Backing the 1%


I spoke last Thursday in the Cambridge Union on the motion, "This House Believes We Need the Richest 1%."  I spoke in favour, giving 6 reasons for my support.

1.  The richest 1% feature many people who have provided things to improve our lives. 

These include Google, Amazon, Facebook, Paypal, YouTube, etc.  We use them regularly and have propelled their developers into the top 1%.  They made life easier, more interesting & more rewarding by providing services of value to others.  Even the much-derided bankers have made capital work more effectively and made it more available.

2.  The richest 1% act as an example to others. 

People look at the careers of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, & Mark Zuckerberg, and are themselves inspired to develop goods and services that will similarly be of use and value to others. 

3.  The top 1% pay taxes. 

In the UK the 1% pay nearly 30% of all income tax.  The top 3,000 UK earners pay more between them than the bottom 9 million.  Their taxes support schools, hospitals and essential public services.

4.  They give to charitable causes. 

They are the mainstay of many medical & cultural charities.  They fund art galleries, museums & symphony orchestras.  They are helping to conquer disease and suffering.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the eventual conquest of malaria, a disease that kills an estimated 2m people annually, including 500,000 children.  Warren Buffet has issued the Giving Pledge, for rich people who pledge to give or leave half their fortunes to charity.  Hundreds, including Bill Gates, have signed it.

5.  The top 1% are early adopters. 

They can afford to buy the new gadgets and try out the new processes.  The ones that fall short of expectations drop by the wayside, but successful ones go into mass production, fall in price and become generally available.  It was the 1% who bought the first large flat screen plasma and LCD TVs that are now commonplace and within reach of most people.

6.  The top 1% include those who accelerate the pace of technological advance by putting their money behind adventurous developments. 

Paul Allen made his fortune with Microsoft, and put $25m to back SpaceShipOne, winner of the X-Prize for the first private vehicle to carry people into space.  Elon Musk made his fortune from Paypal, and used it to fund Tesla because he believes that electric cars can enable a cleaner world.  He funded SpaceX, which sends Dragon capsules to the Space Station and is testing ways of landing and refueling its boosters.  He does this to speed up accessible spaceflight.

With more time I could have added more reasons, such as the fact that the 1% help create most of the new jobs that replace ones automated or outsourced.  I concluded by saying that the 1% help make the world a better, more colourful and more interesting place, and that the goods and services they make available enrich our lives.