The spate of far-left and far-right politicians being elected to office in the United States arguably speaks to a deep public distrust in how the political and economic system has failed average people, and focused all of its energy on the priorities and whims of a small class of billionaires.
A new deep dive by the Washington Post suggests that U.S. billionaires themselves are acutely aware of this divide — and are fearful that it could bring about the end, or at least the radical transformation, of American capitalism itself.
Tech billionaire Greg Larsen, for example, is reportedly worried that hot spots of business and investment like Silicon Valley are soaking up all the wealth. “It seems like every company in the world has to be here,” he said. “It’s just painfully obvious that the blob is getting bigger” — and he and Rep. Ro Khama (D-CA) fear this is politically unsustainable.
This sort of concentration makes American communities less livable — both communities that are being “left behind” with no jobs, and the communities like Silicon Valley that are gaining all the jobs only for the cost of living to skyrocket and become unaffordable for working people.
Nor is that the only potential issue. As technological capital increases and automation threatens huge segments of the economy, some entrepreneurs like OpenAI chairman Greg Brockman worry we may reach a point where human labor becomes unnecessary for the economy, and we may have to switch to a system where the government distributed profits directly to nonworkers through universal basic income for their survival.
Brockman compared it to the consumption of meat: “Once we have meat substitutes as good as the real thing, my expectation is that we’re going to look back at eating meat as this terrible, immoral thing,” he explained. Similarly, perhaps one day “we’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was so crazy and almost immoral that people were forced to go and labor in order to be able to survive.'”
All of this, however, is making billionaires like investor Seth Klarman uneasy. “I think we’re in the middle of a revolution — not a guns revolution — but a revolution where people on both extremes want to blow it up,” he suggested of politicians proposing huge transformations of the capitalist system like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “and good things don’t happen to the vast majority of the population in a revolution.”