The financial inequality in the modern day is as bad as it’s been since America’s Gilded Age when the titans of industry were the richest people to ever walk the Earth. Back then, people like John Rockefeller, Milton Hershey and Andrew Carnegie flexed their wealth by opening libraries, starting colleges or opening orphanages. The financial inequality was still an issue back then, but these days our rich people shoot cars into space and spend millions on idiotic shenanigans instead. The theatrical side of the modern rich results in “funny” publicity stunts, but we really need to stop laughing.
Not only is launching a car into space wasteful of our resources, scientists at Purdue are now calling it “a biothreat” because of all the bacteria that were never supposed to leave Earth hitchhiking on a billionaire’s publicity stunt all the way to orbit. Bottom line: it was idiotic. Launching a biothreat into space could potentially drive an alien species into extinction.
The biggest concern is that it will contaminate Mars. We have not discovered life on Mars, but there’s a reason we keep searching for it. Trace amounts of ice have been found on the red planet, so we cannot rule out the possibility that our neighbor either has or could support life in the future. Any life on the planet now could be completely wiped out by earthly germs.
As much as people love to worship Elon Musk for “bringing us into the future,” he’s really just a rich guy who never got over a childish obsession of going to Mars and spends his insanely large fortune on gimmicks, pretending it will save the species.
Martin Shkreli, though not nearly as wealthy as Musk, has a much richer history of using his money in outlandish ways just to screw with people. The most well known of these stunts was his acquisition of the only copy of The Wu Tang Clans’ “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” an album that he purchased for around two million dollars.
The Clan auctioned off their CD to the highest bidder with one rule: you can’t resell it. Shkreli purchased it anyway and made a promise to hip-hop loving Americans. If Hillary Clinton won the election, he would destroy the CD, and if Donald Trump won, he would make it public. When Trump actually won, he leaked the first song and promptly got arrested.
Not surprisingly, Shkreli was doing some deeply immoral manipulation of pill pricing. Less surprisingly, that was completely legal, and he did not get arrested for it. Less surprisingly still, is that the crime he committed was ripping off other rich people. Shout out to Hofstra alumnus Bernie Madoff. Shkreli’s terrifying price hikes potentially could have cost the lives of thousands of people who rely on the medicines he manipulated. So basically, the law doesn’t care about you unless you’re rich. Welcome to America.
Before he was arrested, Shkreli also attempted to prevent Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” from ever being released. He publicly offered Kanye a large sum of money to be the only one to have access to the album, just like the Wu Tang album. When Kanye did not accept the offer, Shkreli increased the offer. Of course, we know that didn’t work because “The Life of Pablo” came out and was an incredibly successful album.
Shkreli’s other stunts have caused outrage in various small communities beyond hip-hop fans. Shkreli purchased several copies of the most expensive “Magic: the Gathering” card Black Lotus, which sells for no less than $14,000 and up to $23,000, even in damaged condition. For context on how expensive the first edition this card can be, the original printing of it is worth more than its weight in plutonium, cocaine or gold.
Many fans of the game are angry at Shkreli for taking these incredibly rare and valuable cards off the market with no intention of using them to play just because he can afford to. As more and more of these cards are removed from the secondary market, the price of the ones still left increase.
Americans need to stop looking at the publicity stunts of millionaires as something laughable, and instead acknowledge that these wasteful and sometimes dangerous expenditures have real world consequences. When Musk wipes out alien life on a distant planet or someone like Shkreli destroys a more important secondary market, maybe we’ll see these fat cats for the miscreants that they are.
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