Why People Resent Billionaires

The reason comes from the healthiest instincts of the free enterpriser….

Steven Yates

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Just for kicks, let’s try a thought experiment. It’ll rely on simple arithmetic and answer one question: to earn a billion dollars in a year, how much would you have to earn, on average, in an hour. I’ll assume a standard workweek, full-time (40 hours) work. Fewer hours will make this worse, trust me.

Start with how much you’d have to earn in a week. Assume a 48 week year, to accommodate Christmas and New Year’s, and other holidays and maybe your birthday spread across the year. In that case, a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) divided by 48 weeks would yield $20,833,333.33 million per week.

Do you know anyone who is actually earning that much per week doing recognizably real work, something that meets the genuine needs of others in that arena known as the real economy? If you just assume 50 weeks, the figure is an even $20 million — $20,000,000 per week — which may be easier to work with.

Continuing: how much is that per hour? Assuming a 40 hour work week like we said, the first figure comes o $520,833.33-repeating/hour. The second comes to $500,000/hour.)

Now ask yourself again: is there a job in the world, or an occupation, providing real goods or services, that pays that kind of money? I’ve never seen one. Maybe it’s just because I don’t move in billionaire class circles…. Or maybe because in the world of the genuine free enterpriser, there is no such job or occupation. Most of us know that, deep down. Hence we read about billionaires raking in billions more and we wonder….

But isn’t it possible to earn enormous sums per hour as, say, a celebrity speaker, or something similar?

I’ve heard of famous keynoters being paid five figures per appearance, but six figures seems to be a bit of a stretch. Again, I could be mistaken. Let’s assume for a moment that I am.

In that case, could the person make a sufficient number of appearances to rack up a cool billion in a year?

I’m skeptical….

Remember, we’re talking no less than $500,000/hour on average. Money not earned during a given hour would have to be made up elsewhere.

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Steven Yates

I am the author of What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory. I write about philosophy (especially the Stoics), health and systems, and the future if we have one.