Join 3,552 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Easy money
April 14, 2008 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Who said anything about a recession? Sometime between the government bailout of Bear Stearns and the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that America lost 80,000 jobs in March, Lee Tachman, a Wall Street banker, spent roughly $50,000 last month on a four-day jaunt to Miami for himself and three close friends.

“It was just all out — it was insane,” said Mr. Tachman. “I’m not afraid to spend money like that.”
posted by The Jesse Helms (259 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Only $50,000 for 4 days? Poor guy. Damn libruls wouldn't let them be fully reimbursed, I guess.
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on April 14, 2008


If I had it, I wouldn't be afraid to spend money like that either.
posted by m0nm0n at 7:46 AM on April 14, 2008


I finally had to stop getting mad that people do this, because especially in New York (which is a playground for this sort of behavior) there is literally no end to how angry one can get, and how often. And taking care of myself with what little I have is much harder if I'm constantly furious at things beyond my control. It's impossible to be generous in a world like this if you're angry-- and opportunities to cultivate a truly generous spirit are some of the few sublime advantages of carving out a meager existence.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2008 [21 favorites]


About 4 billion people on Earth would be angry and appalled at the money you spent last weekend, too.
What's your point?
posted by rocket88 at 7:53 AM on April 14, 2008 [12 favorites]


Well, I'm glad these corporate welfare recipients are at least putting some of if back into the economy. Not sure what the message is. Would we prefer that he hoarded his cash, moved it all offshore to Grand Cayman, and only spent it in Gstaad or Dubai?

It could be worse, but let's put away those pitchforks and axes, at least for the time being.
posted by psmealey at 7:55 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


People who have money will often spend it [shrug]. I know that whenever Elton John comes to Toronto (is he still with his Toronto-born partner?) the economy gets a sizeable cash injection.
posted by orange swan at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2008


spent roughly $50,000 last month on a four-day jaunt to Miami for himself and three close friends.

Companies and individual investors have to go to Wall Street to gain access to credit and liquidity. At the end of the day, Wall Street gets theirs right from the government.

Maybe it's time to cut out the middleman? At some point the cost of government inefficiency is less than the overhead of Wall Street. If we going to loot the treasury - and that is what these new "innovative investment vehicles" amount to - let everyone do it.
posted by three blind mice at 7:57 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


I spend money like that too. Not on such a grand scale but when I spend, oh boy, it's like a dollar here, a dollar there. Why just the other day I went on a forty minute jaunt to Whole Foods. I watched cheese cracking. Cheese cracking! I tasted fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and had two plastic jello shooter cups worth of red wine from Italy. It's all out! Insane! I'm not afraid to spend money like that.
posted by robtf3 at 7:58 AM on April 14, 2008 [11 favorites]


I assume everybody upset about this is posting from their one room hovel while wearing nothing but one of their two burlap outfits which they handwash in a stream while using nothing but renewable resources to power their single lightbulb.
posted by Justinian at 7:59 AM on April 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


So, $3,125 per person per day? Oh em eff gee.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:00 AM on April 14, 2008


Uh... so the story here is "People with money and reasonable financial security spend money on things they like". My outrage is lacking.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:00 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


They're just white trash with cash.
posted by nicolin at 8:01 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't get the second link in the FPP, how's it connect?
posted by humannaire at 8:03 AM on April 14, 2008


Maybe it's time to cut out the middleman? At some point the cost of government inefficiency is less than the overhead of Wall Street. If we going to loot the treasury - and that is what these new "innovative investment vehicles" amount to - let everyone do it.

We're already there, all you need is start up capital, and you can go ahead and hang out your own shingle. This is pretty much what hedge funds are. They basically exploit loopholes in the SEC regulations to trade in unregulated securities (the barrier used to be a lot higher). Basically anyone CAN enter that business, but obviously, the startup costs and capitalization requirements are steep.
posted by psmealey at 8:04 AM on April 14, 2008


Yeah, that's pretty fucking gross, but ultimately, what the hell does it have to do with normal human beings? The overprivileged live like they're overprivileged. That isn't new.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:09 AM on April 14, 2008


There seems to be some confusion in this thread between two ideas:

1) People who spend what seems a lot of money on stuff that seems not that important and/or selfish. Obviously standards vary.

2) People who previously claimed they needed money to survive and then spent it all on a frivolous vacation. I remember a lot of outrage from the rightwing a few Katrina victims used their $1000 to buy TVs. I assume those same wingers are now upset that government bailout money apparently also goes to Miami nightclubs.
posted by DU at 8:09 AM on April 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't get it. If I was ultrarich I'd be throwing money everywhere, the state of the economy be damned. $50K would be a mere drop in the piss-bucket.
posted by illiad at 8:13 AM on April 14, 2008


the really funny part is that this guy's predecessors on Wall Street around 1933, badly fucked up by a crisis of their own making, were on their fucking knees begging, let me repeat this, begging FDR to nationalize their banks.

and of all people it had to be FDR -- who by todays' FoxNews standards was slightly to the left of where Hugo Chavez is today, totalitarian ambitions included (just check out the court packing plan) -- not to lose their marbles, to sit tight, that there was no need to nationalize them and help was on the way.

just to give a bit of historical perspective, that's all.
posted by matteo at 8:16 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


“When times get tough, the smart spend money,” said David Monn

Holy crap, I just found a button on my keyboard that lets me knee people in the groin over the Internets!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:18 AM on April 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


So a bunch of guys with money spend it on a blow-out weekend. What do you think happens to that money? It's not like they set it on fire. It got returned to the economy, some of it to people that need it more. Would you rather they had stuck it in some hedge fund where it would do nothing but be shuffled back and forth for years?

