It feels like a dramatic shift is on the way when it comes to extreme wealth. From being aspirational and culturally desirable, it’s gone toxic. The tech bros previously borne aloft on their billions are falling like skittles, their cultural narratives unravelling as aspiration turns to absurdity. Elon Musk, Andrew Tate, Donald Trump…men and money: the equation that has underpinned industrial capitalism appears to be falling apart at the seams.
Andrew Tate with his cigar and red silk dressing gown, Trump with his superhero NFTs, Musk throwing his weight around at Twitter: wealthy men have turned into a Dickensian caricature of themselves that’s no more than clickbait entertainment for the rest of us.
In parallel with the unravelling of Billionaire Bros, there seems to be a development in the protest movement towards precision-targeting extreme wealth: End Private Jets and Tyre Extinguishers are just the latest to single it out as a low-hanging fruit, hugely poisonous and yet comparatively easy to pluck and discard. I predict more of these niche protest groups emerging and targeting the super-wealthy as the year goes on.
In another cultural data point, TV drama has recently begun mining a rich seam of satire on the lives of the super-wealthy. Shows like The White Lotus, Glass Onion and Succession all put the absurdity of opulence under the spotlight.
So who wants to be a billionaire indeed? The realisation is dawning that on the far horizon of a billionaire-dominated world is a scenario in which money loses its value anyway. Billions that can only buy you a bunker seem absurd, not aspirational. Let’s watch as the meaning of extreme money goes through some really interesting revolutions in 2023.