On Billionaires and Charity

One of the most common arguments in favor of the existence of billionaires is the “but they give so much to charity” argument. I have a lot of problems with this, and in this video, Anand Giridharadas and Hasan Minhaj go through most of them.

When I talk to people who oppose universal healthcare, they often talk about how terrible the taxes are. My counter, generally, is to reframe health insurance premiums, and medical bills at the point of service as taxes. On the surface, there’s the similarity of coercion. If you don’t pay, you’ll be made to suffer. In the case of health care, not paying means you can’t get care you need, or you go into massive debt just to stay alive.

There’s a flip side to it as well, though, as the video mentions. The money we pay to private insurers, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies doesn’t just vanish. It gets concentrated into the hands of a pretty small number of people, who then use it as they see fit. With the amount of wealth concentration, we now have people and corporations wielding the financial power – which can VERY easily translate to political power – of small countries, or of governmental departments. And unlike with the government, we don’t even have the pretense of the people having a say in how billionaires spend their money.

Unfettered wealth hoarding leads to various forms of feudalism. Even if you take the misguided view that a universal healthcare system gives more power to the government, what it’s actually doing is taking power from feudal lords against whom we have no recourse, and giving it to a body over which we have at least some influence.

Even ignoring the shifts in economic power that come from that change, that’s an increase in power for the everyday person.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Yup, also I think that this is one of the reasons the NHS is such target, it shows what can be done when a people decide it’s important to them, and that is an example those billionaires would rather wasn’t around.

  2. says

    The only problem with a public health system is when you get politicians elected who are ideologically opposed to it. The system is popular so they can’t kill it outright, and they have to promise to keep it safe, but they will starve it as much as they can so they can point to how broken it is with the eventual goal of re-privatizing.

  3. says

    Agreed, Tabby. There will never be a time when we can rest on our laurels. Every generation will need to educate the next on the need for some form of “eternal revolution”, because there will always be people looking to force society to work for their greed, rather than for humanity in general. There will always be a need to be on guard against that, and to remind ourselves, and each other, that there are those who will see thousands die if it means they get a bit richer.

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