But I'm glad we're all outraged. So outraged we posted about it on the internet on our $2000 Macbooks while listening to tunes on our $400 ipods and watching HDTV on the $1500 36" LCD flatscreens.
posted by Justinian at 8:18 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought the funny part was the former FDA agents whoring themselves out as paintball targets.
posted by srboisvert at 8:20 AM on April 14, 2008


The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. News at 11.
posted by photoslob at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2008


$3300/person/day is expensive, but it's not Kanye West–style extravagance.
posted by Mister_A at 8:22 AM on April 14, 2008


Well, if nobody else is outraged I might as well be. To make the claim that nobody has the right to condemn these fuckers for being greedy shits just because we all have SOME money is missing the point. Not living in a burlap sack is slightly different than not spending $150,000 a year on watches. I don't consider myself at all deprived, but am currently living on my wife's 3 day per week nurse's salary, and, in response to rocket88, I spent $0 last weekend, on nothing. Although my wife did spend some on food, so I guess we have no right to say anything about people who devote their lives to maximum consumption, all the time.
Here's the way I see it: if you're absolutely the most skilled, amazing, one of a kind person in your field, and you get paid the most ridiculous amount I could possibly condone under any circumstances, it would come out to, say $200 an hour. And that's ridiculous but I'm being generous. And if you're crazy and work 70 hours a week that's $14,000 a week. And if you work 52 weeks a year and skip out on your taxes, as any good rich person will, that's $728,000 a year. Therefore my conclusion is that it's IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to be richer than this without SOMEONE getting screwed.
A bitter post from a bitter guy. Oh, and eco-tourism? That's tourism painted green, that's rich people taking jetliners to foreign ports to sleep in grass huts, and while it probably does give some poor people a few extra bucks, ecologically it's the same old crap.
Regarding the post from [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST]: I totally agree, and I wish I was evolved enough to think like that. But I'm not. I'm PISSED OFF. And I'm even more pissed off that these people aren't plumbers or cabinetmakers or farmers. They're people who play with other people's money, or people who pretend to be someone else in front of a camera, or people who are incredibly good at putting a little ball into a hole/net/goal. Some of them are entrepeneurs, and some are criminals. None of them are particularly essential. Please note I'm referring to their roles as ultra rich consumers, not to them as individuals. I'm not agitating for a 1789-style heads on pikes scenario, nor do I want this to be some simplistic "eat the rich" post. They're probably fatty anyway. I'm talking about the role they're playing, and the economic/political/social system that allows them to pay it. [sic]
The great melting pot. The scum rises to the top, and the ones on the bottom get burned. I should stress it's not ME I'm talking about. I have enough and actually enjoy living on very little. If I was rich I'd just be a bigger asshole than I already am. But I am reminded of an elderly lady I gave a ride to years ago, when I was a taxi driver briefly. Where was she going? To the vet with her cat. To have it killed because she couldn't afford to feed it. A maudlin but true story.
I'm usually very impressed with the intelligence and sensitivity of posters on this site. But this sort of urbane, disengaged 'ah well, so let 'em flaunt it' attitude is disturbing to me.
I know that this ANGER does not facilitate my spiritual awakening. But I am ANGRY, so the HONESTY must be good for something.
I don't look forward to the great economic crash that is looming.
But then again, maybe I do.
posted by arcadia at 8:24 AM on April 14, 2008 [19 favorites]


On preview:
36" flatscreen? Haha poor-y poorington!!!11!

*Lights Cuban cigar, which was smuggled in by one of a cadre of hot Latina drug mules, with $50 bill*
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on April 14, 2008


I take it, arcadia, that you're completely confident that if a huge fortune fell into your lap you would give it all away and continue living as you do now.
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on April 14, 2008


"But I'm glad we're all outraged. So outraged we posted about it on the internet on our $2000 Macbooks while listening to tunes on our $400 ipods and watching HDTV on the $1500 36" LCD flatscreens."

This is a bit silly. I'm writing this on an IBM Thinkpad from around 1998, that cost me $300 about 5 years ago. I have no ipod and a borrowed TV. So let's leave the "we're all equally rich" bit, shall we? Saying I can't insult a multizillionaire because I'm not starving, is like saying I can't be against murder because I once punched somebody. There is a place for judgement in this world, isn't there? Or should we all just accept everything, all the time, whatever.
posted by arcadia at 8:29 AM on April 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


It's hardly surprising that rich people spend money. But the stuff this guy is doing on his vacation -- jets, helicopters, Ferraris, Hummer limos -- is basically just taking one big dump all over the environment. Yeah, I'd rather see rich people pumping money into the economy than not, but can't he just buy a few Van Goghs or something?
posted by gurple at 8:30 AM on April 14, 2008


But I'm glad we're all outraged. So outraged we posted about it on the internet on our $2000 Macbooks while listening to tunes on our $400 ipods and watching HDTV on the $1500 36" LCD flatscreens.

Oh yeah, well, I am so serious about the oncoming economic catastrophe that I'm composing this using bongo drums in this little box I live in. I wired the drums to a convertor that I spliced directly into an overhead cable line. When I want a zero I hit the little drum, the big drum is for ones.

