DebatePreventing fascism: an exit strategy for billionaires

Preventing fascism: an exit strategy for billionaires

Reading time: 3:00 min | The climate emergency isn’t looming around the corner anymore. It’s there, and its rampage is already rattling society. But as it seems, all the floods and fires people endure around the globe are only the beginning. To combat climate emergency successfully, we need money.

Money is a thing that most people must mine with hard work, while elsewhere, it miraculously falls off the sky, albeit not in everyone hands. When landed on earth in droves, it slips away in obscure corners, making the few rich even richer up to a point where absurdity is the only word left to describe the situation. Suffice to say that the term justness in this context is moot. But climate emergency menaces everyone and not only the rich, who can brace for the future much better than everyone else. Because climate belongs to the commons and isn’t anyone’s property, the responsibility of its health lies upon everyone’s shoulders.

Science tells us that wealth and the weight of one’s carbon footprint are directly connected. Depending on the individual, this can be easily a factor of many thousands. That also counts for whole economies, albeit not as stark. Germany, for instance, has a median footprint of 12 tons of CO2 emissions per capita and year, while India’s has a footprint of two tons per capita and year, which is a factor of six. From the point of climate justness, there is no reason why rich people are more entitled to shred the climate than poorer people. That also counts for future generations.

But perhaps it isn’t too late, and we still can turn the wheel considerably? But how to do that without the vast fortunes of a few? Obviously, we can’t afford to let them off the hook.

When societies finally will be starting taxing billionaires down to regular millionaires, billionaires need an exit strategy. Otherwise, they will object to that with all their powers. In the end, they will be tempted to trade democracy for their personal fortunes by supporting fascist strongmen avoiding being taxed down. The German liberal politician Karl-Hermann Flach wrote in 1971: when serious danger threatens their ownership positions, (…) the ruling circles in capitalist states may prefer salvation by a fascist regime to their decline…

It is inevitable: at some point, society will need the privately-owned fabulous riches to secure the future. Then, billionaires will be faced with the question about go full rogue and move to Russia or Singapore, support the Trumps of the future and kill democracy—or to blend back into society and become regular millionaires. In the end, billionaires are mere mortals like everyone else with the flaws we all have. Thus, one hindrance to going the legal route is the anticipated loss of fame and ego. While the regular Jane’s and Joe’s longing for appreciation and acknowledgement is already overfulfilled with the rich, only visibility remains as the narcissist’s favourite drug (not sure if all billionaires were narcissists right from the beginning but being filthy rich probably supports that condition).

Let’s help them with that.

Let’s create bond funds with their names. Erect bronze statues with their faces in their hometowns, like we did back in the day with the then famous war heroes on horses. Name streets for their names and achievements. Let’s build museums that showcase their visions and alleged philanthropy.

And if you think I lost it, no, I’m dead serious. In areas of earth-shattering structural changes like the Ruhr area, when the defining steel and coal industry went bankrupt in just two decades, only museums and the storytelling about the brave miner and steelworker were able to mitigate the losses and fed the egos of the masses to embrace a hopeful future for accomplishing the badly needed change.

Needless to say that even back then, everyone sensible knew that this story told only one side of the medal: the coal and steel industry is one of the big polluters and causal agent of the climate emergency and was the reason for tens of thousands of early deaths in the Ruhr area.

Great that these times are over for good. Let’s sort that billionaire thing out, too.