“You’re lovin’ gives me a thrill
But you’re lovin’ don’t pay my bills.” — Berry Gordy
Elon Musk has purchased Twitter for 44 billion dollars. Obviously, there is a lot that can go into that transaction and its effect on free speech and debates over the limitations of platforms. Who knows whether certain individuals will be allowed back on Twitter after the company banished them before. Someone else can handle that discussion or we can come to it later.
I’m still trying to get my head around the transaction itself. I have to admit that I have a twitter account. I have one of those Word Press triggers that will tweet out this column as soon as its published. I also peruse it every now and then to get breaking sports news and to see what people are saying about the Astros. I might participate in political discussions once in a blue moon. I’m on enough to have 800 or so followers. That number changes periodically. I just don’t have time to care.
I know companies advertise on Twitter and some sell their junk on Twitter as well. Still, I’m struggling to see how Twitter is worth much more than a billion dollars much less 44 billion. However, that’s still not the biggest road block in my mind. The biggest road block is just how someone is able to acquire enough money to buy anything for that sum.
There are two kinds of billionaires out there. There are the ones that create something. J.K. Rowling is a billionaire. Bill Gates is a billionaire. Steve Jobs was a billionaire before he died. Those kinds of billionaires make sense. If you create something or invent a better mousetrap you deserve your reward.
Then there are the billionaires that ride the coattails of someone else’s sweat, tears, and ingenuity. Elon Musk didn’t start Tesla. He just acquired them. He didn’t design the rockets that he launches into space. In fact, much of his fortune was inherited from his father. Some of you are probably thinking that sounds vaguely familiar. It should. That’s how wealth is often acquired these days.
Many of the billionaires out there are people you’ve never heard of. They make their money investing in other people’s blood, sweat, and tears. They buy companies and sell companies in the blink of an eye. They don’t create anything. They don’t make anything better or even worse. They are like parasites on the body politic, glomming the excess off the top before anyone can see it.
The ultimate question is whether they should exist in the first place. Someone somewhere along the line (likely on Twitter) came up with the best suggestion I’ve heard so far. Once someone gets to 999,999, 999.99 they should get a trophy saying they had won capitalism and they get nothing else. The rest goes into the public coffers and distributed somehow equitably. Maybe it could retire down the debt. Maybe we could end homelessness. Maybe we could make sure everyone has a hot meal. Maybe we could make sure that everyone has health care and access to post-secondary education. I suppose that is too much to ask. A simple man can dream simple dreams. The rest can buy platforms with more money than they know what to do with.