Monday, April 04, 2011

Our Cosmopolitan Overlords

Robin writes:

If there must be rich folks, what would you want them to be like? You might want:

  • They mostly work, instead of living lives of leisure.
  • They or their parents are mostly self made, vs. coming from long rich families. You probably sympathize more with parents wanting to help their kids than their great-great-grandkids.
  • They compete fiercely for positions in orgs that themselves compete strongly globally, assuring you their wealth isn’t from local insider clubs.
  • They don’t promote national conflicts or wars, but instead look to what’s good for the world.
  • They give most of their wealth away, to especially innovative and socially valuable charities.

Every one of these is wrong.

  • Working rich take jobs from people who actually need to earn a living.
  • The prevalence of multi-generational wealth is only an indicator of a lack of social mobility.  It is not a substitute for it. 
  • The jobs the rich take are likely to be high prestige, high value transference jobs.
  • I don’t want the rich to consider what’s good for the world.  I want them to consider what’s good for their fellow citizens.
  • Such charities to which the rich contribute are likely to be (1) universities, museums, and other institutions that benefit mainly other rich people or (2) organizations that further dispossess white middle-class Americans.

Robin then drops the other shoe:  his list of qualities describes the elite we actually have; with the exception of the third one, I agree.  But Robin, despite his valuable contributions to understanding human nature, remains an effete cosmopolitan, a man with no loyalty to nation or soil.  Of course he doesn’t mind that our elites undermine these things.  But many of us do.

But let me prescribe the one area in which the rich could make a positive contribution:  venture capitalism.  I would much rather the rich put their wealth at risk to create jobs and fund the next breakthrough technology that will improve our lives.  We don’t need or want any more charity or i-bankers.


Rollory said...

Your comments about work are wrong. Particularly when young, doing simple unskilled labor, and interacting with the people who do it, and being at the bottom of the authority pyramid, has extremely beneficial effects on character. I don't want rich people who think they can do no wrong - that is part of what we have right now. Not working leads to a sense of entitlement.

Calvin Coolidge's son worked summers on a farm during his father's presidency. Someone told him, "Man, if my dad was President, I wouldn't be working here!" The son replied: "You would if it was my dad."

That's exactly the right way to raise a rich kid. It's part of a necessary education.

The rich are also the best source of capital for investment and business creation. That is work too - a rich person who deserves his wealth isn't going to just give it away without any supervision. Jobs, and wealth, are not a zero-sum game - they can be created, there is not a fixed quantity to be divided up.

newt0311 said...

Working rich take jobs from people who actually need to earn a living.

This is a joke, right?

The working rich do jobs that nobody else could. To be an i-banker or high-level trader requires a very high IQ, a long track record of trustworthiness, very high education, etc... Only the working rich qualify. If the rich didn't work, these jobs wouldn't exist and current rhetoric aside, these jobs are critical in ensuring an efficient financial system.

Dr. Φ said...

Rollory: How many progeny of today's rich work on farms in their youth? Or McDonalds? Or any low-status job that creates value? As it is, I see no shortage of "sense of entitlement" among the rich.

Newt: I've seen where our high IQ i-bankers have got us. They would have done less damage spending their days yachting or whatever the leisure rich do.