Don’t know who needs to hear this but philanthropy is not a substitute for anti-poverty programs, and the fact that billionaires have successfully convinced so many people otherwise proves it was never intended to.
I need people to think about this critically, because there plenty of progressive-minded people who take issue with income inequality who still remain under the impression that most high-profile philanthropic efforts are anything but PR.
Think about it this way: If you're a wealth-hoarding billionaire faced with the prospect of seeing parts of your fortune taxed away in the near-future, what's the best way for you to diffuse popular anti-inequality sentiment?
The single best way, of course, would to be a class traitor who uses one's fortune to, say, donate to left-wing political candidates or referenda that seek comprehensive wealth redistribution. There are a few (emphasis on "few") uber-wealthy people who meet this description.
While this might lead to less popular scrutiny towards your fortune, it would also, uh, lead to a smaller fortune if these candidates or referenda win. When you have an ungodly amount of money and see wealth accumulation as point-scoring, this matters.
So what do you do? Start a charitable foundation in your name for PR, throw a few pennies (in relative terms, of course, we're talking about billionaires here!) at it for good publicity, and put a bunch of your associates in top roles.
After all, this not only directly saves you $$$, it also obfuscates poverty as a phenomenon. Poverty is no longer depicted as the result of too much wealth concentration in one class, but as some sort of mystic, immaterial phenomenon where "everyone has to do their part".
This has clearly done wonders! Philanthropy as a means of social control is not a new phenomenon in the slightest, and originated even before the likes of Andrew Carnegie.
If you don't think this is the case, ask yourself why Gates's high-profile philanthropic efforts receive so much more attention than his main political impact: The quiet privatization of American education?
If you don't think this is the case, ask yourself why Jeff Bezos's high-profile philanthropic efforts receive so much more attention than Amazon's tangible political impact in Seattle?
If you've ever heard someone say that we don't need comprehensive state programs to end food insecurity and homelessness because of the generosity of billionaires... that means the uber-rich are winning.
If you've ever heard someone say we don't need a wealth tax to pay for universal housing programs because a billionaire promised to donate their fortune to charity after they die twenty years ago, even as they've gotten richer since... you do the math here.
I don't really care to wade into the "what constitutes 'rich'?" debate because it's largely immaterial to me. I'm not really talking about the "standard wealthy" here, though obviously people making over $150k do need to face higher tax rates to pay for social programs.
I'm talking about a class of people to whom wealth has no object. Where one day's gain in net worth due to a market fluctuation isn't even computable in most people's minds and doesn't even correlate to greater luxury for them: Where it really is just a game of scoring points.
Do I think any of the people in this class feel genuine despair at the state of the world? Where billions of people to struggle to find their next meal for them and their families? Maybe a small few. But for the rest of them? Philanthropy is nothing other than PR.
People love to ask "what incentive would someone have to become a doctor if they can't get rich". The obvious answer is that they genuinely want to use their limited time on Earth to heal others, to save so much as a single person who would've died without their intervention.
But this is irrelevant, because I of course can understand why someone would want to enter a high-paying profession (medical, legal, etc.) to enjoy tangible luxuries: A new Mercedes S-Class, an Audemars Piguet, a five-bedroom house, whatever.
But what needs to be stressed is *this is not the case* when it comes to people with a net worth so large that it's almost impossible to compute. When you have a net worth so large that a market fluctuation can add the equivalent of Armenia's GDP to your fortune in one day...
...this is on another level entirely. All I can say is: If we can't have a functioning social state because some people need to "incentivized" to build exploitative e-commerce companies that *might* allow them to amass ungodly fortunes, human civilization isn't going to work.
As for the question of "hard-work": I am sure that the likes of Bezos indeed experience a ton of stress in their daily lives, whether in the office or otherwise.

But let's be clear about something for a second:
When you're guaranteed to maintain an ungodly fortune regardless of your work performance, your work will never be as "hard" as a single mom working three jobs, 60 hours a week, whose time on the clock is spent both working and worrying about how she can afford her next meal.
Finally, this must be said: If you respond to any critiques of social stratification with "anyone can be a billionaire if they work hard!!!" and you yourself are not a billionaire... fam you're calling yourself lazy haha.
Anyway, gonna refer anyone who still buys into the right-wing media line about billionaires to this expansive thread of mine.
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