The Billionaire Syndrome

A curious syndrome in the modern world is the existence of billionaires spending whatever it takes to buy the power necessary to impose their vision of how the world should work on the rest of us. For example, in my hometown, New York City, Michael Bloomberg has forked out hundreds of millions of dollars to be elected and re-elected mayor, so he can complete his ideological mission to convert the Big Apple into the nation’s leading nanny state.

Bloomberg says, when it comes to same-sex marriage, that “the government should not be in the business of telling people what to do.” He seems unconcerned that if government “approves” gay marriage, it will have the likely effect of telling the large majorities in every state – including churches, synagogues, and mosques – that they are not permitted to disapprove of gay marriage. And he is hardly libertarian when it comes to eating, smoking, or drinking. The mayor, observed social critic David Harsanyi, “embraces almost every freedom-busting, micromanagement machination one could conjure up, from putting extra lights on cars that go off when exceeding the speed limit, to instructing cops to ticket people for talking too loud, to making New York the first city to ban trans fats and pushing one of the most restrictive smoking bans in the nation.”

Billionaire George Soros, who holds that the principles of the Declaration of Independence “are not self-evident truths but arrangements necessitated by our inherently imperfect understanding,” has donated over a billion dollars to his two anti-American initiatives: the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundation Network. Both organizations (managed by Aryeh Neier, the radical former director of the ACLU) fund causes that will correct what Soros perceives as the “misuses of American power.” Stopping our country’s promotion of representative democracy throughout the world is one of its main goals.

Then there’s billionaire Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, who is funding a crusade to lower the world’s population because he believes giving birth to children is a “potentially disastrous environmental, social, and industrial threat.” To solve global warming, Gates appears to call for sterilization of women of childbearing age. “If we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproduction health services,” Gates told attendees at a recent Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, “we could lower [the world’s population] perhaps 10 or 15 percent.”

Super-rich elites attempting to dictate who should have the right to procreate is not new. In the early twentieth century, many of America’s Robber Barons, influenced by Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism – which called for the elimination of undesirable physical and social traits – advocated intervention in the sex lives of what scientist Karl Pearson called “the propagators of unnecessary human beings.”

G.K. Chesterton on wealthy do-gooders:
They mistake an ideal for THE ideal.

To preserve their precious Anglo-Saxon race, they financed the pseudo-science of “good birth,” i.e., eugenics:

· The Andrew Carnegie Institute provided $10 million dollars in 1904 for a “eugenics station” at Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island. Director Charles Davenport believed behavior is genetic and determined by race. He looked forward to a day “when a woman would no more marry a man without knowing his genetic history than a horse breeder would acquire a stallion without knowing its pedigree.”

 Philanthropist Mary Harriman, heir to the E. H. Harriman railroad fortune and sister of New York governor Averell Harriman, financed the Eugenics Record Office to gather hereditary information about the relatives of those deemed defective.

 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (son of the founder of Standard Oil) and George Eastman (founder of Eastman Kodak) financed the American Eugenics Society. In 1926, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth MacArthur, of Sterling, Massachusetts, won the Society’s “Eugenics Sermon Contest” by preaching that moral and spiritual qualities are hereditary.

The interest in eugenics among America’s best and brightest Victorians led to the passage of laws throughout the nation which called for restrictions on childbearing and for the sterilization of a number of groups. They genuinely believed that unrestricted “breeding” by blacks, the poor, and immigrants threatened the dominion of the “civilized races.”

What causes so many wealthy people to believe they can engineer society to their liking? They are driven by the narcissist belief – fortified by legions of well-paid yes men – that they are superior to the rest of the population and, therefore, know best. They are modern Gnostics who lay exclusive claim to the secret truth of the universe and eschatology of man. These would-be “managers of the collective life” expect everyone to be like their employees who snap to attention and blindly follow their orders. For them “government of the people” is merely a slogan to humor the masses.

Because these billionaires have devoted most of their time and energy to building the business endeavors that earned them their fortunes, they often have limited knowledge and understanding of philosophy, theology, and history. Hence, when they approach problems that have perplexed man throughout the ages, they support instant formulas (i.e., population control) concocted by modern day alchemists. G.K. Chesterton got it right a century ago, when he said these “financiers and businessmen are a danger . . . because they can be sentimental about any sentiment and idealistic about any ideal that they find lying about.  . . . These practical men unaccustomed to causes, are always inclined to think that if a thing is proved to be an ideal, it is proved to be the ideal.”

In their search for cure-all bromides, today’s billionaires can easily be enticed to fund crypto-totalitarian ideologues who deny our God-given intrinsic value as persons, seek total control over our lives, and promise their benefactors that “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods.”

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.