[Question] Billionaire Economics

I have progressive friends in my circles and so I see a lot of stuff like this:

As well as somewhat more eloquent takes like this one, and a number of similar things I haven’t bothered digging up.

But I notice that I’m still confused. The entry-level mistake (which some progressives do make) is thinking that having a net worth of $48 billion means that you have $48 billion sitting in a bank account somewhere. It’s clear that none of them have that kind of liquidity. I’ve even seen, very occasionally, back and forth takes on these issues. So not everyone is making this mistake.

Ok, I’m still confused. What is going on?

  • Possibly estimates like this are just way off on how much money it takes to solve problems. Is $20 billion really enough to end homelessness in the US? End for how long? The NYT suggests that we already spend about $12 billion (though perhaps not very well), and that’s per year! $300 billion does seem awfully optimistic for halting climate change. Maybe no one’s personal fortune is actually enough to do any of these things.

  • Still, with several billion dollars, you could probably do something. Let’s assume that there is at least one major, important thing you could do with a one-time investment of $20 billion (seems reasonable). Billionaires are well-informed, they probably know about whatever that thing is. There are several who could apparently afford it. Surely one of them would “defect” and burn half of their fortune on it? This suggests that either 1) billionaires really are universally evil just as progressives think, 2) no opportunity like this exists and billionaires are not, in practical terms, all that rich, or 3) billionaires can’t access all of their wealth for some reason.

  • (Or 4) billionaires do this already and I don’t know about it? IDK)

  • One angle on that last point is like this: If Mark Zuckerberg wanted to liquidate all $54.7 billion of his wealth to give it away to some cause (give every American… wow only $182.33, can that be right?), how quickly /​ easily could he do that? Would he be able to do it without any trouble? What are the barriers in his way? Does he simply not have access to that kind of liquidity?

I know that’s not especially clear but I hope that y’all can help me out. Any thoughts or discussion on these points would be welcome and appreciated. Thank you!