Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cheap to Eat the Rich

When Bernie Sanders is not excoriating the Koch Brothers, his other favorite villains are the Waltons. Sanders often likes to claim that the Waltons “own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America.”

Sanders never mentions how the Waltons got so rich – namely, by providing cheap goods and services that are in high demand. After all, the Waltons did not steal this money or gain it in some illegal manner. He simply mentions this fact as though the fact itself was some kind of evil.

However, the fact remains that Sanders is not the first politician to engage in rich-baiting. There is a long and sordid history of them. Naturally, therefore, the Waltons are not the first rich family to be despised.

Once upon a time, there were the Vanderbilts. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the family's patriarch, became one of the richest men in the world by building a railway empire across America. If his wealth is calculated for inflation and percentage of GDP in the present day, Cornelius Vanderbilt had amassed a total of US$147 billion in his lifetime. For comparison's sake, Bill Gates, the current richest man in the world, has a net worth of US$76.4 billion.

But how many Vanderbilts are there now who are still titans of industry? Fortunes come and fortunes go. Nothing lasts forever. Some day, like the Vanderbilts, even the Waltons will become a part of history. Just like how creative destruction brought us Netflix at the expense of Blockbuster or Samsung at the expense of Sony, Walmart will some day disappear to be replaced by something else. A new business will rise to the top and a new corporate dynasty will take hold – most likely by selling something that is highly in demand.

After all, despite the rhetoric, economic mobility is real – and it does go up AND down.

The hate, however, will go on. If it is not Sanders, it will be some other politician and if it is not the Waltons, it will be someone else. After all, what could be easier than hating public figures; especially rich ones?

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