Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Living the good life

In a WSJ opinion piece, Andy Kessler--former hedge fund manager--takes the bold step of noting what is undoubtedly true yet roundly ignored, when it come to the issue of wealth and income inequality in America:
For the most part, the wealthy bust their tail, work 60-80 hour weeks building some game-changing product for the mass market, but at the end of the day they can't enjoy much that the middle class doesn't also enjoy.
Despite the brouhaha over the wealth gap, despite the Occupy movements, despite the class warfare-laden rhetoric of the President and his sycophants, the truth is that a rather large portion--much greater than 50%, hardly that fabled 1%--enjoy access to a myriad of things that are, without a doubt, luxuries.

Just the other day I was in GameStop buying a gift card for a present. And in there with me was a family--a mother, father, and a couple of sonst--looking for a videogame. Not to be overly elitist, but is was clear they were not wealthy, just in that working class American range. When the store employee asked them what system the game would be for, the mother replied "oh, it doesn't matter, we have them all."

Really? All of them? Xbox, PS3, and Wii? And no doubt games for all. They all had cellphones too, I'll wager. And cable TV, at the very least, if not satellite. What else? A computer or two? Probably.

And that's standard fare. Much fun was had by myself and others from mocking the Occupy crowd that likely decreased substantially on the day the new iPhone came out. They went from a crowd protesting the unfairness of Wall Street to a crowd waiting in line to get the very latest high-tech--and not unexpensive--gizmo.

We can rightly question whether or not people spending money on such luxuries are making wise choices. Many would do better saving a little more. But they're free to make that choice (right now, anyway). And the choice many make is to buy those things they don't really need but really want.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of this behavior, too. I don't need to buy a new laptop or a new TV. I don't need the premium channels I pay for. Hell, I don't need a DVR. I could make do without an iPhone (I actually did, for a long time). And my kids don't need all the video games they have, nor do they need their own cellphones. But I can afford these things and I choose to buy them.

The difference here is that I'm not whining about the unfairness of it all, about how I don't have fifty million in the bank. For those that are singing that song, what is it that they really want? Think about it. It's not all about the "things" the rich have. It can't be. The security? Maybe. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it's about naked envy and jealousy. It's about fulfilling the need for a little schadenfreude, wanting to see the people standing higher knocked down a peg or two.

Not a pretty thing, in my view.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. What, you mean the meme of "rich getting richer and poor getting poorer" doesn't really reflect reality? :)

    Anyway, your post reminded me of the time when my family first came to Israel. The country absorbed about 250k people in the space of a year, many of whom highly educated. It took several years (during which many more people came) for enough jobs to be produced to bring those people to jobs where they could have utilized their skills. In the meanwhile you had lots and lots of stories of people with PhD's sweaping the streets. My mom worked for half the minimum wage at a store (she has an engineering degree), my wife's parents (both engineers) cleaned staircases. I (a 13 year old kid) walked 40 minutes to my school and my dad used to go for an hour to the market. We didn't complain, we worked hard and in the end got through the rough patch. I still don't have an iPhone (probably won't because I don't think I need one) and still bust my butt to improve myself and to support my family. Me and my wife delayed having children for six years untill we had enough money to support them. The assumption by some people that I owe them anything is sometimes infuriating.

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