The fictitious "self-made" billionaire

Originally published at: The fictitious "self-made" billionaire | Boing Boing


The very presence of billionaires, especially ones who are open about that status and even more so celebrity ones, is the symptom of a dangerously dysfunctional economic system (and, inevitably, a corrupt political system). Gilded Age America and Putin’s Russia are not models to emulate.


Q. How can one make a small fortune?
A. By starting with a large one.




Privilege, not “privelege”. — Merriam Webster

(Second Thought producers…not you, Devin)


One tiny nit to pick: the pizza workers article suggests that the owner shared all revenue for a day, not profit. Even if that restaurant were to be 100% worker-owned, their sustainable wage would never be $78/hr.

Still—there should be no such thing as a billionaire.


The only two billionaires I can think of off the top of my head who weren’t born into wealth and privilege are Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan.


I just saw on the news that LaBron James is now a billionaire. So another rare example of someone growing up poor, single parent family, and ended up super wealthy through hard work.

Just be one of the greatest athletes of all time and have a long career - it’s easy!


I would argue “allowing oneself to be exploited for further gain” as a cog in a well-oiled athlete sausage factory.


And even the most successful (like Michael Jordan) are practically paupers next to the richest tech and business guys who had all the advantages of inheritance and educational opportunities.


Mr Beat just did a video on this same topic.

Sergey Brin (of Google) was born in a squalid Soviet apartment that his parents shared with his grandparents. His father eventually escaped to the US where he became a mathematics professor, and Sergey mostly grew up in the US in a reasonably middle class environment but certainly wasn’t wealthy.


True enough, although what happens later on should be taken into account:

(*excerpt from How They Play .com)

Silent on Unfair Labor Practices by Nike

Michael Jordan is depicted in commercials as someone who loves kids and someone who is idolized by kids. Unfortunately, he does not seem to care for kids in less developed nations.

Ever since the 1970s, Nike has been accused of using sweatshops in order to manufacture their sporting goods. Nike has been accused of using child labor and not paying its workers a living wage. Furthermore, the workers work double shifts under unsafe working conditions.

When called out on Nike’s behavior, Jordan either promises to look into the matter or makes the excuse that it is not his job to look into Nike’s labor practices. Jordan responded to the controversy by saying, “I think that’s Nike’s decision to do what they can to make sure everything is correctly done. I don’t know the complete situation. Why should I? I’m trying to do my job.”

In 2019, Jordan earned $130 million, yet Jordan cannot even give a little back to make sure that the people who make his shoes earn enough to make a living.


This is important. Once in a blue moon someone really does start poor and become rich through skill, luck, talent, or hard work. I think it was Howard Zinn who talked about what happens next. The drones of the wealthy class–the investment counsellors, tax attorneys, elite club members, and so on-- swarm over the new billionaire, absorbing them into the in-group as quickly as possible and convincing them that now that they’re rich, their interests are the same as their fellow billionaires. At the same time that person’s story is ballyhooed as proof that “just folks” can become billionaires and that billionaires are “just folks.”


JK Rowling was a dollar billionaire at some point (and now isn’t, due to a combination of giving money away and exchange rate fluctuations). But what @foxwhowood said is true and important.

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What happens next is we find out who they really are. Someone smarter than me said that wealth does not corrupt people, it gives them the freedom to be the person they wanted to be all along. You can see this in the recent Netflix series on the Bulls. Jordan comes off as, frankly, a pretty self-entitled dick. He happens to have absolutely unquestionably inhuman talent, but he’s still a dick. Pour billions of dollars on that, and the result is fairly predictable.

Take that with a grain of salt- I know very little about Jordan and Netflix’s show is of course edited to reflect their opinion of him. It certainly does line up with patterns we see in wealth generally, though.


I love the statement, but I need to add two additions:

  1. Many people are a lot closer than three very bad months away from homelessness. For many people, a single bad month can do it. Oh, it might take longer for the legal process to actually get you out of wherever you’re living, but going through that is just going to add to your overall problems.

  2. Q: What do billionaires call millionaires? A: Poor. It’s hard to grasp the difference between the two levels; they’re just that different. I think most people would be able to “get by” on say $10,000 a day. Let’s just give that everyday of the year for an amazing total of $3.65 million per year. To get to the billion dollar level, you’d need to make $2.7 million per day to get a billion in a year. Millionaire isn’t even in the same city, let alone the same ballpark, as billionaire. (Also note this is just sheer income and isn’t the same as actual wealth.)


True that she’s been quite successful but I think the context of the article was explicitly addressing American billionaires, and how Americans seem to be ok with allowing them to avoid taxes:

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I wish she had kept it all for herself, considering that she has been spending it on funding hate groups.

I guess that makes her the same as a lot of billionaires though.