Wealth - Ostentations Or Frugal?

By way of the Barrister at Maggie's Farm comes links to two related posts dealing with wealth and how the wealthy actually deal with it.

One has to admit that the wealthy handle their wealth in different ways, running between over-the-top ostentatious displays of how much money they have to being frugal and appearing no different than any other middle income family.

An example of the second: Sam Walton, founder of WalMart. The man was worth billions yet lived in the same ranch-style house he'd lived in for years and drove his old pickup. Perhaps the only display of his wealth was that both his home and pickup were in good repair.

Another example (though not quite so humble in comparison to Walton): Mitt Romney. About the only time he'll spend a lot of money is to spoil his wife, Ann. Otherwise he takes the attitude of “Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should buy it.”

The flip side of the coin are those who revel in the wealth very few can understand, with multimillion dollar mansions, private jets, yachts, exotic cars, and vacations to all the “right” places. It is this group that has done more to fuel the fires of class warfare. What's worse is that many of them have no problems promoting social agendas from which their wealth will insulate them. Talk about hypocrisy!

Then there's those who believe that wealth is a Zero Sum game, meaning they believe that in order for one person to become wealthy that someone else had to be impoverished. It's an oft repeated myth.

As P.J O'Rourke writes:

They believe in the Zero Sum Fallacy -- the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life. Anything I get, I'm taking from you. If I have too many slices of pizza, you have to eat the Dominos box. The Zero Sum Fallacy is a bad idea -- dangerous to economics, politics, and world peace. It means any time we want good things we have to fight with each other to get them. We don't. We can make more good things. We can make more pizza -- or more tofu, windmills and solar panels, if you like.

As I have argued on more than one occasion, wealth has not been measured by how much gold, silver, jewels, or other valuable items you have managed to steal from your rivals since the Industrial Revolution. The size of the proverbial pie is not static. It grows and shrinks as the economic conditions dictate. Everyone can get more pie if their willing to work for it.

That still doesn't mean that I'm all right with those clueless low-class wealthy who seem to think that the only way to win the 'game' is to be even shallower than their neighbors and to dazzle the 'little people' with overpriced and, in the end, useless gewgaws, doodads, and dreck.