Do billionaires get rich by stealing their wealth?

Leftist politicians would have you believe that, but in reality it is very difficult to gain fabulous wealth by stealing it from others. Bernie Madoff got caught long before he got rich by stealing, and today he is penniless. Madoff is not an outlier. In the long run, you can’t get rich by stealing, with one huge exception. If you can become a left-wing dictator with the power to deal with your opposition by murdering them, then you might be able to steal the wealth of an entire country. There are numerous examples of this sort: Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Hugo Chavez, the mullahs of Iran, Kim Jong-Un, Nicolae Ceausescu, Juan Peron, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, to name a few. Even the murderous dictator route is not free of peril.  It’s hard to think it’s a good life, with so many enemies lying in wait for the chance to depose you and kill you.

By far, the easier and more permanent way to gain fabulous wealth is to have other people voluntarily give it to you.  Of course, they won’t do that unless you are giving them something they value more than the particular sum of money in each transaction.  John D. Rockefeller became a billionaire by providing poor people with inexpensive kerosene for lighting homes. Rockefeller’s kerosene cost one cent an hour to light one room. Everyone, from the rich to those of modest means, could afford it. Henry Ford became a billionaire by giving the working man an automobile he could afford. Sam Walton did it by giving people low prices for things they need every day. Steve Jobs’ iProducts enabled people to manage their lives and businesses better so they could make more money themselves, and he became a billionaire.

Getting wealth the way Rockefeller, Ford and all the rest did it is more lasting. Much of that wealth remains with those families today, and much of it has been given away to charitable causes as well.

Every other billionaire in America today has got their wealth be giving others something they valued more that it cost them to buy it. Oprah Winfrey became a billionaire by giving the women of America an opportunity to have a good cry every weekday afternoon at 4:00 PM. I guess they thought it was worth it because they went out and bought the stuff Oprah was advertising, assuring her of high ratings for her show for enough years to make her a billionaire.

None of these billionaires were members of a privileged class before they became wealthy. None of them used force against anyone, none of them held power over anyone to force them to do anything they didn’t want to do.

That’s an important aspect of American exceptionalism. We should hope we don’t lose it. We should be glad every time someone in America becomes a billionaire.

UPDATE: Just because I believe no one should begrudge billionaires of their wealth doesn’t mean I like them or think they’re smart. They are just a capable of being jerks or idiots as anyone else it seems.  It’s billionaires that are currently filling up Hillary Clinton’s Super Pacs with beaucoup bucks.  These are probably the billionaires who inherited their massive wealth. Medical device heiress Patricia Stryker, for example, who in 2002 donated $3 Million dollars to a campaign to prevent poor Mexican children from learning to speak English, a thoughtless move that keeps poor Hispanic children from gaining the best advantage they have for success in America.  I have no idea whether she is one of the billionaires currently going gaga over Hillary.  As Hillary would say, “What does it matter, now?”

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