In all likelihood, Nick Hanauer has way more money than you do.
And he’s been giving that fact some thought.
This is nothing new for Hanauer, of course - a man who made his billions through savvy Internet investments and (primarily) Amazon. A known capitalist, and a successful one at that, Hanauer has nonetheless been a vigorous supporter of raising the minimum wage and other policies aimed at shrinking the gap between the haves and have-nots. It makes Hanauer rare among the world’s diamond encrusted upper crust, and he’s keenly aware of it.
When it comes to the people he addresses as his “fellow zillionaires,” Hanauer has a message on the subject - delivered via Politico.
“Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about,” Hanauer writes in his open letter.
“I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working,” he continues, reaching an ominous note for the uber-wealthy. “I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
“I see pitchforks.”
The pitchforks Hanauer sees, in case you’re wondering, are to be wielded by the growing number of folks at the bottom of the economic bubble - those suffering the injustices of what Hanauer describes as a country veering away from capitalism and toward “a feudal society.”
As Hanauer writes:
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
Just like he was about Amazon’s potential, Hanauer is probably right. His entire letter to “fellow zillionaires” is available here.
The real question is: Will any of them listen?