Robin Hood’s practice of robbing the rich to give to the poor may have been considered honorable in his society of lords and serfs. In his day, land and nobility entitlements were passed down through generations or preserved through arranged marriages. Until the 15th century and the emergence of the merchant class in Europe, there was no competitive free market in which to get ahead unless you were a member of royalty, an army, or the church. The trading of goods helped shift power from landlords and nobility to merchants. The merchant class brought unprecedented prosperity to society. Robin Hood
Italy’s Medici family was among the earliest secular wealth creators. The Medicis were billionaires, and like their modern counterparts, they supported the arts, the government, and the church. With Cosimo de Medici and his descendants, Florence in the 15th century became Europe’s center of art and business, with commissioned masterpieces from Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Donatello. But even though they brought prosperity to society, the Medicis were despised for their wealth. A fundamentalist preacher, Girolamo Savonarola, labeled the Medicis tyrannical and corrupt, and in 1497, he and his supporters gathered books, paintings, musical instruments, and other “vanities” from the Medici family and burned them. Robin Hood
The pejorative misinformation towards the wealthiest in society was with us long before it became open season on social media to hate the 1 percent. Disparaging the rich appeals to the youth demographic, with a romantic notion of a Robin Hood-esque approach to giving back to the poor. A study by the Cato Institute found that 52 percent of Americans under 30 believe the rich create their wealth by taking advantage of others, while 72 percent of seniors believe the rich earn their wealth without exploitation. Robin Hood
In reality, as more people become wealthy, they bring up more people out of poverty. As the world went from 13 billionaires in 1980 to 2,668 today, the percentage of the global population living below the poverty line declined from 43 percent to 9.2 percent. The new prosperity also has increased life span. In 1980 the global life span was 61.2 years and today it’s 73.2 years — largely due to the benefits of living above the poverty line. Robin Hood
In 2021, the assets owned by some of the world’s richest people grew significantly. Elon Musk’s wealth went from $156 to $277 billion and Jeff Bezos’s from $190 to $195 billion. What isn’t publicized is the enormous increase in wealth both founders created for the rest of us. For Tesla, market value increased by over $600 billion in 2021, and 83 percent of that increase in value, $522 billion, was created for the banks, pension funds, unions, investors, governments, and other shareholders of Tesla. That same year Amazon created $513 billion of new value for its shareholders. With over $1 trillion in new value created by these two companies for their shareholders, many car loans, mortgages, insurance claims, and pensions were fully or partially funded by Tesla or Amazon in 2021. When billionaires make money, we all make money directly or indirectly. Robin Hood
The blanket criticism of the 1 percent is bad for society is misconstrued. When the Biden administration talks about the rich paying their “fair share,” it’s a misguided slogan with no definition. The 1 percent pay their fair share and almost everybody else’s share. The 1 percent pay 40 percent of the federal taxes while the bottom 57 percent paid no federal taxes and got a free ride in 2021. Robin Hood
One percent of the population paying for 40 percent of taxes on behalf of the remaining 99 percent is more than the “fair share.” Imagine if musicians were held to the same concept of fair share as wealth creators. How ludicrous would it be if artists like Rhianna, Justin Bieber, or Billie Eilish were told to give their fair share of songs to others who can’t write or perform. Would any of us think it fair to go to one of these artists and say: “You have so many hit songs, you have more than enough for yourself, so we’re going to take half of everything you write and give those songs to other artists who aren’t as successful. You have to provide your fair share to the rest of us.” Robin Hood
New wealth, created by those who have the talent, passion, and ability to work relentlessly is spread across the landscape and shared by everyone. Many people think billionaires sit on mountains of cash, yet the opposite is true. Wealth creators reinvest most of their money into making new ideas happen and turning their visions into reality. Robin Hood
The maligned phrase “fair share” is a populist slogan — easy to say, easy to remember — and it’s advantageous in political posturing, especially with younger voters. It’s easy to vote for free stuff. Robin Hood
The irony is that the 1 percent already is the golden goose for the other 99 percent. Rather than discourage them, we should encourage them to continue to drive and innovate and create prosperity.
Instead of paying so much attention to how Elon Musk spends his money, we should pay more attention to how our government spends the massive amounts of money it takes from all of us.
Just as the separation of church and state benefits a nation, the separation of economy and state drives increased prosperity.
About the author
Derek Bullen is Founder and CEO of S.i. Systems, one of the largest professional services companies in Canada, with thousands of information technology consultants working on projects for blue-chip corporations and government agencies across Canada. He is the author of the Wall Street Journal #1 bestseller, In Defence of Wealth: A Modest Rebuttal to the Charge the Rich Are Bad for Society (Barlow Books, 2022), and previously published High Velocity, a book to help new IT professionals develop their soft business skills.
Learn more at Derek Bullen (bullenbooks.com)
By Derek Bullen