(I think we can justifiably be unhappy about hypocrisy in the financial industry even if we have a little bit of money ourselves.)
posted by blacklite at 8:33 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nope, I would spend every penny of it on as large a piece of land as I could find, and I would then move there, and live very differently than I do now. I'd sit under the trees and watch the animals frolic.
The only way to test my honesty is to send me a large fortune. Canadian currency please.
posted by arcadia at 8:33 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Walk a mile in my Nikes, made in Indonesia by 12-year-olds, and then recalal Joe Hill's dying words
"don't mourn for me, boys, organize"
posted by Postroad at 8:34 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is pretty much what hedge funds are. They basically exploit loopholes in the SEC regulations to trade in unregulated securities (the barrier used to be a lot higher). Basically anyone CAN enter that business, but obviously, the startup costs and capitalization requirements are steep.

Yes, but I want to run a legitimate business. Where do I get the start-up capital to manufacture widgets? Unless I have wealthy friends, I go to these creeps on Wall Street - and they (ultimately) go to Uncle Sam.

Why can't I cut Wall Street out and do like JP Morgan and get the money right from the printing press?

What value do they add? Is this value worth the cost (to me and to society)? Would my costs (and the cost to society) be lower if Ben Bernanke would cut me the check directly?
posted by three blind mice at 8:38 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I'm glad we're all outraged. So outraged we posted about it on the internet on our $2000 Macbooks while listening to tunes on our $400 ipods and watching HDTV on the $1500 36" LCD flatscreens.

I don't have any of that stuff. Can I be disgusted now? Is it ever ok for someone to be disgusted at the perceived profligacy of others, or do you have to have absolutely nothing first? Would it be ok for someone who lives on $2 a day to be upset at this extravagance, or would he have to stfu because the guy who lives in the hut next door only gets $1 a day? I get that we're vastly privileged compared to most of the world's population. What I don't get is that they're allowed to be envious of or disgusted by us, but we're not allowed the same courtesy when it comes to people who are as far beyond us as we are beyond those who look at us with those eyes. At what income level do you lose the right to think, "that's just gross"?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can definitely be pissed and angry off all you want, arcadia. It's a free country. Just having wrestled my own demons (and more or less coming out in a better place than I was) with respect to bitterness, jealousy and competitiveness, I know that reacting in that way did not improve my well-being or quality of life.
posted by psmealey at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2008


Because I firmly believe that Hipocrisy is the absolute centerpiece of the Human condition, I would like to climb up on my high horse and say..

This dude's a cock. Spend it if you have it, but please, shut the hell up about it. Conspicuously spending is tacky.

In any case where you have to ask yourself if it's appropriate to flaunt, ask yourself..

WWWBD

(What would Warren Buffet do)
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bernard Mandeville wouldn't have had a problem with this. And neither do I.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2008


Oh yeah, not angry, just feel like throwing pinecones at the rich guy.

And I don't have any issues..

Money issues at least.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:41 AM on April 14, 2008


sigh. If any of these people are reading metafilter and feeling a little guilty about spending more in a weekend than I make in two years (after taxes), might I suggest you pay off my student loans and buy me a house, or some clothes that aren't three years old? Then you can spend $50,000 in one weekend guilt free.

Seriously though, it sucks that there are people this rich when I'm not one of them but there are people this rich and it's their money. I've learned that raging impotently against the unfairness of it all is a good way to make me want to slash my wrists but that's about all it accomplishes. Now I just take a deep breath, remind myself that there is no point in feeling anything at all about such things, and pour another drink. For anyone whose blood pressure skyrockets and rage goes off the chart over this sort of thing the way mine used to: let it go, you won't feel better but at least you won't be making yourself feel worse.

And to all you rich people: can I have some money, please?
posted by Grod at 8:46 AM on April 14, 2008


It got returned to the economy, some of it to people that need it more.

Like former federal employees who run a paintball store, exotic rental companies, who-ers (you know they did) and the guys that bought Gianni's place. Yup, I'm sure all that cheddar went directly to people who need it more.

Am I the only one here that sees this article as propaganda aimed consoling the moneyed class? Or was it a slow day at the Times?
posted by jsavimbi at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mandeville arrives at a very contemporaneously vile conclusion: vice as a necessary condition for economic prosperity.

The problem with Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" dictum is that "greed" is accompanied by all the other vices. There is a difference between earning money and contriving - through complicated financial instruments - to steal it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grod, I will give you some money, but you will have to whore yourself out as a paintball target in order to earn it.
posted by Mister_A at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2008


psmealey, your point is well taken. I agree with everything you say with the following provisos:
1 - in my opinion 'it's a free country' should be changed to 'it's a freer country than some, depending on your definition of freedom'.
2 - I am bitter, but I can guarantee you I'm not jealous of or competitive with these people, just disgusted. I wouldn't change places with them for anything. Although I would gladly take all of their money, in order to, as stated above, buy up as much land as I could and just let it be. I am absolutely not being snide when I congratulate you on overcoming your bitterness, and I hope I can do the same one day. In the meantime, just trying to be honest. And I am truly, honestly pissed off.
Spacelegoman: gimme some mockery, I can take it. I won't press charges, promise.
posted by arcadia at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2008


If I had that kind of money there would be dump trucks filled with unadulterated Afghani heroin and Bolivian cocaine continually off-loading into a bubbling cauldron the size of an Olympic swimming pool attached via a firehose to my jugular vein.
posted by The Straightener at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It might be that I've become too used to London's (current) property prices and the strong pound, but when I saw this "a $400,000 project to combine and restore two apartments into a three-bedroom, three-bath co-op on the Upper West Side" I thought it sounded like an absolute bargain.
posted by jimbaud at 8:50 AM on April 14, 2008


let me sum this up...

