Super billionaire Larry Ellison and his BMW Oracle Racing team have just won the America’s Cup. How did Ellison do it? Raw talent? His own bootstraps? Not exactly. Ellison bought the best captain in Cup history and made the race’s most expensive boat, spending at least $500 million but reportedly up to $1 billion on the thing.
Here it is, by the way. When I was searching the internet for a picture, I kept passing this one by thinking it was that new hotel in Dubai. Alas, it’s a boat.
Now neo-liberal economists will try and tell us that wealth and money are not zero sum games, that Larry Ellison spending $500 million on a boat has nothing to do with the perpetuation of global poverty. However, the average 10-year-old will tell you otherwise. Ellison could have spent that money on, say, improving public schools in the farmworker towns not far from Silicon Valley, or ameliorating the blight and medical problems in communities living next to computer waste dumps that companies like Oracle populate.
Or, to put it in perspective, the star-studded Hope for Haiti telethon raised a mere $58 million. And no I don’t care how much Ellison may have, in fact, given to Haiti or Indonesia or Tibet. If he has $500 million left over to spend on a one-time use boat to win a race — a boat so big and impractical that it can’t even fit under the Golden Gate Bridge — something is fundamentally wrong with our world and our economic system. And if we can honestly look at this situation and defend Ellison, defend his “individual right” to spend his money however he wants, without regard for the collective good that got him here, then there is something fundamentally wrong with our values.
And you didn’t think I paid attention to sports…