Good rich men or bad rich men?

Unusually, I quote below a communication from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous followed by three brief comments of my own.

“I personally don’t have a problem with people becoming extremely rich, if it is a result of their intellect and hard work.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin for example. It is even more admirable if a self-made millionaire started off in impoverished circumstances or from a very disadvantaged background.  It is interesting that many of the intelligent self-made super rich, from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates are extremely philanthropic and end up giving away most of their fortunes.

“But there is something utterly repellent about the unintellectual, bling-obsessed, super-rich who have colonised London, whose fortunes come from dubious or inherited circumstances — Russian oligarchs, Arab oil sheiks, well-connected Nigerians, British hereditary rich and aristocrats, ruthless Central Asian property spivs, etc. — and of course their descendants.  It is not just repellent, it is arguably unfair, because there is very little economic trickle down and yet the rich push up the cost of living for the poor (pushing up house prices — I think we need a mansion tax).

“Watching a TV programme tonight on the super-rich spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on individual items of jewellery or clothing in Britain’s trashiest neighbourhoods, Knightsbridge and Mayfair, makes one think socialists sometimes have a point. . . ”

My comments:

1. I think the comments of your first paragraph reflect the fact that they are products of your culture.  You cannot avoid being partial to them, compared with:

2. The second bunch of rich men belong to a culture where we can’t make a true comparison between their abilities and those in the first paragraph.

3. It is better that money spent on luxury status goods sold in Knightsbridge and Mayfair shops starts circulating among the lower paid immediately after purchase rather than collectibles which, more often than not, are bought from the already existing rich and remains unused and out of sight of everybody except among their own kind — in short, un-circulating wealth.

The latter difference also occurs whether a prime London house remains empty and bought purely for possible capital appreciation or for family living with servants and spending on suppliers and ancillary tradesmen.

The only solution that would go a very long way to ironing out the anomalies as well as circulate money more widely would be a status goods tax.

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