A Nation of Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires
The Gravel Institute
The Gravel Institute, a crowd-funded organization that creates videos to combat right-wing disinformation, created a short video titled “You Will Never Be Rich”. Given their medium, which is short videos, they have very little time to get to the point. So you’ll never get a complete picture of any given topic by watching their videos. That can be off-putting to some including myself who desire more detailed information, but there’s definitely a place and a necessity for short-form, quickly digestible videos.
Out of all the Gravel Institute’s videos that I’ve seen, I feel that they mostly get the gist right, with some added partisan hyperbole. As an example, in “You Will Never Be Rich”, they slip in 2 different definitions of the word rich. The John Steinbeck quote refers to Americans as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”. Then right after that they say you’re more likely to become homeless than a billionaire. So what counts as rich? Being a millionaire or being a billionaire?
Nonetheless The Gravel Institute is making a really important point here. One that I don’t think is hyperbole. Americans think one day they’re going to catch their “big break”. They’ll be able to stop working (before retirement) and finally just enjoy life. Obviously for most of them, that’s a myth.
Expectations Versus Reality
For one, people’s expectations of happiness given wealth don’t match reality. Studies show having more wealth doesn’t make you significantly happier after your basic needs are met. Maybe you’ll be able to temporarily distract yourself from the war zone inside your head with unsustainable consumption of goods and services, increased social status, drugs, travel experiences, etc. But it won’t hold you over for long. It’s just not in your biology to be satisfied with what you’ve got. And if you’re already content living in the present moment, you don’t try to fill the void with wealth anyway because there isn’t one.
You Will Never Be Rich
Not only are Americans wrong that what they need in life is extreme wealth. As The Gravel Institute points out, Americans are wrong to think they even have a chance at getting rich. It’s not hyperbole either that Americans think they can get rich. Many Americans really do think that. I know this isn’t rigorous, but just look at the search results for the search terms “You Will Never Be Rich”. The most popular videos are about how to get rich, not about how unlikely it is. Anecdotally, I’ve known Americans who have dreamed of getting rich, whatever that means. None of them are. I think their belief that they can become rich stems from the lie they were told as children that they’re exceptional.
When I point out how unlikely it is for Americans to get rich, they respond with examples of people who “made it”. But that doesn’t change the statistics. Those people were extremely lucky. Personally knowing somebody who became rich doesn’t mean it will happen for you. If you know somebody who got rich, ask yourself, do they seem significantly happier than before they were rich? Probably not. So why do you want to be rich anyway?
The latest get rich quick hoax is crypto “investing”. Americans think they’re going to make it big on the next shitcoin that some crook shilled to them. Again, the statistics are overwhelmingly against that outcome. They think they found the next coin that’s going to go big. Yet so do 100,000 other people and they’re all wrong. Few people are ever going to make big money on crypto. The rest are just throwing their money into the trash.
Consider this: Half of American adults say they play state lotteries. What idiocy! News flash fellow Americans! You’re never going to hit it big on the lottery! Stop blowing your money! You’re effectively paying a tax for being bad at math. The state is punishing you for being stupid. They broadcast it far and wide when somebody does win that way it motivates more fools to blow their money on lottery tickets.
You know who benefits from Americans’ false hope that they’re going to get rich one day? The crony capitalists. The last thing they want is to start paying their fair share of taxes. They don’t want socialism. They want you to believe that if only you possess the right mindset, if only you work hard enough, if only you have the right karma, with a smidgen of luck, then you’ll become one of them. But it’s a lie. Occasionally, somebody does get extremely lucky and make it big. But that’s nothing more than the carrot that’s being dangled in front of you to keep you playing along.
The Rich Are Selfish
When you think about it, getting rich is an extremely selfish goal. Even if you do become rich, you have to be a callous and uncaring person to hold onto your wealth. Is that who you want to be? Maybe you could try to justify holding onto your wealth by investing it, with the goal of doing greater good in the future. But that’s a very shaky argument.
For one, there are organizations that need the funding right now in order to mitigate existential risks such as climate mayhem, nuclear weapons, nanotechnology, general artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, etc. Funding them in the future won’t do any good if it’s already too late to mitigate those risks. They need funds now.
For two, even if you can justify keeping your wealth, the question of spending it remains unchanged. Money spent on yourself can’t be spent on others. It will still makes sense to spend some money on yourself of course. But when you’re filthy rich, you can afford to help others. Not donating to charity is willfully allowing other people in remote parts of the world to suffer and die all so you can live in luxury.
In summary, you will never be rich. Not through crypto “investing” nor the lottery nor by any other means. Even if by extreme luck you do become rich, it won’t make you happy assuming you already have basic needs met. Even if it does make you happy, you’re just 1 person. Maybe you could help your family out, but that’s still a relatively small group of people. If you have a conscience and you’re a thinking person, you won’t be able to hold onto that money anyway knowing children that would otherwise live will die if you don’t donate it.
America does not need more zillionaires hoarding all the wealth. We don’t need more scams giving common people false hope by occasionally allowing one of them to become rich. What America needs is to embrace socialism. We need to redistribute the wealth from the rich to the poor, allowing everyone to flourish. Socialism will reduce inequality which will reduce crime. We will all be safer. It will improve morale because nobody will slip through the cracks. If you fall on hard times, the state will have your back instead of locking you up for being poor. There will probably be less mental illness. We will have free college tuition, universal healthcare, and all the things other civilized countries already have.
Wouldn’t it be much better to live in a society where everybody takes care of one another rather than a few people hoarding all the wealth and the rest desperately wishing they were doing that? Which sounds like a more healthy society? Which would you rather live in? As the Gravel Institute points out, the pipe dream of being rich is holding us back from that socialist future. So stop “investing” in crypto. Stop buying lottery tickets. Stop looking for a get rich quick scheme. And start supporting socialist policies and candidates.