I’ve been saying this a lot lately and kind of hoping someone will get bothered or curious about it, but no one has, so I am going to gratuitously explain why I think it’s important that we all make “eat the rich” our own mantra.
First of all, why eat the rich? They don’t taste very good. They are usually past their prime and pumped full of preservatives and chemicals. Plus there’s the tangential concern that cannibalism is frowned upon in our society.
Being rich is immoral. I was convinced of this by A.Q. Smith’s article “It’s Basically Just Immoral to be Rich.” Many utilitarians have made similar arguments, most notably Paul Singer, a philosopher who promotes philanthropic giving to the extreme. Other supporters include Jesus, several Old Testament prophets, and quite a few theologians since then. The long and short of Smith’s argument is that it doesn’t matter how you got rich, the extreme amount of suffering and struggle caused by poverty gives rise to an ethical burden on the wealthy not to keep their wealth.
While this isn’t an unpopular opinion in the history of ethics, it’s an unpopular practice, especially under capitalism.
If you find yourself wealthy, give your money away, like most of it, anything more than, say, $70,000 per year. If merely gifting makes you uncomfortable, create jobs. Pay your employees better.
This last bit is a concession to resistant capitalists. Giving people cash is a pretty sure way they will get their needs met, but cash assistance is unpopular because we view poverty, not wealth, as morally reprehensible.
Let’s refocus though, because we were talking about eating rich people, not convincing them with moral philosophy to change their ways. There’s a carnal difference.
I want wealth to be suspect. I want the accrual of large sums of money to be so repulsive in our culture that rich people are afraid to be rich. I want them to be performatively philanthropic, because to be wealthy is worse than cannibalism.
(If you are feeling defensive right now, it’s either because you are rich, or you wish you were rich, and you should feel ashamed of yourself and your perversion).
So eat the rich. While you may want to dismiss such a directive as hyperbolic, it is meant to erode our collective agreement that being rich is a moral good. It is not.
Eat Jeff Bezos. Eat Brett Kavanaugh. Eat Elon Musk.
Then, make policy changes. Make it easy to get food stamps, cash assistance, and housing assistance. Make it hard to be wealthy. Because our spending on social programs is peanuts compared to the massive amounts of capital accumulated by the wealthiest people in the world, wealth accrued while evading taxes, wealth accrued while employees subsist on government assistance, despite working full time, wealth accrued while benefiting from a system that supports white, straight, cis, able-bodied men, and actively excludes everyone else. Stop worrying that someone who gets a few thousand dollars per year in government benefits is gaming the system, and start worrying how someone making millions of dollars in a year is evading taxes. Impose steep inheritance taxes.
Our culture is so biased toward protecting wealth, that we are still just fighting for a living minimum wage, but there has been no discussion around a wage ratio. This would create a dependency between the lowest paid workers and highest paid workers. If a CEO wants to make a lot of money, their employees also need to make a lot of money.
I do want to make policy changes, but until then (and maybe even after), I will do my best to be performatively repulsed by the rich. I won’t keep my distrust private. If you’re rich, I think you are bad and deserve public censure until you prove otherwise.
Eat the rich. They are the leeches of our society.
Eat the rich. They are bad at sharing.
Eat the rich. They break laws and use their money to cover it up.
Eat the rich. They don’t put their money back into the economy, but you do.
Eat the rich. They live in gated communities.
Eat the rich. They voted for Trump.
Eat the rich. They are liars and thieves.
Eat the rich. Eat the rich. Eat the rich.