Why do some people deserve a billion dollars?

This Cafe Hayek post discusses an inconsistency in the French culture when it comes to addressing income inequality.

They are fine with using government to address it, through taxation and redistribution, but are oddly opposed when the market addresses it through innovation.

In the comments of that post, there are some typical progressive responses.

Here’s one:

…there is no logical , moral, rational reason why any individual needs a billion dollars. Those people benifitted (sic) form (sic) a time when we had a far more progressive tax base that paid for the infrasturcture (sic), the education and the basic science research funding that allowed them to be so prosperous.

Here’s one logical and rational reason we should be okay with individuals earnings billions: it’s the potential of earning such handsome sums that encourages them and many others who don’t earn billions to take the risks that results in the innovations that make our lives better.

Nobody knows which risks will pay off and actually make life better, so the more trials we can encourage the better off we will all be.

Here’s a moral reason we should be okay with individuals earning billions: they created it and earned it. They didn’t take billions from others that already existed. They created billions in wealth by making making everyone else’s lives better. Those billions would not exist without the risks they took and effort they made.

This is a tough one for people to visualize because wealth creation is abstract. It’s too easy to view wealth as a ‘fixed pie’ to be divided up. But, it’s not.

Wealth is more like a fruit tree. Each new branch bears fruit that didn’t exist before. The more the tree grows, the more fruit it bears.

The commentator’s final points gives us a window into his thinking. He says the innovator doesn’t deserve billions because they really benefited from all the infrastructure and research that was laid before them.

I wonder if he would apply his argument to other fields? A music artist creates a popular hit and becomes wealthy. But, didn’t they just benefit from all the hard work of others who invented instruments, recording equipment and the networks that distribute that music?

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2 thoughts on “Why do some people deserve a billion dollars?

  1. I would ask the Progressive, “What is a logical, rational and moral amount of money for a person too have?” His response would likely be close to his own income.

  2. I had spine surgery several years ago and someone commented to me that neurosurgeons make a great income. My response was that I would rather have a $1,000,000 neurosurgeon than a $30,000 neurosurgeon. Begrudgingly, he agreed.

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