Cornwall Life editor Carol Burns counts the cost of the billionaire

PUBLISHED: 14:12 22 September 2020

Cornwall Life editor Carol Burns

Cornwall Life editor Carol Burns

Ewen MacDonald

The number of people on the billionaire list is growing, is that a good thing?

Getty Images/iStockphotoGetty Images/iStockphoto

I have found myself in these troubled times pondering the role of the billionaire. It began I think with the introduction of Costa Coffee’s limited edition luxury treat, the Trillionaire’s shortbread, a more luxurious version of the simple shortbread, caramel chocolate square that was good enough for the underachieving millionaire – or at least those of us who wanted to feel like one. Its arrival for Christmas 2019 even garnered the odd opinion piece on the state of the economy.

With the news that Amazon’s owner was making $11,000 a second from the pandemic, there came the politically humiliating letter signed by more than 80 billionaires telling governments to tax them more – philanthropy will only get you so far, they said. Of course, the recently divorced MacKenzie Scott who has pledged to give away the £60 billion divorce settlement she got from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is having a good go, having already gotten rid of £2 billion. Does it matter if it is revenge philanthropy? Even Andrew Carnegie – the world’s richest man a century ago only managed $4.8 billion (at today’s prices) And that was 90 per cent of his wealth. He once said: “He who dies rich, dies disgraced.”

It seems our love-hate relationship with the super-rich goes beyond reality shows – who hasn’t whiled away their time looking up net worth of actors and musicians (snorting at the paltry few mill). Who doesn’t love Brewster’s Millions – a film that saw the late Richard Pryor running around America trying to spend $30 million in thirty days, in order to inherit $300 million. I think Johnny Depp has probably lost more than that down the sofa.

My (working class intellectual) husband often quotes ‘rich people think love is the most important thing in life, poor people know its money’. Perhaps there is more to life than money... Elvis apparently gave away 200 Cadillacs in his lifetime.

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