent? Historically speaking, nothing, apart from some makeup to centuries of accumulated progress. Everything was invented sooner or later by others who did not become billionaires or suffer from that terrible psychosocial pathology. From the algorithms invented by the Persian mathematician Al-Juarismi (or Algorithmi) in the 9th century to computers, the Internet, software, email, social networks, and all kinds of instruments that, for better or for worse, make our world. Everything or almost everything was created by salaried inventors and researchers and almost everything was financed by some government. In most cases capitalism did not even exist as a historical age and when it did exist its geniuses were not capitalists, with one or two dubious exceptions.

Let us not be confused by media propaganda or by the cultural industry. The objective of every big business, of every great company, is neither to contribute an invention to Humanity nor to benefit anyone other than its owners through the sequestration and accumulation of wealth resulting from a long history of technological and social progress, the product of a vast effort by the rest of society with its public and private institutions. To think otherwise is like insisting that the job of the fisherman who throws his nets into the sea is to reproduce fish. Every mega-company is just that: a gigantic fisherman's net. Everything else is verse and not the best.

The billionaires are justified only by their economic power, by the propaganda that transpires from this power, and by the political power that they kidnap to benefit their own businesses. This propaganda is so effective that it can falsify reality until a modest food truck seller with two assistants identifies himself with one of these postmodern heroes (now divinized as entrepreneurs) and directs his frustration and political fury on his employees who differ only in title. Nevertheless, all three remain workers; neither entrepreneur Jeff Bezos nor Mauricio Macri.

A billionaire can be a good person, but his historical and social role is the elegant, legalized robbery of the rest of the society. A sexy robbery, needless to say, because a large part of the people want to be billionaires, like in fairy tales. But, as in fairy tales, only a poor Cinderella can marry the prince; not two, let alone a million. In the one percent club, there is no room for more, but for less.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jorge Majfud

Jorge Majfud

Jorge Majfud is an Uruguayan-American writer and an associate professor at Jacksonville University.

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