Thinking about the Super Rich

by Merrill Ring

Are the superrich beloved of God and should they be treated as social heroes?

It is quite astonishing to discover how other people think.

A month or so after the Presidential inauguration, I fell in behind a woman waiting in line for a clerk to come to the register. Out of the blue she said to me ‘I’m excited about some of the things Trump is doing.’  To which I replied ‘I find Trump disgusting as a person, as a businessman and as a political figure.’

Now comes the totally unexpected punch line.  Her response was “But he’s a billionaire”.

Let’s not worry about how the conversation went from there (though I did learn something else about how the far right thinks from what followed.)  It is interesting to reflect on the woman’s, to me totally unexpected, response to my denigration of Donald Trump.

She might have been saying ‘He can’t be disgusting as a human being, as a businessman, as a political figure because he is a billionaire – billionaires are a superior class of persons and deserve our love and support because they have so very very much money.’ 

To the progressive mind, anyone who has that much money is an object of initial suspicion.  That opening thought of course might be overcome by evidence that despite their money they are decent in their personal lives and/or in their occupational lives and/or in their political acts.   But it is part of the progressive mind that anyone with that much money is not to be trusted until proven to be otherwise.  So of course I was discombobulated to hear someone’s initial response to be praising a person because they have so much money. 

Perhaps she is an up to date version of Samuel Butler’s tongue in cheek defense of the rich in Erewhon (i.e. Nowhere).  Erewhon: “This is the true philanthropy.  He who makes a colossal fortune in a trade… this man is worth ten professional philanthropists.  So strongly are the Erewhonians impressed with this, that if a man has made a fortune…they exempt him from all taxation, considering him a work of art, and too precious to be meddled with…saying ‘How very much he must have done for society before society could have been prevailed upon to give him so much money.’”

There is also the likelihood that she was in the Calvinist tradition:  not success, but financial success is a sign that God approves of the person and since God would not approve of a disgusting person and businessman and political actor, that must explain why Trump is beloved of God and so granted financial success.