"who cares?"
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 AM on April 14, 2008


when I saw this "a $400,000 project to combine and restore two apartments into a three-bedroom, three-bath co-op on the Upper West Side" I thought it sounded like an absolute bargain.

I don't think that includes the price of the apartments.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:54 AM on April 14, 2008


I feel guilty spending $50 at Whole Foods, and all I have to show for it is an apple and a sandwich.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:57 AM on April 14, 2008 [11 favorites]


"...providers of luxury goods reported anecdotal evidence of a widening gap between the merely rich and the ultrarich."

Rich is the new poor!
posted by arcadia at 9:02 AM on April 14, 2008


That place is ricockulous.
posted by Mister_A at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2008


I was mad initially, but then I remembered that my union just negotiated a new contract where I'm going to get about $750 in retroactive backpay, most of which I'll spend on fun stuff.
posted by jonmc at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2008


whatever, man, this shit has nothing on glamping!
posted by mano at 9:04 AM on April 14, 2008


Nope, I would spend every penny of it on as large a piece of land as I could find, and I would then move there, and live very differently than I do now. I'd sit under the trees and watch the animals frolic.

So you'd be exactly as selfish as these guys, and all your bile is simply because the stuff that makes these guys happy isn't the same stuff that makes you happy? Wow. Honest, at least.

I don't have any of that stuff. Can I be disgusted now?

Anybody can be disgusted at anything they want; I'm suggesting that there are far more important and significant things to be disgusted at than a bunch of rich guys spending money that gets turned right around into the economy here in the united states. It's not like the billions and billions that get pissed away on bullets and bombs that explode over a desert somewhere thousands of miles away.
posted by Justinian at 9:04 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


besides, with the new inflation, $50,000 isn't going to pay for dinner and a movie in 20 years. so in a way, maybe he's making a smart decision to enjoy waste spend large chunks of his money now.
posted by mano at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2008


arcadia: Your vanity is showing.

This thread reminds me of the much repeated Mencken line that Puritanism is the haunting fear that somewhere, somebody might be having fun.
posted by rusty at 9:09 AM on April 14, 2008


Yeah, dude. One more in a long line of assholes. The world will never run out them, and Asshole Inc. is an equal opportunity employer. Shit happens.
posted by worbid411 at 9:12 AM on April 14, 2008


I don't have any of that stuff. Can I be disgusted now?

and just think, when his kids graduate from college they will be slumming it in some hip yet-to-be gentrified warehouse district of some city because they don't have what everyone else does (that authentic poverty experience). the real trick would be marketing that to parents like this. maybe a backroom deal with the parents...

"give your beloved children the transgression they crave, the safe way. we'll look out for your little johnny in return for 25% of his trust fund. he'll think he's having an authentic train-hopping dumpster-diving gutter-punk experience but we'll secretly buy the warehouse "squat" and fix it up proper, and we'll always keep a step ahead of him, paying off the engineer of that freight train to slow it down an extra 10 mph, and planting your choice of groceries from whole foods in the trash bin for him to pick out."
posted by mano at 9:15 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's your point?

outrage, dude! the manna of youth.
posted by quonsar at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


As depressing as the idea of spending that much money is to me ($50k could be a good chunk of my mortgage, or all of my other debts, plus newer cars for my wife and I, or a year of not working, and laying around drinking and playing video-games all day),

As unfair as that may seem, I'm willing to bet that the people in Miami, who were on the service side of helping this person and their friends for a weekend, were happy to see that kind of money come into their hands.
posted by quin at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2008


Someone explain it to me. How is buying a huge piece of land and protecting it from human predation the same as zooming about with your pals in jets, helicopters, Hummers, etc. etc.
I know I come across as arrogant, and maybe I should just shut up. Maybe I'm as selfish as these people I'm judging, but I can't see see that my actions would be as ecologically damaging as theirs. Quite the opposite. The accusation of 'vanity' is quite amusing. But then you've never met me so you can't be expected to know just what a sorry specimen of humanity I actually am.
These guys get their kicks rocketing around in high powered vehicles. I get my kicks imagining them crashing. Maybe we're all part of some grand plan.
posted by arcadia at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2008


Mister_A, technically that's not 'giving,' it's more like employing, but beggars can't be choosers.
posted by Grod at 9:23 AM on April 14, 2008


It's not like the billions and billions that get pissed away on bullets and bombs that explode over a desert somewhere thousands of miles away.

Massive consumption of petroleum via Hummer, helicopter, Ferrari and jet plane absolutely does contribute to the bullets and bombs exploding over a desert somewhere. The relationship isn't particularly subtle.
posted by gurple at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


The existence of this kind of concentrated wealth in a world where 30,000 people starve to death every day is an intolerable abomination.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:28 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


for himself and three close friends

Lee, I'm sorry about that thing, I swear!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:29 AM on April 14, 2008


I'll echo what someone else here said: conspicuous spending like this is tacky, but money can't buy taste, now can it?
posted by tgrundke at 9:30 AM on April 14, 2008


Emphasizing gurple's point:

"Paul Parmar, a 37-year-old investor in companies specializing in health care, defense, media, luxury items and private aviation, says he is living just as large as ever."

