On Monday morning, Jeff Bezos announced the creation of a new $10 billion environmental foundation, the Bezos Earth Fund. This is on top of the $2 billion he already committed to the Bezos Family Foundation to build preschools and fight homelessness.
The combined sum might be a fraction of his net worth, and Bezos might have a history of standing in the way of political efforts to address some of the same problems he seeks to address with his charity. Even so, many would argue that his efforts are still praiseworthy.
In a Martin Luther King Jr Day discussion with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argued for a very different perspective. If Jeff Bezos “wants to be a good person,” she said, he should “turn Amazon into a worker cooperative.” She argued that our primary message to billionaires shouldn’t be that we want to redistribute their money. Instead, it should be that “we want their power.”
In making this distinction, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was giving voice to an idea with deep roots in socialist thought — that the unequal distribution of wealth is just a symptom of the deeper problem of the unequal distribution of economic power.
Inequality is a self-reinforcing phenomenon.
As inequality increases, the powerful are increasingly in the position of stacking the deck in their own favor.
Rinse, lather, repeat.