July 19, 2021 will be remembered as the day that it was proved – once more – that in these days and times there appears to be no limit as to what the wealthy can do. It was on that day Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man in the world (sorry Vladimir Putin), took a multibillion dollar joyride into space. Why? Because it has been his childhood dream to fly into space and after twenty years of trial and personal investment over $20 billion, he did it.
Billionaires have continued to find new ways to make their every dreams and their childhood dreams and their every fantasy come true. Mega yachts, mega homes, private islands, fleets of private planes, sports franchises and every toy and pleasure known to humankind. And, of course, the lesser members of this class – those worth a paltry $900 million or less– will certainly be in the market for any or all of these pleasures which now includes space tourism.
It may be useful to point out that while the ultra-rich are playing at being Space Ranger children are starving in so many countries in this world – including these United States. Indeed, food insecurity is the silent global pandemic. It might be useful to point out that disease, homelessness and hopelessness are afflicting many of this planet’s 10 billion people.
And let’s not forget climate change which is ravaging the planet on an hourly basis. And the irony of this vanity space travel phase is that it is a well-known fact that jet travel plays a significant role in the degrading of the earth’s atmosphere. So the idea that the business model for these literal play boys has as its goal rockets flying through that atmosphere on a weekly, perhaps daily basis.
It might be a good time to say goodbye to polar bears, polar ice caps and Miami Beach right now.
It is probably pointless to point out that these largely non-tax paying billionaires and millionaires could do so much good for the people of the world. If they just peeled of a few percent off their Midas-like bankrolls for use in addressing the various challenges that we all face on this planet – take climate change, sexual and racial oppression and famine, for starters).
Branson, Musk, Bezos and their billionaire/millionaire tribe members will point to the rather impressive charitable efforts which they already support. But, with all due respect, if any of them peered past their stacks of cash and mountains of gold bullion, one look around any place in the world reveals that it is clearly not enough.
There is no doubt that most of this new breed of Midas are very bright – and they are also very fortunate. To be clear there are all kinds of platforms that provided them the opportunity to exploit their own genius – Branson did not invent the airplane, Musk did not invent the automobile, Bezos did not invent the modern retail industry – and none of them had anything to do with developing the microchip or computers.
The point is that all of them enjoy the confluence of their own genius with the circumstances of the era in which they live. Perhaps those of us who are not wealthy on a scale that we cannot imagine, can also not imagine using some significant portion of that wealth to make the world a better place rather than indulging in making their childhood dreams come true.
Finally, to the extent that this new breed of Midas will balk at parting with a few more of their multibillions, they may wish to remember the maxim – “To whom much is given, much is expected”.