May 23, 2019

Living Among the Billionaires

“Billionaires are all around us, but do we ever stop and notice them? We pass through their habitats and provide them the tax nourishment that biologists say is necessary for their survival. But simply increasing their wealth is not the same as understanding the importance of even a single-digit billionaire in the complex web of life. Take a moment and examine a video of a billionaire. Seen from up close, the delicate striations on the belly of Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (to pick one example) reveal mini-universes. Nature, wearing its hat as the free market, has made him, and every billionaire, unique.

Observing billionaires in situ takes patience. Only a few of us will ever get to watch a billionaire feeding. If you are lucky enough to see a billionaire behind his enormous desk masticating his eccentric diet of choice while you sit quietly in front him, hungry and unfed—a condition the billionaire seems to require in order to accept your presence—you will have four minutes to make your pitch. Avoid sudden movements that might startle the billionaire, for if that happens he will signal to the others and they will hurry off shrieking through the penthouse canopy. Billionaires are notoriously shy and often take on an ordinary appearance to escape detection, even masking themselves in khaki such as anybody might wear. Thus the observer must exert extra caution in identifying them.

Formerly, billionaires were so plentiful in Western trout streams that, it was said, you could walk from bank to bank on their hats and never wet your feet. And once, historians claim, the endless flights of billionaires darkened the skies above Long Island until their cackling drowned out ordinary conversation. Fortunately, those bygone days are still here. Thanks to increased public awareness, billionaires remain plentiful and provide a vital resource. Today the fate of global ecosystems often depends on nature’s own life preserver, the billionaire.”

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