Paul Tudor Jones—whose net worth is $4.6 billion—is one of the most famous hedge fund managers in American history. He is a heavy donor to Republicans. And he is warning of the possibility of class-based revolution in America. Also, he has some ideas.
We will say this about Paul Tudor Jones: he is not the most rotten billionaire hedge fund manager you'll find out there. He is, at least, civic-minded. He helped found the Robin Hood Foundation, which does good work on behalf of the poor in New York City (though the foundation is not entirely without self-interest). He has been active in issues of public schools—to the dismay of those who believe in public education, but still, he does appear to care about the issue. I do not question Paul Tudor Jones' commitment to helping those less fortunate than himself. But that commitment extends only as far as his own self-interest.
It is always interesting to hear a billionaire share his thoughts on inequality. Yesterday, Jones gave a TED Talk in which he did just that. And not in quite the vapid terms that most of his peers would use! He said this: "Now here's a macro forecast that's easy to make and that's that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest it will get closed. History always does it. It typically happens in one of three ways– either through revolution, higher taxes or wars. None of those are on my bucket list,"
On the one hand, this is just a common sense reading of history. On the other hand, it's always newsworthy when a cutthroat hedge fund billionaire calmly acknowledges the looming possibility of violent revolution of the poors. One immediate point to take away from Jones' statement is: "higher taxes" are the least bad option for rich people. If only they were on his bucket list.
If Jones is not calling for higher taxes—and he's most definitely not, since he poured money into Mitt Romney's campaign in an attempt to protect a tax loophole that enables hedge fund managers to pay outrageously low taxes—then what is his solution to our nation's inequality problem? What drastic measure is he calling for in order to stave off the very real possibility that some time in the foreseeable future, people like him will be hung from highway overpasses by mobs of underemployed fast food workers who can't get a mortgage? Paul Tudor Jones' solution to this existential crisis is: "JUST Capital," a nonprofit group he is starting that will "help companies learn how to operate in a more just fashion by using the public's input to define exactly what the criteria are for just corporate behavior." To clarify: billionaire Paul Tudor Jones fears that the possibility of a violent mob massacring him for his unconscionable wealth is real, and yet his plan to forestall this event is to publish an annual survey ranking companies on how "just" they are. And what does that mean? Paul Tudor Jones does not even say. He'll just do a poll to determine it.
Paul Tudor Jones, a very smart man who publicly acknowledges the horrific depth of our nation's economic inequality, is not even willing to pay higher taxes as a remedy for that inequality. He is only willing to advocate for more "corporate social responsibility." He is not calling for new regulations on unchecked corporate power. He is simply asking corporations to try to be a little more thoughtful. He believes that the American system of capitalism—which is what has gotten us to the level of economic inequality we enjoy today—is capable of regulating itself through sheer persuasion. Through suggestion. Through the input of helpful public polling.
Paul Tudor Jones, I know for a fact that you are not stupid enough to believe. Good for you for being a billionaire willing to admit that our nation's inequality is a serious problem. But you know what they say: Admitting you have a problem is a first step. A first step. If you think that you can avoid taking any of the hard steps after that—paying a slightly higher level of taxes on your vast and unspendable wealth, for instance—you may find your bucket list enlarged in an unpleasant way.