Philip Kotler
7 min readFeb 21, 2023

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What Should We Do with the Billionaire Problem?

Philip Kotler

Is there a billionaire problem? I decided to make use of the new artificial intelligence technology of Chat GPT and put some questions to the “oracle.” My questions were:

1. How many billionaires are there in the world?

2. How much of the world’s wealth is in the hands of billionaires?

3. What economic, social and political problems are imposed on society by the large number of billionaires?

4. What taxes can be imposed on billionaires to redistribute wealth to improve the lives of the poor and working class?

How many billionaires are there and how many billions to they have?

If the world only had only one billionaire, there wouldn’t be much of a problem. The society could tax or pressure the billionaire to give more money to the needy.

However, I knew that there are thousands of billionaires. I asked ChatGPT to list the number of billionaires living in different countries. Here are the numbers as of 2021 (all the information coming from ChatGPT in this article are italicized:

1. Brazil — 65 billionaires

2. Canada — 51 billionaires

3. China — 698 billionaires

4. Germany — 136 billionaires

5. Hong Kong — 80 billionaires

6. India — 140 billionaires

7. Indonesia — 25 billionaires

8. Israel — 10 billionaires

9. Japan — 46 billionaires

10. Mexico — 12 billionaires

11. Russia — 117 billionaires

12. Saudi Arabia — 11 billionaires

13. South Korea — 42 billionaires

14. Switzerland — 36 billionaires

15. Taiwan — 33 billionaires

16. Turkey — 29 billionaires

17. United Kingdom — 120 billionaires

18. United States — 724 billionaires

The number of billionaires in this list adds to 2,375. However, don’t think that this means the wealth of the world’s billionaires is $2,375,000,000,000 (=2,375 x 1 billion each). This would be a gross understatement. Most billionaires have more than one billion dollars. A large number of billionaires are multi-billionaires. In fact, ChatGPT reported that the top 20 billionaires have this number of billions as of 2021:

1. Elon Musk — $201 billion

2. Bernard Arnault & Family — $162.3 billion

3. Jeff Bezos — $177 billion

4. Bill Gates — $132.1 billion

5. Mark Zuckerberg — $118.8 billion

6. Warren Buffett — $107.6 billion

7. Larry Ellison — $98.5 billion

8. Larry Page — $101.4 billion

9. Sergey Brin — $97.4 billion

10. Mukesh Ambani — $92.7 billion

11. Steve Ballmer — $89.7 billion

12. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & Family — $83.2 billion

13. Jim Walton — $82.8 billion

14. Alice Walton — $82.5 billion

15. Rob Walton — $81.1 billion

16. Zhong Shanshan — $74.3 billion

17. Michael Bloomberg — $71.9 billion

18. Colin Zheng Huang — $69.7 billion

19. MacKenzie Scott — $62.2 billion

20. Phil Knight & Family — $60.4 billion

It remains extremely difficult to estimate the total wealth of the billionaire class.

1. Each country might have more billionaires who go uncounted. Examples would be mafia figures, royals, hermits, etc.

2. Many countries that are not listed are very likely to have some billionaires.

3. So many of the billionaires are multi-billionaires.

Why is the great number of billionaires in the world a problem?

I asked ChatGPT why the great number of billionaires is a problem? Here is ChatGPT’s answer:

The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few billionaires has significant economic, social, and political consequences. In this essay, we will discuss the problems caused by allowing so many billionaires to own so many billions of dollars.

Firstly, let us examine the economic impact of billionaires owning vast amounts of wealth. The wealth of billionaires often exceeds the GDP of entire countries, and this creates an uneven distribution of wealth. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals reduces the purchasing power of the general population, which ultimately leads to reduced economic growth. As billionaires become wealthier, they tend to spend less on goods and services, which reduces demand and ultimately slows down economic growth. Moreover, billionaires often have access to tax loopholes and offshore tax havens, which allows them to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This reduces government revenue and limits the resources available for public services and infrastructure projects.

Secondly, the social impact of billionaires owning vast amounts of wealth is also significant. The concentration of wealth often leads to an increase in income inequality. When a small group of individuals own a vast portion of a country’s wealth, the rest of the population is left with limited opportunities and resources. This can lead to social unrest, with many people feeling disenfranchised and marginalized. In addition, billionaires often have access to political power, which can enable them to influence government policies that favor their interests. This can lead to a situation where the wealthy get richer at the expense of the general population.