Given that this is the USA, for "defense", read "offense". The billions getting pissed away on bullets and bombs are being taken FROM taxpayers, getting pissed TO people like Mr. Parmar, who then pisses them BACK to (or on) the taxpayers (but the taxpayers have to work for them again, natch). Nice little system.

Yes, yes, Mr. Parmar pays taxes too. Yadda yadda yadda. We're all the same. I'm not allowed to judge because I ate today. Spare me.
posted by arcadia at 9:31 AM on April 14, 2008


Being poor isn't such a drag, and though the realization that I've been working a damn lot of unpaid hours so that I can get into grad school and then be even poorer for the next five years (and probably work a hell of a lot more unpaid hours) stings a little, I'm still pretty glad that it doesn't cost me fifty large to have a fun weekend with my friends.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:32 AM on April 14, 2008


EnvyFilter.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


About 4 billion people on Earth would be angry and appalled at the money you spent last weekend, too.
What's your point?


Let them eat cake?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 AM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


People who have money spend money, film at 11.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:35 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let them eat cake?

Oh man, I LOVE cake!
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:36 AM on April 14, 2008


I don't care how they spend their money as long as they don't look for a handout (for themselves or their corporations) when things collapse. If you have that much disposable (savable) money in your pockets and you know the economy is coming into a bad spot, and you still spend like that, the only aid you deserve when trouble finally comes is directions to the nearest unemployment office.
posted by pracowity at 9:38 AM on April 14, 2008


Maybe I'm as selfish as these people I'm judging, but I can't see see that my actions would be as ecologically damaging as theirs.

Well, here we are then. I don't see "ecological damage" as the sole criterion upon which things should be judged. One factor, maybe, but not the only one. So you'd spend the fortune on buying up a bunch of land and not letting humans on it. These guys spend it on restaurants and hotels where people, even low income people, work.

It's not at all clear to me that what they do doesn't contribute more to humanity as a whole than what you'd do.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 AM on April 14, 2008


I'm not allowed to judge because I ate today. Spare me.

You're allowed to judge, and other people are allowed to evaluate your judgment.
posted by Justinian at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It doesn't disgust me that these people spend the money they have on useless expensive crap.

It disgusts me that they have no worries about their financial well being, despite the current mess in the financial sector which is largely their fault. The government has basically bailed them out, and left the people without millions in the bank to take the fall.
posted by inthe80s at 9:44 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm as happy to see people happy as the next guy, but frankly the only thing I particularly want to contribute to humanity is massive birth control. Ecological damage is pretty much the only criterion that I judge things on (I'm exaggerating for effect, but you get the point). So look around; maybe that's why I'm so angry.
Human population has doubled in the last 50 +/- years. The gap between rich and poor has multiplied by some other factor that I don't know. So for every self absorbed, petroleum guzzling dickhead that existed in 1958, there are now X number of the same. We're accelerating towards a large brick wall and for the most part nobody's paying any attention. That's why I'm angry. The idea that I'm 'envious' of these people is hilarious. In kind of a sick way. It's true I'm contributing to the same problem, I'm about as far from pure as a person can be. But I didn't have any kids, so my damage ends with me.
Hey, that should get some good replies.
posted by arcadia at 9:49 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


If he has to brag about dropping $50K, he is overcompensating about something.

Arcadia, could I have squatter rights on a little corner of all that land? I'll move to Canada.
posted by francesca too at 9:54 AM on April 14, 2008


I hung out with a guy at a party a couple weekends ago. Great guy, lots of laughs, I like him a lot.

His hobby is flying a Cessna. Rising fuel costs are making it a bit more difficult for him, but he's still able to take his little plane up, recreationally, a few times a month.

Great guy, lots of laughs. I like him a lot. I can't help but think, though, that despite the important work he does with clinical trials of medical devices, his single most profound impact on the world is going to be the amount of oil he guzzled while he was on the planet.

Same with these rich dickholes and their Hummers and jets, though I somehow doubt that they're also great guys I'd like to hang out with.
posted by gurple at 9:55 AM on April 14, 2008


The one thing I want to contribute to humanity is "massive birth control"...

and an inflated idea of my importance. TWO things! "massive birth control", an inflated idea of my own importance, and a list of hackneyed, shrill doomsday talking points. THREE things!
posted by Mister_A at 9:57 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


rocket88: "About 4 billion people on Earth would be angry and appalled at the money you spent last weekend, too.
What's your point?
"

The point is the guy, who is a lousy professional, takes subsidies from the government to have fun, and he don't even hide it. He should have the decency to not show off.
posted by zouhair at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2008


but money can't buy taste, now can it?

money creates taste
posted by normy at 10:04 AM on April 14, 2008


"hackneyed, shrill, and doomsday"
Too bad I didn't have kids, because these would have been great names for the first three...
posted by arcadia at 10:04 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm glad you've got a sense of humor, Arcadia, and I hope you get that piece of land someday.
posted by Mister_A at 10:08 AM on April 14, 2008


Life is unfair.

Sorry there is no morally tenable justification for being pissed at people spending their own money as they see fit as long as it isn't hurting anyone. In fact it's good rich people spend their money. It's what rich people are FOR.

