Skip to content
Harvard Business School Logo

Most of the 21st century’s American billionaires have achieved unprecedented personal wealth by creating and growing companies that leveraged new technologies. These included widespread internet access, search engines, on-line shopping with rapid deliveries, social networks connecting friends and family, movies and video streaming on demand, and electric vehicles. In doing so, they added to American GDP growth, created many new jobs, and made major contributions to philanthropies whose missions include reducing the impact of diseases, alleviating poverty, addressing climate change, and otherwise having favorable impacts on millions of lives.

But in this process have they also weakened our democracy? Some say they have done so by exerting excessive political power, amplifying income maldistribution, skirting and thereby weakening our laws, and diminishing market competition, thus making things more difficult for other potential billionaires. So, in our discussion group we will pursue three questions:

1. Can the good they do be enhanced?
2. Can the bad they are alleged to do be diminished without hurting the good?
3. If so, how?

To broaden your perspective on these questions, we suggest you read some or all of the following articles; each one is short, and should take no more than five minutes or so to read:


Source Document: 

The 50 Wealthiest American Billionaires

Recommended Readings: 

1. Balanced View:  The Economics of Billionaires  

2. Billionaires Too Powerful?:  How Elon Musk Came to Influence the Fates of Nations

3. Political Influence:  Billionaires Bet Big to Influence 2022 Elections

4. Philanthropy:The Giving Pledge

5. The True Cost of Billionaire Philanthropy  


Suggested Readings:

1. Negative View: The One Way to Stop Billionaires from Ruining Democracy

2. Political Influence: American Billionaires Spent a Record $880 Billion on the U.S. Midterm Elections

3. Lobbying: Apple Ramped up Lobbying Spending in 2022, Out Pacing Tech Peers

4. Lobbying: Open Secrets

5. Just For Fun: Mark Zuckerberg’s Daily Routine

6. Negative View: New York Times book review of Dark Money by Jane Mayer

7. Background:  Forbes Real Time Billionaires


Webinar Information 
Date:  Tuesday, February 13th
Time: 10:00-11:30 AM


This event will be held on Zoom and your webinar link will be sent the morning of the event at 9:00am from  If you do not receive this email, please contact If the event is taking place before 9:00am, you will receive it the day before.

Pricing Information 
HBS Association of Boston Members - Complimentary
General Public - Complimentary