Thirdly, the political impact of billionaires owning vast amounts of wealth is significant. The concentration of wealth often leads to the capture of political power by a small group of individuals. This can lead to a situation where policy decisions are made to benefit the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the general population. The influence of billionaires on the political process can also undermine the democratic process. When a small group of individuals can influence political decisions to their advantage, the general population’s interests can be ignored, which can erode public trust in the political system.

In conclusion, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few billionaires has significant economic, social, and political consequences. The concentration of wealth reduces the purchasing power of the general population, leads to income inequality, and undermines the democratic process. To address these problems, governments must take steps to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and ensure that billionaires pay their fair share of taxes. This will help to create a more just society, where everyone has access to equal opportunities and resources.

In view of the potential harm of such deep and unavailable concentration of wealth, I asked ChatGPT the following question:

What Can be Done to Tax the Wealth of Billionaires and Use the Tax to Improve the Lives of the Poor and Working Class?

Here is the answer that I received.

There are several ways to tax the wealth of billionaires and use the revenue to improve the lives of the poor and working class. Here are some possibilities:

1. Increase the top marginal tax rate: One approach is to increase the tax rate on income above a certain threshold, such as $1 million or $10 million. This would ensure that those with the highest incomes pay a larger share of their income in taxes, and the revenue could be used to fund social programs.

2. Impose a wealth tax: Another option is to levy a tax on the net worth of individuals with assets above a certain threshold. This would capture the value of assets such as stocks, real estate, and other investments that billionaires own, and could generate significant revenue for social programs.

3. Close tax loopholes: Billionaires often take advantage of various tax loopholes to reduce their tax liability. Closing these loopholes, such as those related to carried interest or offshore tax havens, would increase the amount of tax revenue collected from billionaires and could be used to fund social programs.

4. Increase corporate taxes: Corporations often pay a lower effective tax rate than individuals, and many billionaires have significant holdings in corporations. Increasing the corporate tax rate or implementing other reforms to ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes could generate revenue that could be used to fund social programs.

5. Create a progressive inheritance tax: Many billionaires pass on their wealth to their heirs, allowing their wealth to continue to grow across generations. A progressive inheritance tax would ensure that the children of billionaires pay their fair share in taxes, which could be used to fund social programs.

Overall, there are many options for taxing the wealth of billionaires and using the revenue to improve the lives of the poor and working class.

However, any such policy changes would need to be carefully crafted and implemented to ensure that they are effective, equitable, and sustainable over the long term.

My Three Conclusions

My first conclusion is how efficient ChatGPT is to find all the answers to my questions (reminder: see the italicized material in the article). It took me less than an hour to prepare this essay. Otherwise, it would have taken a few days to find all this information and to formulate it in such a readable way.

My second conclusion is the importance to make it clear what text I sourced from ChatGPT for this article. The computer viewed the whole world of information about the problem of billionaires and produced a valuable summary. I didn’t detect any overt misinformation or disinformation. Yet this can always be a possibility. Furthermore I would be free to put further questions to ChatGPT to clarify or substantiate any dubious statement.

My third conclusion is that we have a serious problem of the endlessly growing wealth of the billionaires. So many people are living substandard lives full of pain and suffering because of the great concentration of wealth. True, many billionaires are philanthropic and give away a lot of their money to help the poor and working class. They give away a lot of money also to support colleges, museums, libraries, public parks and other public goods. But all their giving is not organized to eliminate the chronic problems of hunger, homelessness, and poor education. It would take action by an enlightened government to set up tax systems to collect sufficient funds from billionaires to finally put an end to worldwide hunger, homelessness, and ignorance.

Here are questions that we would need to consider and debate:

1. Is it fair to tax billionaires at an especially high level?

2. Will the economy ultimately benefit or suffer from extracting some wealth of billionaires?

3. Will democracy grow stronger or weaker by extracting some wealth of billionaires?

4. Can the government make honest and trustworthy investments of the funds to improve the lives of the poor and working classes?

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Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (emeritus)