Maybe this guy gives 2 million dollars a year to charity? Who knows.

You can justifiably be mad at how a person makes their money if it exploits or causes harm. And certainly Wall Street is a major contributor to out wasteful consumer greed lifestyle. But friends, most of us in the west are culpable to a one degree or another of over consuming — or at least being the benefactors of centuries of exploitation.

You can certainly point to the unfairness of the system, point to the vast amount of human misery around the planet and see the horrible irony of this guy spending enough to feed an African town for a year. But so what? Just like you, he didn't create the state of the world. And just like you he has every right to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Him simply spending more money than YOU is not the problem. How he makes is money is... just like how you make your money might be. You ever think of that?

Yes wanton materialism is bad. It's eating up the planet. Being rich isn't the problem. I's not as if most of you wouldn't want to be rich. I mean c'mon. Yeah. There is always somebody says "Not me. I don't need money like that.." Yeah. Right. Pardon me while I scoff and instead defer to every single fact we know about history and human nature.

Let me put it this way. I've been rich. And I've been poor. And rich is a whole lot better. Money doesn't buy happiness. But when you use it right (and it doesn't take a whole lot of it if you live wisely) it can buy you power over your own time.

The fact is if most of us have the chance I'm sure we would do something, that in somebodies eyes at least, would commit the sin of decadence. Fuck. Indoor plumbing and buttons on shirts are decadent to some people.

Quite whining about "I only have an 800 dollar laptop — I ain't rich!" Bullshit.

Do you understand how WELL you in the west live? We have heated homes. We have indoor plumbing - hot and cold running water. We have food from the four corners of the earth. Just about any kind of variety of food and spice and booze when ever you want it. We have every kind of imaginable entertainment at the touch of our fingers 24 hours a day. Our garbage is treasure. The garbage that blows down our streets at night — paper - what wee wipe our ASSES with— only a few centuries ago was so precious only the very rich could afford it. We, by and large, don't get scurvy, cholera, small pox, or yellow fever. What kills us is a result of how well we live. Only an hundred and fifty years ago KINGS never lived this good. Kings died of small pox and the god damned flu. All of us in the west we live lives previously reserved for Sultans and Maharajahs.

So I'm sorry if your cries of poverty fall on deaf ears to me. This outrage is inert and impotent. Frankly, it's fucking stupid. Appreciate what you've got.

Be mad at the right things and then do something about it in your own life.
posted by tkchrist at 10:10 AM on April 14, 2008 [12 favorites]


As a multi-billionaire playboy who regularly flies my own personal 787 to Kauai to pick up the diamond-encrusted pineapples that make such fetching centerpieces at my monthly "Fuck It, We're Rich" theme parties, this thread makes me very, very happy.
posted by dyoneo at 10:11 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


An inflated sense of my own importance? Sounds like a classic case of deflecting the message by deriding the messenger. I don't think I'm important enough that I have to breed. I don't think I have the right to use as many resources as it's humanly possible to use. In the grand scheme of things, actually, I think I'm supremely unimportant. I'm just a tiny, extremely temporary speck on the surface of the universe. A speck with a big mouth, but not important in the least. I really don't know where you get these ideas...
A self important person is someone who "isn't afraid to spend money like that". Wow, big man. He dares to indulge in conspicuous consumption in a world where every media outlet he's ever been exposed to is virtually forcing him into doing just that, where every social pressure surrounding him is rewarding him for doing just that. Such courage, such daring. Such self importance. Such IGNORANCE.
Sorry, I've lost my witty, detached humour. Insert suave comment here.
posted by arcadia at 10:11 AM on April 14, 2008


tkchrist: you make some good points, but I don't think anyone in this thread has cried 'poverty', so I'm not sure who you're referring to. You may be assuming that some of us are claiming to be poor because we're trashing the ultra rich, but if that was said in this post I missed it. And if you're referring to my laptop, it was $300, not $800. Har har.
posted by arcadia at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2008


It doesn't disgust me that these people spend the money they have on useless expensive crap.

Exactly what does bother me. I'm not gonna rip on people who have million-dollar apartments, because...well...at least an apartment serves a purpose. It's your home. Do you need to pay that much for a home? Fuck no. But you do have to live somewhere, and if that's what the place you want is going for, all right, whatever. But what this guy did was basically wipe his ass with 50 K and shout, "I'm awesome!" Fucking toolbox. He's an idiotic wastrel.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:18 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Poor guy.

He has to spend more than I make in a year to have fun with his friends. He feels like he has to impress them with jets and Hummers and helicopters and VIP suites. And then he has to brag to the press about it.

I can have fun with my friends with, say, some beers, two packets of stick on googly eyes, and a Sharpie. The New York Times probably does not care, but that does not make my fun any less valid.

Something tells me he's doing it wrong.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:25 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can justifiably be mad at how a person makes their money if it exploits or causes harm.

I think I can justifiably be mad at how a person spends their money if it exploits or causes harm, too.

I probably have 1,000 times as much money as some very poor people on this planet (that's a guess, I have no idea). I probably also consume 1,000 times as many resources as those people. I try to live a low-impact lifestyle, but I could do better, everyone could.

The people described in this article probably have 1,000 times as much money as I do, and it appears that they're doing everything in their power to over-consume resources proportionally. It's crazed, and it goes far beyond just enjoying nice things. They could be contributing to the economy in positive ways while also enjoying themselves ($1,000 benefit dinners every night? Go for it!), but instead, they burn petroleum for fun.

