With inequality soaring to unprecedented levels, groups like Occupy Wall Street have made it clear that the 99% want change. There are those among the 1%, however, that assert a need for change as well. Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entreprenuer involved with many businesses as a founder or investor over his career. In a June, 2014, piece for Politico Magazine, Hanauer directed a ‘memo’ at his ‘fellow zillionaires’ warning of a pending revolution.
Hanauer cites that, at no point in history, has this level of inequality been sustained without suffering a revolution or becoming a police state, warning, “Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.” Hanauer depicts his fellow-zillionaires as being dismissive of these concerns. He chides them for citing seeing a poor kid with an iphone as evidence that inequality is overblown.
Hanauer may serve as a credible forward thinker as his foresight is largely what made him his fortune. In his words,
“But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks.”
It is definitely worth giving the full memo a read as it is a fresh take from a .01 percenter. That said, Hanauer certainly doesn’t want his wealth redistributed, he concludes his memo with the assertion that changing the rules to the game could benefit the rich as well as the poor:
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.