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Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!

Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!

Ralph Nader

Among the hundreds of billionaires and megabillionaires in the U.S., there are more than several enlightened persons upset by the problems our society faces who could make serious improvements possible.

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I like the Charity/Justice narrative. Hopefully, such a discussion can replace knee-jerk politics with an honest understanding that the issues are complex. Those who run too hard to either side of the political spectrum (often for cynical political reasons) do great harm to progress. Thanks for your leadership on this important matter, Ralph!


Forgive me for repeating this, but it’s apt and one of my favorite quotes, from Brazil’s Archbishop Camara, “When I feed the hungry they call me a saint. When I ask why they are hungry they call me a communist.”

Perhaps a billionaire or two will perform the work of a communist!

Thank you, Ralph, for this fine exhortation!


Brilliant as always, Mr. Nader. That’s why when I had the opportunity through fiction (a screenplay) to choose one mortal to clone to make this world a more just and humane planet, it was YOU.

This piece of incisive logic reinforces that choice:

"Will charity ever begin to catch up with the consequences from corruption, self- preserving bureaucracies, man-made environmental damages, and governments indentured to avaricious special interests and concentrated corporate power? Not a chance.

“It is advocacy promoting justice that seeks the prevention of the causes that lead to so much misery, institutional harm, poverty, and the loss of human life and potential. Repairing the wreckage of wars places huge demands on charity. Waging peace and negotiating arms control agreements places huge demands on justice.”

Right on!

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A good percentage of the world’s people (American mystics, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.) believe in the LAW of karma.

Given the kinds of laws that essentially engineered great wealth into fewer and fewer hands, there must be a karmic compulsion to give back some of it.

I thought of running a “fund me” ad along those lines using the premise that such an investment was a cost-effective way to pay down one’s karmic toll. Carlos Casteneda’s Toltec teacher Don Juan explained that any generous act was a “payment to the Spirit of mankind,” and he further explained that this account was always running too low.

Since human beings tend to conform to group standards, Mr. Nader is on the mark in galvanizing a trend among the very wealthy to out-do each other in what they give back to society.

Back in l990 when Ted Turner sponsored a writing contest asking for new (more positive) visions of humanity’s collective future, I envisioned a time when “Title holders” had to become “Title Givers,” in that too much ill-begotten wealth–truly an embarrassment of riches beyond what any mere mortal could arguably utilize or enjoy–would have to be distributed back to the whole of mankind. I think such an hour is near. It would be a wonderful precedent if aging billionaires began the process to the shame of oligarchs like Pete Peterson, the Koch Brothers, the Wal-mart heirs, Sheldon Adelson, and others who use their money to purchase politicians who will guarantee THEM yet more while conniving ways to take limited resources away from so many in need or otherwise struggling to survive.

Nader is arguing for a more enlightened ruling class and assumes that the power of the billionaires only needs to be directed toward more rational ends. The solution, as he sees it, is that the Bill Gates type of billionaire needs to step up to counteract the Koch Brothers type. And, in keeping with his own narcissism, Nader will tell them how to do it with some kind of nonsense involving birth years.

What he chooses to ignore is that the power of the billionaire class is founded on the inevitable inequity of the capitalist system. The billionaires whom he dreams of influencing, however, are not oligarchs in the sense of being rulers. They can throw their money around as they like but they cannot change the nature of the system. Only when working and unemployed people are organized through inclusive labor unions can any change be made in the capitalist system. Whatever progress was made here in the US occurred as a result of the massive organizing campaigns of the CIO that took place during the FDR era, and when those great unions dwindled away, that progress began to be reversed.


Sioux, the writings of Carlos Castenada are interesting but there’s never been any evidence that he wasn’t writing fiction- as far as I know. Joe

Asking the oligarchy to be more democratic hasn’t worked well. A good deed here and there can’t make up for the bad deeds they’ve done and will continue to do to stay superrich.

Oligarchy gives the people bread and circuses and/or plenty of low wage work to keep them busy and too tired to revolt.

We could democratize the economy and defang the rich and powerful by voter initiatives and referenda with 100% voter turnout.

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I’m all for the wealthy being charitable, however, it is rather depressing to see so many good writers reconciled to the very idea of “billionaire.” I recently saw an interview with Prof. Richard Wolff, at the end of which, he said he wanted it to be clear that he did not favor taking from the rich, that that would cause too many fights and hard feelings, my paraphrase. I’m sorry, but as long as the present list of billionaires and multimillionaires transfer most of their wealth to their heirs, which most of them will, a self perpetuating aristocracy is the result, with disproportionate power, even in Mr. Wolff’s co-operative economy. Andrew Carnegie was the true exception, he literally gave away his entire fortune, except for a few hundred thousand, to his heirs. That, I fear is never going to be the rule, but always the exception. Some sort of leveling is necessitated by the very finite nature of the world. Our cities and towns have marked off all space, so much so, that some simply have no place to be.

Check out this study documenting the efforts of the 1% to eliminate the Estate Tax:


Perhaps things will not change because the people who wrote “We the people” over two hundred years ago were some of the richest people in the land.

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Who’s going to count the votes?

Each encrypted vote could be put on a credit card for whatever coin the public decides to pay. That gives a receipt, keeps count of the votes and pays the costs of having initiatives and referenda.

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Joe Ryan is telling the truth. Capitalism in the cause of the inequity in our society. Getting a few rich people to try to give some of their wealth at the end of their lives in hope of not going directly to hell for eternity, will not change the cause of inequity in our society.

Capitalism is also the cause of the climate disruption that is threatening all life on earth. Capitalism is also the cause of the high level of corruption in our government.

A few rich guys will not change this situation. It is going to take the combined efforts of all the people who are suffering to change our government. All of us must rise up in a rebellion to demand that our Constitution is reinstated as the supreme law of the land. Start with the concept of electing a Representative. The definition of being a representative is to speak for another person, to act in the interests of some one other than yourself. You can’t find a single true Representative in both houses of the American government. We must demand that our Representative vote AS DIRECTED BY THEIR CONSTITUENTS—and not take the bribes and vote for the wealthy few.

This is not going to happen without a vigorous action by the common people of this nation. The hell with the ruling class—tax the bastards and share the wealth of this nation.

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Great. Ralph believes in noblesse oblige. Don’t need no revolutions. Just more kinder, gentler rich to rule and look out for us.

Haven’t I heard that excuse before? “Just a few bad apples”?

Ralph understands the need for a grass roots movement very well, as can be seen from his whole life’s work. As one example, you might read his open letter to our Mr. Sanders. He also thinks this could be relevant. I would have to agree.

You’re right, wantrealdemocracy.

Ralph’s proposal to ask the 1% to part with some of their wealth for the benefit of society is unrealistic.

And it is bad practice to bargain with one’s oppressors. They should be defeated.

‘Philanthropy’ should be recognized as a dirty word, on a par with ‘privatization’.

‘Philanthropy’ is capitalism’s dismal substitute for socialism’s egalitarian distribution of wealth.

Tell us Ralph, what about the Koch brothers? Jammie Dimon, Loyd Blankfein the Waltons? How about all of the greedy millionaires in the US House and Senate? These people constantly want more for themselves, and the way they get more is taking it from the less fortunate! First you have to conquer greed, and this country doesn’t punish greed. It rewards it!

That’s a rather restricted frame. “The Church” is rather more than your book.

Really? I don’t think there were any official documents around the Tonton Macoutes! And if there were, they would have little to do with what the organization was all about.

I think it’s you who don’t get it. Your “organization” is tied up with a long history of entanglement with empire and profound violence. So long and so profound that for thinking people, the thing itself no longer has any meaning.