Kevin Williamson looks at the Forbes 2018 list of the richest people and concludes that the best way to get very, very rich in America is by doing good things for ordinary people and the least well-off.
[W]hat kind of companies did the wealthiest Americans start? Overwhelmingly, Americaâ€™s billionaire entrepreneurs grew wealthy by providing goods and services to middle-class families and people of modest means. The wealthiest European on the list is Bernard Arnault, the guy behind Louis Vuitton, while the wealthiest Americans on the list brought you Amazon, Microsoft, Dairy Queen (one of Berkshire Hathawayâ€™s many holdings), Facebook, Dixie Cups (a product of Koch Industries), Google, and everyday low prices at Walmart.
And consider those Walmart heirs. Yes, the subsequent generations of Waltons have undertaken a great deal of philanthropy with their fortunes, much of it admirable, but none of that philanthropy has done as much good for ordinary people â€” and for poor people â€” as Walmart itself. Progressives hate Walmart for its Arkansas roots and dÃ©classÃ© clientele, but in its 50-odd years of leaning on consumer-product giants such as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola to accept lower margins in exchange for access to its vast customer base, Walmart has done more to transfer wealth from the shareholder class to the poor than every tweedy Piketty-quoting intellectual in the Western world combined. By one estimate, Walmart alone knocked a full percentage point off the U.S. inflation rate, and its data-driven approach to business, combined with its 800-pound-gorilla position in the retail marketplace, has empowered it to force less forward-looking companies into adopting state-of-the-art inventory-management practices and logistics systems. In doing so, it has, penny by penny, shaved billions and billions of dollars off the grocery bills and other household expenditures of the people it serves….
“There is a great deal that is wrong with the American economy. There is crony capitalism, subsidies, and favoritism, and advocates of free-market policies should be open about those abuses and rigorous in opposing them. But where our progressive friends are most mistaken is in this: If you want to see whatâ€™s wrong with American society, you wonâ€™t find the answers on the list of who is rich â€” youâ€™ll find it in the account of who is poor, how they got that way, and why they stay that way. It isnâ€™t Amazon keeping them down.”
Auntie Ayn would like this one.