Not only do I hate that kind of consumption, I think it's important for people to hate it. The only way it will change is if it's broadly perceived by society as immoral to consume this way.
posted by gurple at 10:26 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


arcadia the point is — YES the system is fucked up — but it is what it is. And you should thank this guy, how ever repulsive you may find his lifestyle, for employing people with good professional salaries. He is not WalMart exploiting children in the third world. he is hiring pilots and crafts man. His money funds the arts. His patronage keeps actors employed. This is what rich people are for.

It's the lower middle and middle class in this country who WANT to be rich that are the problem. For every one Wall Street banker there are 500 greedy fucking suburbanites with more SUVs than sense. It is they who are living in debt up to their ears because they want a bunch of shit. Who don't want to pay the real cost of things. It is they who are driving the race to the bottom. It is they who are driving exploitation of ever cheaper and cheaper labor. And they are in fact... us.
posted by tkchrist at 10:26 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, so now it's ok to bash on idiotic wastrels? I am an idiotic wastrel, though on a less extravagant scale than Mr. 50k Weekend.
posted by everichon at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2008


But what this guy did was basically wipe his ass with 50 K

No, he did not. He SPENT it. On stuff and food and services. Which people made and grew and served and provided. He did not wipe his ass with the money; he put it in the pockets of people who needed it more than he did. Did he do it altruistically? Of course not. Is greed good, a la Gordon Gecko? No. But in this specific case, the guy didn't do anything particularly wrong except shoot his mouth off.

And nobody in this thread is guilty of shooting their mouths off, of course.
posted by Justinian at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2008


For every one Wall Street banker there are 500 greedy fucking suburbanites with more SUVs than sense.

Style trickles down. Who do you think those greedy suburbanites are emulating?
posted by gurple at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2008


Oh, so now it's ok to bash on idiotic wastrels?

Mmm-hmmm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


This thread reminds me of the much repeated Mencken line that Puritanism is the haunting fear that somewhere, somebody might be having fun....with your money.

It's not that the dude is wealthy, or spends money like a drunken sailor. There ain't nothing wrong with that. It's that he's spending money he "legally" (or perhaps maybe even illegally since no one is looking anyway) skimmed off of pension plans, 401ks, and Roth IRAs and the like and he's spending that money like someone who earned it and deserves it.
posted by three blind mice at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2008


I think I can justifiably be mad at how a person spends their money if it exploits or causes harm, too.

Sure. I think I said that. But there is no evidence that this guy, just becuase he spends more than you, is exploiting or causing more harm than you. Also, like I said, he spends his money on high dollar labor. Not cheap labor. Which is good. In fact there are more "yous" so you, if you spend at WalMart etc, have a much greater cumulative negative effect on the planet than this guys does. In terms of just spending. The rest is a rather weak value judgment.
posted by tkchrist at 10:31 AM on April 14, 2008


Style trickles down. Who do you think those greedy suburbanites are emulating?

Oh. Please. That is so weak.

We could kill every Wall Street banker tomorrow and you think people would suddenly go "Gee... I'm buying a hybrid and moving out of the mini-mansion and into a 1500 sq foot apartment in the city."

Weak.
posted by tkchrist at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2008


Is it ever ok for someone to be disgusted at the perceived profligacy of others

Sure, you can be disgusted at whatever you like. But your disgust does neither the world nor you any good.

I would spend every penny of it on as large a piece of land as I could find, and I would then move there, and live very differently than I do now. I'd sit under the trees and watch the animals frolic.


I personally am fine with that—I support everyone's right to use their money however they like—but I hope you realize that other people would be as disgusted with your priorities/desires as you are with Rich Guy's, and your disgust is no better, nobler, or more meaningful than theirs.
posted by languagehat at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


What else were they going to do with the money? Save it?

We are a nation engineered on debt. The prudent ant subsidizes the grasshopper. Look at the mortgage crisis. Bailouts for everyone! We'll print more money, even if it reduces the value. Enjoy your nest egg omelet.
posted by Eideteker at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2008


The rest is a rather weak value judgment.

You got me there. I think that petroleum-based recreation is immoral and harmful because of the direct and indirect damage it causes to the environment and to global political stability. If you don't agree with me, then I concede that there's nothing else wrong with a rich person spending lots of money.
posted by gurple at 10:36 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not that the dude is wealthy, or spends money like a drunken sailor. There ain't nothing wrong with that. It's that he's spending money he "legally" (or perhaps maybe even illegally since no one is looking anyway) skimmed off of pension plans, 401ks, and Roth IRAs and the like and he's spending that money like someone who earned it and deserves it.

There is nothing in this article that even remotely implies this. Skimmed? What the fuck? Man. People are speculating pretty wildly here. He could be a child murderer, too?

It didn't say he worked for Bear Sturns or anybody that got bail outs. Yeah. He is part of an egregious monetary middle-man system. But you got a 401K or Roth IRA, right? So it's not like your not hiring these guys.
posted by tkchrist at 10:36 AM on April 14, 2008


Human population has doubled in the last 50 +/- years. The gap between rich and poor has multiplied by some other factor that I don't know.

I've just spent a fun half hour googling around on this (trying to answer the second question). It seems that this question is far from settled. It's at least plausible that the factor here is less than 1, at least for the last 20-30 years (that is, that global inequality declined from 1980-2000, say). Inequality within countries has increased, but inequality across countries has declined (mainly because of China's rapid growth).

