Income inequality has always been a hot button political issue, but it seems that over the past few decades there has been an uptick in interest from all classes of people. It is most likely because income inequality is rising and at an accelerating pace. The tech industry plays an interesting role in the discussion of what is contributing to this rise in wealth of the top .1% of Americans in that it is responsible for creating the wealth of some of the world’s richest men. Surpassed by only a few real estate moguls and lifetime investment wizards, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others, became the richest men in the world from their companies that at one point or another led the tech world. Their stories are ones of success, luck, and excellent timing, but that does not mean that they are free of the immense responsibility that comes with being part of the group of the ultra wealthy. Jobs, Gates, Bezos, Musk, and Zuckerberg all have (or had in the case of the late Steve Jobs) the power to dramatically influence the world and the question central to the core of this discussion is whether or not they should use their immense wealth to address the issues of income inequality.
Some might argue that Zuckerberg already does this by helping bring the internet to third world countries, but this of course only serves to accomplish the business goal of getting more users onto Facebook. Musk is throwing his money into electric cars and a revolutionized space race. The wealth that these men, and a few others have accumulated is astronomical and impossible to comprehend. Something has to be done with all of the wealth these men have gained. They cannot possibly spend it all on themselves in an insanely luxurious life. That would be a waste, but that does not necessarily imply that they have to use their billions to fight income inequality. Musk is investing in new technologies, as is Zuckerberg, but they both are investing in creating more wealth for themselves in the long run if their various business ventures succeed. Gates is a well known philanthropist, but his various charities aren’t focused solely on curing the sickness of pervasive income inequality. This begs the questions, do the extremely wealthy leaders in tech need to devote their vast stockpile of resources to dealing with this problem?
Morally? Maybe. But currently there is no compelling reason besides their own moral fibers and personal conviction to be good people. We can learn from the generally pervasive greed of Wall Street, and understand that power and wealth in the hands of the few leads to tragedy for the many, and that those people with wealth in power are not in any hurry to relinquish it to the masses. The article titled “Silicon Valley’s Unchecked Arrogance” put it well by noting that we must “change ownership structures to prevent Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp from distributing billion-dollar windfalls among only a couple dozen people”. This is the crux of the problem. Normal people do not need a net worth of billions of dollars. People like that drive up cost of living, spend frivolously and irresponsibly, and keep the lower classes from attaining some of that wealth. It is not so much that the wealthiest people of the tech world need to give away their money or focus solely on dealing with the issue of income inequality, it’s that they never should have been able to become so wealthy in the first place.