Apple Inc. is expected to report Tuesday that its stockpile of cash has topped a quarter of a trillion dollars [actual source is the WSJ, but it’s paywalled there], an unrivaled corporate hoard that is greater than the market value of both Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. and exceeds the combined foreign-currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined.
The goal of a capitalist, free market-based society is that as companies get more successful, they invest their winnings back into the company, increasing productivity, hiring more people, and thus improving the overall state of the economy. While inherently flawed, this system has brought us a lot of good, and has lifted quite a number of people out of abject poverty.
However, one has to ask what individuals and corporations hoarding this much money as Apple is doing are contributing to society. Apple’s 250 billion dollars are locked away, and aren’t used for anything. Every day, Apple is extracting vast sums of wealth from society – as they should in a capitalist society – but they are no longer investing it back into society. And Apple isn’t alone in this, of course – a rich few are extracting immense amounts of wealth from society without giving back.
This breaks the traditional capitalist model.
Things like increased automation and robotisation are only going to accelerate this process. At some point, we’re going to have to stop and ask ourselves if this is tenable, and if not, what we are going to do about it. It goes against the core ‘values’ of die-hard capitalists, but we might reach a point where we have to forcibly – through law – take it from companies like Apple.