A while ago I came across this 1-minute long video, in which Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary was asked about his opinion on Oxfam‘s freshly released statistic that the 85 richest people in the world have a wealth equivalent to the 3.5 billion poorest. His reaction? “It’s fantastic.”
After spending a good five minutes laughing at his reasoning, I began to think. This is a well-educated, highly intelligent person, who is convinced that inequality truly is a good thing, and here I am, advocating open-mindedness yet not even sparing a thought to the idea that he might be right. So in the spirit of open-mindedness, let’s think about this. Could he be right?
First of all, if you haven’t already done so, I suggest you watch the video. It only lasts for a minute and it’s definitely worth the time. Once you’ve done that, let’s have a look at the argument: according to O’Leary, it’s a good thing that we have such extreme inequality, because it motivates people to go out there and to try and achieve the same thing as those rich people did. The poorest people on this planet will be able to look up to the richest and think “wow, I want that too, so I will work hard for it!”
As much as that doesn’t fit in with my worldview, maybe it isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. Having a role-model is very beneficial and can inspire people to do great things, so perhaps he’s right: perhaps income inequality is a good thing because it will give the poor the inspiration to go out there and to become the new Bill Gates. Because if you work hard, anyone can….
Yeah, okay, that’s about enough. I tried, I really did, but open-mindedness has a limit, and that limit lies at stupidity.
Even if the poor are motivated by knowing that wealthy people exist, how can these statistics ever be positive? Isn’t he basically saying that it is a good thing that we have such extreme income inequality, because then people will be more able to fight income inequality and to climb to the top? How is that better than already living in that less unequal world we’re striving for?
But that’s just assuming that his argument is actually correct, because if you think about it… is someone living off a dollar a day without any access to education truly going to look up to Bill Gates and think “yeah, I’m going to do that!” And is the prospect of being rich really such a great motivation? I don’t think I even want to be that rich, considering what it might turn me into. Money isn’t the ultimate goal in life. It’s a tool, specifically one that about 3.5 billion people are lacking.
Ultimately, Kevin O’Leary is just another businessman who has become infected by his money. Before becoming rich, he probably already had a liberal market-ideology, but now that he’s got all this money, he has lost touch with reality. He still sees capitalism as this perfect system that allows everyone to become rich if they work hard for it, not realising what the world is truly like outside of his cocktail parties. He has been indoctrinated by his surroundings, and from the comment “Don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that’s never gonna happen,” you can see his hatred and fear for anything that even sounds like Communism.
Kevin O’Leary is a man driven insane by his own wealth and by the anti-communist age he grew up in. He has let the media and his surroundings indoctrinate him with exaggerated pro-capitalism views, and that has brought him to irrationality. No matter how intelligent this man is, his biases have made him lose track of reality. If there is anything we can learn from this video, it’s that we have to resist our own biases, or we might just go from being very clever to being very, very ignorant.
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