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What is it like to be a billionaire?

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Zach Beauchamp asks this question: Why is the GOP’s plutocratic class choosing to incinerate money on something as utterly hopeless as Nikki Haley’s run for the Republican presidential nomination? After all, Haley has a theoretical chance of winning the nomination in pretty much exactly the same sense that the New York Jets have of winning the Super Bowl in February, that is, something that isn’t a the moment a mathematical impossibility, but which remains, as a practical matter, impossible.

He concludes, correctly, that the answer is an intense need to deny the nature of our current political reality:

With the exception of free trade, Trump’s last term largely served the super-wealthy’s interests in economic matters — passing a massive regressive tax cut and slashing environmental regulations. But he also poses an existential threat to American democracy, promising a term of instability that could shatter the political calm necessary for the economy to function.

Biden, on the other hand, has worked to bring stability to American democracy. Yet he also has moved to the left on economic matters, in ways that threaten the billionaire vision of an American night-watchman state. In a contest between Trump and Biden, the superrich can’t get what they want the most: political stability paired with a continuing assault on the welfare state.

The support for Haley is a way of avoiding what they see as a terrible choice. It’s a desperation play designed to stave off what they see as certain calamity, an 80-yard Hail Mary thrown to a receiver in sextuple coverage.

Of course, there’s another choice. The super-wealthy could decide that nothing, even increasing their already vast fortunes, is worth jeopardizing American democracy. Instead of burning their money on Haley, they could choose to support Democrats. Unlike Republican elected officials, the billionaire class is not accountable to primary voters; they could simply choose to dedicate a portion of their unimaginable wealth to an altruistic political cause rather than a selfish one.

But that, I suppose, is even more unrealistic than the prospect of Nikki Haley winning the primary.

This raises a further puzzle for me. Standard economic theory would predict, I would think, that the super-rich ought to be, under current political conditions in America, vastly more concerned about promoting political stability than pursuing slightly lower marginal tax rates or slightly less intrusive government regulation of business. That’s because if you are worth hundreds of millions, let alone billions, or tens of billions, or hundreds of billions of dollars, the declining marginal utility of income ought to mean that “more money” should be practically meaningless to you. Yes I understand that among the super-rich there’s an internal competition to have more money than other super-rich people, because these people all have some sort of psychological perversion to increase their fortunes relative to each other, but we’re talking here about policies that affect the super-rich as a class, not as individuals.

Given this, shouldn’t this people be almost infinitely more concerned about society flying apart, rendering their unimaginable fortunes null and void and requiring them to flee, like Russian aristocrats in 1917 — many of these people lost their entire fortunes in the process btw — than any concern they might have about somewhat higher marginal tax rates or inheritance taxes or another OHSA regulation?

This has never made any sense to me, but apparently these people simply don’t think this way. Hence their willingness to burn a (very) tiny portion of their fortunes on Haley’s fantasy run, as opposed to supporting Joe Biden et. al.

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