[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!