A thought on the so-called “work ethic” of billionaires

While most billionaires – at least the ones publicly visible – try to establish some form of a “rags to riches” narrative about themselves, I think the most common way the wealthy justify their wealth is by claiming a superior work ethic. In general, people have a low opinion of those who were born into wealth. They’re seen – rightly – as being out of touch with reality. Claiming that you work unrealistically hard is a way of claiming legitimacy – your obscene wealth is just because you work that much harder, and you’re that much smarter.

This is why we get fawning articles about the habits of the rich and famous, and about how everyone in the ruling class is a genius, even if they seem to be utterly clueless. It’s assumed that we live in a meritocracy, and that must mean that the wealthier and more powerful a person is, the more competent they are – otherwise, how did they get all that wealth and power?

It’s bullshit. Being obscenely rich means you get to define what counts as “work”, and nobody’s going to challenge it. I’d say we should be grateful to people like Musk and Trump for demonstrating that the “meritocracy” is a myth, but a disturbing number of people seem to think their bullshit is caviar.


  1. tuatara says

    “Look what them darned radical left done made me do!”

    As if neither he nor the right have shifted since 2008.

  2. K says

    I have noticed that the higher my career goes, the less work I actually do. Don’t get me wrong–I’m middle class, not rich by any measure.

    But I think about growing up, and running my own summer daycare center at the age of 9, in my father’s empty carport (he worked during the day). Babysitting and mowing lawns and walking dogs and washing cars from 10 – 14, working at a riding stables from 14 – 16, lifeguarding and fast food until college, which became a kaleidoscope of part-time jobs crammed into my days (vet assistant, computer lab monkey, lifeguard, telemarketer, English-as-Second-Language teacher, bartender, etc. etc. etc.) to pay for state school…which was not cheap in the 1980s when the minimum wage was $2.30/hr.

    The higher I go, the fewer side gigs I have had to juggle.

    I imagine once you’re in the real money, your day is spent having other people do all the work for you while you just oversee.

  3. says

    And for someone like Musk, any time spent on social media, or interacting with famous people can be considered “work”, because his only real talent is in selling himself.

  4. K says

    @Abe; consider the Kardashian family, who are famous because one of them appeared in a leaked sex tape. They do nothing productive, yet they’re rolling in money.

  5. says

    They got famous because of the OJ Simpson trial, didn’t they? That’s why the sex tape attracted attention in the first place.

    But I’d bet that Kim Kardashian works at least as hard as Musk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *