Good ideas that benefit the masses are the keys to becoming rich
By Dr. Rainer Zitelmann, TES Contributor
A son of Turkish immigrants has become a multi-billionaire thanks to an innovative Covid-19 vaccine. Wealth is the reward for anyone who has good ideas that create benefits for the masses – regardless of their background.
“Ideas Will Make Your Rich” is the name of one of the chapters in my book Dare to Be Different and Grow Rich https://daretobedifferentandgrowrich.com/, in which I analyze the life stories of successful entrepreneurs. Some people claim that most rich people inherited their fortunes – the figures prove the opposite. According to Forbes, seven of the ten richest Americans are self-made entrepreneurs and only three are heirs.
Other people say that the key to wealth is hard work. In my opinion, being particularly industrious does play a role in building a fortune, but there is no shortage of people who spend their entire lives working hard without ever getting rich. So, being industrious is clearly not the most decisive factor.
No, it is good ideas that make people rich. The kind of ideas that benefit millions and millions of people. Like the ideas envisioned by Sam Walton, who became one of the richest Americans with his powerful idea – Walmart – and made it possible for consumers all over America to benefit from shopping more affordably. Or Jeff Bezos, who had an incredible idea with Amazon. Or Elon Musk, a man who is a wellspring of astonishing ideas.
Others say that people only get rich by taking something from others. This is called “zero-sum thinking,” which Bertolt Brecht described in his 1934 poem Alfabet:
“Said the poor man with a twitch,
Were I not poor, you would not be rich.”
This is precisely the picture many intellectuals have of economic life. According to this logic, rich countries are obliged to hand over a portion of their wealth to poorer countries and rich individuals should share their wealth with the poor. After all, if life really is a zero-sum game, the only reason there are still so many poor people is because the rich are selfish and greedy. And yes, in earlier societies, wealth was often founded on theft – small numbers of people enriched themselves at the expense of others. The market system, on the other hand, functions in a completely different way. It is founded on the principle that, if you can satisfy the needs of as many people as possible, you will become rich. That is the logic of the market.
But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at a ranking of the world’s richest people and you will see that they did not become rich by taking things away from others. They built their fortunes as entrepreneurs by adding significant value to society as a whole.
Some say that members of minorities or “people of color” have no chance because society’s economic and political “structures” place them at a disadvantage. In Germany, Turkish-Germans are one such minority. But Ugor Sahin, the child of Turkish immigrants, has secured his place on the list of the 500 richest people in the world thanks to his intelligence and hard work – but above all, thanks to his innovative ideas and entrepreneurial courage. He founded BioNTech, the company that together with Pfizer has launched the world’s first effective Covid-19 vaccine. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Sahin’s net worth has now reached approximately €5 billion. Of course, not everyone can achieve what Sahin has achieved. But success stories like Ugor Sahin’s can certainly serve as an inspiration and motivation to us all.
Now we can only hope that Sahin’s vaccine can deliver on its initial promises. If it does, this will be just the beginning of an even greater success story as Sahin exploits his new medical technologies to develop anti-cancer treatments.
What do you think? Do you experience envy and resentment when you think about Sahin and other billionaires, or do you take inspiration from his incredible life story?
Rainer Zitelmann is a historian and sociologist and author of the recent book The Rich in Public Opinion, published by Cato Institute https://therichinpublicopinion.com/.