George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen, a plutocratic bootlicker who once argued that rich people should be allowed to speed because their time is more valuable than the rest of us hoi polloi, is worried. He’s worried about billionaires—specifically, their feelings.
You see, according to Cowen, the term “billionaire” has become something of a slur, and gosh darn it, that’s just not fair. Here he is arguing against “demeaning billionaires” in Bloomberg (emphasis mine):
You might also think the word billionaire is different because today’s billionaires exercise so much political power. But while it is perfectly fine to observe that billionaires have too much political power, it does not necessarily follow that it is OK to casually describe individuals by their net wealth. Linguistic objectification is often a preliminary step toward making others seem less human or less deserving of respect. Even if you think billionaires should pay more in taxes, or should otherwise have restricted privileges, that is a dangerous way to get there.
Cowen’s point is that calling a non-billionaire a “zero net wealther” would be rude and bad, so calling someone with unimaginable wealth a “billionaire” is also very mean and not nice to the 604 Americans who have more money than some entire countries. To which I say: Hahahahaha, oh boy.
Let’s be clear: None of us should give a fuck whether billionaires (and their defenders) have their feelings hurt—especially when, by virtue of the fact that they exist in a system that allows billionaires in the first place, their amassed wealth is actually hurting millions of other people whose lives are shaped and molded by the same economic conditions which granted these poor, emotional billionaires their fortunes to begin with.
But Cowen’s argument against “linguistic objectification” is even dumber when you consider that he’s essentially claiming that accurately labeling someone a billionaire is somehow othering a class of people who, by virtue of their very economic existence, are able to remove themselves from the society in which the rest of us 325 million Americans live. The “it’s fine to say billionaires are bad, just don’t call them billionaires” line of thinking is a pedantic distinction in desperate search of a difference.
I say call billionaires whatever you want; Call them billionaires. Call them Scrooge McFuck. It’s all the same to me. As my colleague Hamilton Nolan argued more than a year ago, it’s time to make life hard for the rich. An easy way to do that is to stop caring about billionaires’ feelings. Stop treating them like their wealth and privilege automatically means they’re brilliant and deserving of respect. And for the love of god, stop giving them primetime television spots where they can pontificate to the public about whatever they wantsimply because they’re wealthy. Instead, start attacking the system which has allowed them to grow unimaginably rich at the expense of everyone else.
No matter how nice or personable a billionaire might be, no matter how much they may give to charity, or how much it might seem as if their politics align with yours, to be a billionaire is to be both the beneficiary of and an animating force behind one of the most harmful economic systems in existence. It is a bad thing. And to be reduced to hiding behind the hilariously lame defense of “linguistic objectification” should only go to show just how scared the ultra-wealthy and their patrons are that the whole damn thing could come crashing down on their heads if they’re not careful.