The reason you have to read Nick Hanauer’s “pitchforks” letter to his fellow billionaires again, even if you yourself are not a billionaire, is that it informs all the debates we’re likely to have in the next few months — and forever — about who gets what.

How high should your taxes be compared to mine?

How high should the minimum wage be — if we have one at all?

Should CEO’s typically make 30 times what their employees do or 500 times?

Forget “fairness,” he says. 

Appealing to fairness just plays into the stereotype of the bleeding heart liberal.

Appeal, rather, to self-interest!  We should be leaning against inequality because it will make us ALL richer in the long run.

Addressing his fellow billionaires, he writes:


. . . [F]orget all that rhetoric about how America is great because of people like you and me and Steve Jobs. You know the truth even if you won’t admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we’d be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It’s not that Somalia and Congo don’t have good entrepreneurs. It’s just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that’s all their customers can afford.

. . . The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. The folks like us at the top have always told those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically, we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.

What nonsense this is. Am I really such a superior person? Do I belong at the center of the moral as well as economic universe? Do you?

My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.

Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.


Nick’s full piece is so worth your time.

If we could get the pie growing for almost everyone, as it once did, and not just for those at the very top, demagoguery might not find such a willing audience.  January 6th’s insurrection might never have happened.


*Not this pillow guy, for sure.

 

 

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