Kevin O’Leary and the Distribution of Wealth

Recent news by Oxfam stated that the richest 85 people on earth – yes 85 individual people which is about a half-full Southwest plane – have more wealth than the poorer half of the world’s population. 85 people control more than 3.5 billion people.

Kevin O’Leary, famous from Shark Tank on TV, said something that made no sense to me:

“I applaud that. That’s great news. If you work hard, you can be filthy rich one day!” — Kevin O’Leary

There are so many things wrong with that statement, I don’t even know where to start.

Working hard has nothing to do with getting rich, nothing at all.

Think about the miner in a coal mine in West Virginia, who started working in the mine when he was 14, and “retired” at age 54 with emphysema with nothing to show for but a few kids who are now also working in the mine, every day.

Think about the shop girl in Bangladesh who has worked 14 hour days since she was 8 years old, in a system oppressive to women, oppressive to the poor and illiterate, oppressive to everyone but the elite who live lavishly, fly corporate jets to New York so they can shop on 5th Avenue.

Think about the workers in the diamond mines in South Africa.

Think about the high school dropout in Dallas who works at Wal-Mart for minimum wage.

Think about the Chinese peasant.

Think about the El Salvadoran who is illegally in the United States to pick strawberries in the San Joaquin Valley and lives in a hovel, so he can send his money back to his family.

Every one of these people works very, very, very hard, all the time. None of these people will every be filthy rich, or rich, or even middle-class rich. Billions of people work very hard every hour of every day. Billions.

Those billions were not lucky.

Lucky to be born in an industrialized country in the late 20th century. 85% of the world do not qualify for that kind of luck.

Lucky to be born to a family that recognized the importance of education, sound health in childhood and solid family values.

Lucky to be born to parents who were not disadvantaged, in slavery, illegal aliens, uneducated, addicted to drugs, or homeless.

Lucky to be born smart, at the right time, with the right background, with the right parents, in the right country, in good health, with the right education, in the right field.

Yes, Bill Gates (and many others I could name here) had all these factors of luck. And not to take away from Bill Gates, in addition to all these luck factors, he worked hard, he took risks, and he was competitive. He earned his success.

But I am certain that Bill Gates, if he had been born in Bangladesh in a slum today, Microsoft would not have been created.

It was not just his hard work, Kevin O’Leary. There was much more to it than that. I know you worked your way up from a modest beginning yourself. I know you worked hard, you worked smart, you out-foxed the competition, you earned what you have. It was the fact that you were born in a capitalist country at a good time in history that laid the foundation so you could do that, and be what you are today.

Being a Canadian born in 1954 was one major prerequisite – omitted in your argument.

And that’s why you look like a prick in the video above.

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