I occasionally like to read about the lives of billionaires. I have of course thought about what type of personality it takes to reach that position. Crudely speaking, megalomania and psychopathy, and in a few cases, rare technical brilliance merged with entrepreneurship. Of course, these are people who not only have a high awareness and perception of organizational/political hierarchies, but also, more importantly, the willingness to do what it takes to ascend them, be it managing up or ruthlessly gaming the system. Or in the case of actual entrepreneurs, who actually started a company as opposed to merely climbing the executive ladder, they have quite a creative business spirit, and in a relative minority of cases, high technical talent, though surely, they have to be high in the political ability as well. These are also people who have a dying urge for material wealth and political power, as much as top scientists and engineers naturally thirst for knowledge and smarts.
Douchebags are needless to say overrepresented in this group. It has occurred to me that these are people who treat their life of exploitation and resource accumulation almost as a video game. Their default mode of operation is not one of is what I’m doing beneficial for others and the world (though they can be delusional) but one of is what I’m doing beneficial for myself and can I get away with it. They view subordinates more as tools than as humans, from whom labor is to be mercilessly extracted. I already know of three billionaires (or known) publicly known to have abused their domestic help, to the extent that they were sued for it. One can only imagine how many times more this shit happens under the radar. I would expect at least 10 times more, since these are people who are masterminds at doing shit and getting away with it.
The list of billionaires with known domestic help abuse cases is as follows:
- Robert Mercer – PhD speech recognition computer scientist to Renaissance Technologies CEO
- Rupert Murdoch – media mogul, married a Chinese gold digger wife
- Meg Whitman – MBA path to exec at eBay and HP
I’ll also keep a list of billionaires who ended up in jail. Note that they need not be strictly billionaires, just close.
- Roman Abramovich – Russian oligarch
- Lai Changxing – semi-literate Chinese smuggler
- Bernie Ecclestone – Formula One CEO who bribed his way out of jail for bribery. (And he’s also, interestingly, only 5 ft 0 in (1.51 m).)
- Bernard Madoff – largest Ponzi scheme in history
- Mike Milken – for racketeering and securities fraud
Expect this list to be gradually appended/inserted to. There are tons of billionaires who ended up in jail, or close. I only know a few of their names though.
I’ll say that I have also observed the gangster-innovator dichotomy among the billionaires, and sadly, most are in the former category. Even many of the innovators tend to turn into gangsters, by ordinary standards, eventually. Steve Hsu has phrased this on his blog as Creators vs Rulers.