Glenn Reynolds has a column over at TCS about the supposed gap between the really rich getting really rich and the rest of us just getting rich.
If the rich are getting richer on a steep curve, while the rest of us are getting richer on a less-steep curve, then if you project the far enough ahead we’ll have Bill Gates owning entire solar systems while the likes of me make do with a Porsche. Not exactly a tragic scenario (though I’d prefer a Bugatti) but if wealth disparities are great enough, I suppose it becomes harder to maintain civil society, as the rich will have too little in common with the rest of us.
The response, of course, is that if you project any trend far enough into the future it leads to bad scenarios — and usually worse scenarios than the one where I have to settle for a Porsche. But such projections rarely come true. Today’s rich people might get richer than the rest of us, relatively, but it’s not likely to turn them into Galactic Overlords. In fact, in terms of daily life experience, I suspect that today’s rich are less different from, say, ordinary upper-middle-class Americans than their counterparts were a hundred years ago, or even twenty (a point buttressed by Easterbrook’s new book, The Progress Paradox), and that doesn’t seem likely to change in the
But there is a reason to be concerned about the rich becoming too very rich, and it can be summed up in two words: George Soros.
Glenn goes on to say that
The twenty-first century, I think, will belong to those who can persuade others to voluntarily give of their time and energy in support of their goals. And genuine enthusiasm is hard to buy. To the extent that the super-rich become rich enough to be alienated from the rest of us, they’re likely to become less persuasive.
I see his point, but I don’t know that it is true. I think the super rich might be able to buy enough ungenuine enthusiasm to compensate for genuine enthusiam. Granted, it may cost them loads of money, but what’s $500 million when you have $5 billion.