Mises Wire

Rich Millennials Plot the End of Civilization

The New York Times managed to find some young people whose silver spoons provide a sour taste in their mouths. To hear them talk, their good fortune is making them sick. 

“I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible,” Sam Jacobs, 25, told the Times. Jacobs went off to college a normal young man and came back a socialist. Suddenly his family’s “extreme, plutocratic wealth” became too much of a burden for him. 

“He wants to put his inheritance toward ending capitalism,” Zoë Beery wrote for the NYT, “and by that he means using his money to undo systems that accumulate money for those at the top, and that have played a large role in widening economic and racial inequality.”

Wow, that is some self-loathing. If only Ludwig von Mises were able to counsel young Jacobs, whose grandfather founded Qualcomm and who is set to inherit $100 million. In his book Epistemological Problems of Economics, Mises wrote, “Through all the changes in the prevailing system of social stratification, moral philosophers continued to hold fast to the fundamental idea of Cicero’s doctrine that making money is degrading.”

Beery writes that wealth is concentrated in the upper brackets and “Millennials will be the recipients of the largest generational shift of assets in American history.” 

That doesn’t seem like a worrying thought; however, it is for Rachel Gelman, a thirty-year-old in Oakland, California, who described her politics to Beery as “anticapitalist, anti-imperialist and abolitionist.”

“My money is mostly stocks, which means it comes from underpaying and undervaluing working-class people, and that’s impossible to disconnect from the economic legacies of Indigenous genocide and slavery,” the guilty Gelman said. “Once I realized that, I couldn’t imagine doing anything with my wealth besides redistribute it to these communities.”

Mises saw it differently. “The riches of the rich are not the cause of the poverty of anybody; the process that makes some people rich is, on the contrary, the corollary of the process that improves many peoples’ want satisfaction. The entrepreneurs, the capitalists and the technologists prosper as far as they succeed in best supplying the consumers,” he wrote in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

Elizabeth Baldwin is a thirty-four-year-old democratic socialist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was adopted from India by a white family when she was a baby. Now, thanks to her adoptive parents, she is wealthy, with a stock portfolio containing shares in Coca-Cola and Exxon-Mobil. 

But, she hates the thought of having her wealth tied up in multinational corporation shares and instead “would rather put my money into a community that has been denied economic resources and disrupts the system.” 

She’s directing her funds toward what she and other wealthy millennials describe as the “solidarity economy.” Fellow traveler and democratic socialist, Emma Thomas, a twenty-nine-year-old, described what she’s now investing in as “an economy that is about exchange and taking care of needs, that is cooperative and sustainable, and that doesn’t demand unfettered growth.”

“At some point, these numbers on a screen are imaginary,” Thomas told the Times. “But what’s not imaginary is whether you have shelter, food and a community. Those are true returns.”

Where do these ideas come from? University faculty, of course. Richard D. Wolff, a Marxist and an emeritus economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said he has been professionally arguing against capitalism’s selling points since his teaching career began, in 1967, but that his millennial students “are more open to hearing that message than their parents ever were.”

We can only thank goodness the parents of these young people believed in serving customers and saving their wealth. This wealth was not created nefariously. As Murray Rothbard explained, “On the free market, it is a happy fact that the maximization of the wealth of one person or group redounds to the benefit of all.” 

What these millennials are up to is not to be ignored. As Mises wrote in his book Liberalism, “Modern civilization will not perish unless it does so by its own act of self-destruction.”

Image Source: Getty
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