Does Paris Hilton Deserve Her Wealth? – A Philosophic Question.

Paris Hilton's Birthday Party

Does Paris Hilton deserve her wealth? Does Justin Bieber deserve his wealth? Do lottery winners deserve their wealth?

I recently had an interesting discussion with a person who charged that some extremely wealthy people, such as Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, do not “deserve” their wealth. This person maintained that benefiting from a major inheritance windfall, or being rich for seemingly no productive reason, is an injustice.

Who among us hasn’t looked at the riches of people like Paris Hilton with envy? “I want what she has… and she shouldn’t have it!” We’re all guilty of this at one time or another.

We need to nail down exactly what it means to “deserve” wealth. This could mean many things to many different people. How does someone come to “deserve” their wealth, while others supposedly do not?

There are two aspects that I see to this: moral considerations, and practical considerations. Morally, we can determine if someone “deserves” their wealth somewhat easily. I am a Christian. I can easily compare someone’s method of earning wealth to the biblical moral code and determine if they rightfully deserve their wealth. Someone who obtained wealth through murder and coercion clearly does not deserve their wealth. That is an injustice. Of course, different people have different ideas on morality, which is what can complicate matters. Furthermore, when it is determined that a given individual does not deserve their wealth on moral grounds, then the question becomes “How do we correct this moral injustice?” That also can become complicated very quickly, especially because large amounts of money are involved.  The automatic reply from a lot of people will have something to do with themselves snagging a piece of the dough.

The practical aspect to deserving wealth requires more explanation. The first thing to understand is that a stark difference exists between “obtaining wealth” and “maintaining wealth”. I think that some people do not understand this concept fully. My basic axiom here is this: people who deserve their wealth keep it, while those who don’t deserve their wealth lose it.

Example: Paris Hilton has net worth in the range of $100 million dollars. I’m no expert on her life story, but I am aware that she was born into the fabulously wealthy Hilton family, of the fancy Hilton hotel chain. She is an example of someone who fell butt-backwards into money, initially.  I think the phrase “famous for being famous” may have been coined in her honor; it is generally agreed that she achieved celebrity status for being little more than being a rich party girl. The person I mentioned earlier in the article specifically pointed out Paris Hilton as an example of someone who unjustly and undeservedly has great wealth.

I guess Paris Hilton was just particularly lucky to be born into wealth. Does that mean she doesn’t deserve it? Some might say the government should impose a 100% inheritance tax to prevent this exact sort of “injustice” from occurring. Let me ask you this: If you were suddenly alerted that a distant, wealthy relative died and inexplicably left their riches to you, would you be OK with allowing the government to tax it all away under the guise of promoting fairness? I honestly do not believe anyone who says “yes”. Not even the leftiest of the left. So attacking Paris Hilton for being born into money is flirting with hypocrisy.

We hear stories all the time about people who make it big but go broke anyway. Mickey Rooney went from being a multi-millionaire to declaring bankruptcy with only $500 in assets, at one point in his life. Warren Sapp was a wealthy football star who wasted it on fancy living before going bankrupt. These are people who could not maintain their wealth, at least until they learned their lesson. In this sense, they did not deserve their wealth, and they deservedly lost it. Either they made bad investments, were too lax with their money, or just flat-out squandered it all. But they could generally bounce back because they were already a famous star for some reason, and could continue to capitalize on whatever skill it was that made them rich to begin with. Bottom line: these people deserved to obtain wealth, but they did not deserve to maintain wealth.

Possibly a better example are people who win the lottery. These are people who were probably not going to become wealthy otherwise. Practically speaking, they deserve the riches of the lottery because they had the winning ticket, which is the only condition to win. But before they bought the winning ticket, they did not deserve to obtain great wealth (if they didn’t already have it) because they were not offering anything to the market that would make them wealthy, whether that be a skill in the arts, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, investing, engineering, whatever.

Many people who win the lottery go on to declare bankruptcy soon enough. We frequently hear about this. I once read about a research study which found that approximately 70% of all people who come into sudden riches end up declaring bankruptcy within 5 years. They squander the money in some way, whether through bad investments, frivolous purchases, living the high life, or a combination of these. They lose their wealth because they could not maintain it. In this sense, they did not deserve it, and the market delivered its harsh judgment upon them for misallocating their resources. If they deserved to maintain their wealth, they would have made better decisions. They would still be wealthy.

Paris Hilton has been around for a while. I recall her starring in reality shows when I was a kid in the early 2000s. She was fabulously wealthy then, and she’s still fabulously wealthy now. She has maintained her wealth throughout that entire time.

She doesn’t just live off the largesse of her inheritance. Paris Hilton has launched a line of clothing, perfume, accessories, hair-care products, and other investments. These investments have proved lucrative and have multiplied her wealth. Furthermore, she commands a startling fee to appear at nightclubs: something like $70,000 for one evening. Seems outrageous? You bet. But she’s providing a legitimate service: marketing. For a nightclub, having Paris Hilton stop in is probably a huge boost to their prestige. It’s no different than sports stars striking advertising deals with equipment companies, or Jared holding up his huge old pants in Subway commercials. Hilton is just being paid to promote someone’s business. It’s perfectly legitimate.

As we can see, Paris Hilton deserves her money, in a practical sense. If she didn’t, she would lose it all like some of the others, either through bad investments or total wastefulness. The Free Market would see to that.

The only practical cases in which truly undeserving people get to obtain and maintain wealth is through criminal acts and violent coercion, and this is also where governments are usually involved. The ruling elite of North Korea are one example. All of North Korea is wrung out to maintain Kim Jong Un and the ruling elite’s lifestyle. The major US banks that received TARP bailouts in 2008 are another example; they got the keep their wealth in spite of bad investments and outright crookery, because the US government chose to bankroll them at taxpayer expense. These are people that would likely be tossed out on their cans by the Free Market.

People can indeed get rich off of what I call immoral endeavours. I don’t mean criminals; I mean legitimate but immoral enterprises, like the Porn Industry or producers of music/movies that glamorize immoral behavior. Some may consider their gains ill-gotten. By God’s standard, I consider them ill-gotten.

If you’re unhappy about this situation, then be upset that these producers are engaging in immoral behavior and corrupting others and be upset with the consumers for valuing immorality. But don’t drag the riches into it. It’s not like the producers grab their money off trees. They rely on the consumers. They’re just meeting a demand, albeit something immoral. If you find yourself upset with a wealthy individual and their ill-gotten gains, then be honest with yourself: are you upset over immorality and the corruption of others, or are you angry that they’re making the big bucks and you aren’t? If you’re going to get wound up over the riches of immoral characters, then don’t pretend like it’s not out of envy. Don’t pretend that it’s not out of your own greed and the idea that God or the universe owes you something.

If you find yourself jealous of Paris Hilton’s riches, find a way to make yourself deserving of obtaining and maintaining wealth. The opportunities are there. Take advantage.

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