Just like the robber barons of yesteryear, today’s newly minted centi-millionaires and billionaires are feeling pangs of guilt regarding their fortunate circumstances. And what better way for that guilt to manifest than fear of the apocalypse!
The phenomenon of “doomsday prepping” may have started with rednecks in Arkansas, scared that the government was coming to “take their guns.” But one should never underestimate how much unites the proles and the ruling class. In the Trump era, Silicon Valley nabobs and NYC hedge funders are keeping their jets fueled, their bags backed, their decommissioned nuclear silos stocked and their currencies encrypted.
“I think, to some degree, we all collectively take it on faith that our country works, that our currency is valuable, the peaceful transfer of power—that all of these things that we hold dear work because we believe they work. While I do believe they’re quite resilient, and we’ve been through a lot, certainly we’re going to go through a lot more,” Steve Huffman, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, told the New Yorker.
Huffman is an active doomsday prepper, who recently received eye surgery so that he can go without glasses in a life-or-death scenario. He has also stockpiled motorcycles, guns, ammunition and food.
Huffman is in good company among California venture capitalists and the tech elite. He estimates that more than 50 percent of tech billionaires have some sort of “apocalypse insurance,” in the form of a bunker in the U.S. or in New Zealand — a favorite doomsday escape.
It’s a tendency that seems ironic within an industry known for its cliched optimism about it’s ability to make the world a better place through technology. In fact, they are afraid they have done just the opposite.
“It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike,” Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, told the New Yorker, “the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared. I typically ask people, ‘So you’re worried about the pitchforks. How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?’”
It’s much the same feeling in NYC, where the the finance elite are all too aware that the current distribution of wealth in the U.S. is similar to that in the Republic of Congo. They are worried that the poor will eventually revolt and that a Trump administration has made things even more volatile.
“The media is under attack now. They wonder, Is the court system next? Do we go from ‘fake news’ to ‘fake evidence’? For people whose existence depends on enforceable contracts, this is life or death,” Robert Dugger, a former lobbyist and hedge fund manager who has retired to invest, told the New Yorker.
“Anyone who’s in this community knows people who are worried that America is heading toward something like the Russian Revolution,” he added.