But it's not clear. There are many ways to measure "inequality", many issues with the data, and many ways to cherry pick time periods / samples.

Some links:

Wikipedia International inequality
Wikipedia Income inequality metrics
Xavier Sala-i-Martin 2002 academic paper (PDF) arguing that global inequality declined from 1980-1998
Long and detailed article (PDF) from the World Bank about the issues in measuring global inequality.
posted by Perplexity at 10:37 AM on April 14, 2008


I was pretty much in agreement with the consensus here that this isn't much to get worked up over, until I read this:
In October, Marc Sperling, the 36-year-old president of an equity-trading company, bought a new condo on the Upper West Side in a building where four-bedroom apartments like his cost more than $4 million. When he moves into the completed building next year, he plans to hold on to his other two apartments in Murray Hill and Miami Beach — each of which he values at about $2.5 million.

Mr. Sperling views the nation’s economic slump as a temporary problem, and is grateful that it has yet to affect him. “I think if you have the means to ride it out, that’s what you do,” he said.

His view of the subprime mortgage crisis seemed to reflect a sort of inverse class resentment.

“I don’t want to sound harsh, but the people who were buying million-dollar houses with a combined household income of $70,000 or $80,000 were the ones who were chasing easy money,” he said.

Days before the collapse of Bear Stearns, the bank’s chairman, James E. Cayne, paid $25 million for a 14th-floor condo at the Plaza Hotel.

He, too, is invited to the May 10 party at the Plaza. It will feature a dozen female string musicians made up to look like statues and clothed in dresses of fresh flowers, like roses and gardenias. There will be caviar and Cognac bars, as well as a buffet designed to visually replicate 17th-century Dutch paintings from the recent Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, “The Age of Rembrandt.”
So, if I'm understanding this correctly, the lower middle class people who bought into the housing Ponzi scheme were greedheads chasing easy money, but the people who orchestrated it, like James E. Cayne, can spend 25 million dollars on an apartment, attend parties more extravagant that Caligula could hallucinate from the depths of tertiary syphillis, attend bridge tournaments as his company precipitates a financial crisis, and keep his fucking job as Chairman while the Fed assumes the risk from all the toxic mortgage debt his firm accrued while he was CEO.

But I guess he has the means to ride it out, so that's what he does.

If we remember that it is the taxpayer who is in large part paying for the consequences of these Wall Street Wizards' games, while they get to spend the cut they took for themselves, back when these tricks seemed profitable, it starts to look like there might be something here to be outraged about.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think that petroleum-based recreation is immoral and harmful because of the direct and indirect damage it causes to the environment and to global political stability. If you don't agree with me, then I concede that there's nothing else wrong with a rich person spending lots of money.

How did we get here? From a guy spending money to "petroleum-based recreation?"

So you never fly? You don't have a car? Gurple EVERYTHING you do, if you live in the west, recreationaly, is tangentially related to petroleum consumption. And there are exponentially more people like you than him.

Man this getting surreal in here. Epic levels of cognitive dissonance.
posted by tkchrist at 10:40 AM on April 14, 2008


No, he did not. He SPENT it. On stuff and food and services. Which people made and grew and served and provided. He did not wipe his ass with the money; he put it in the pockets of people who needed it more than he did.

Yeah, he allowed a bunch of people to maintain their meager lifestyles for another day or two, all by his little self. My hero! Thank you, conspicuous consumption man!!

If we were talking about someone who had spent his rent money on scratch off lottery tickets, I think the tone of this conversation might be a little different. But why? Because this guy has money to burn? I don't think he does; I think irresponsible spending is irresponsible spending, no matter who does it. If you blow a small fortune on pointless bullshit, you're a moron. This is not a moral judgment.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2008


but the people who orchestrated it, like James E. Cayne, can...

He did lose about a billion dollars. Just sayin'.
posted by Perplexity at 10:45 AM on April 14, 2008


So you never fly? You don't have a car? Gurple EVERYTHING you do, if you live in the west, recreationaly, is tangentially related to petroleum consumption.

We're talking in circles now, but I do think that there's a difference in kind between, say, recreationally practicing martial arts in a studio that's lit using the city's electric grid, and, say, taking a 10MPG 4x4 up into the hills every weekend. The former is tangentially related to petroleum consumption, the latter is based on it and uses exponentially more.

True, this is an issue no matter where the person in question fits on the economic scale. The ultra-rich simply have a greater ability to overconsume horrifically. And the middle class emulates them.
posted by gurple at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2008


Capitalism. Love it, or leave it, hippies.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But you got a 401K or Roth IRA, right? So it's not like your not hiring these guys.

No I do not. Investing in securities is for suckers. There are other ways of making money....

The fact that government gives me an incentive to invest in Wall Street makes me doubly skeptical that this is for my own good.

Hedge funds are just a clever way of taking high risk, played-out assets and presenting them as low-risk, high return investments. These guys are selling day old bread to pensioners for the price of freshly baked.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that Bush failed in trying to privatise Social Security and diverting all of those tax dollars into Wall Street...
posted by three blind mice at 10:56 AM on April 14, 2008


This profligate bastard disgusts me. I would never want to be him. (But, I'd really like to be one of his friends.)
posted by found missing at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2008


Dave Faris - I would LOVE to leave it but I don't have a spaceship.
tkchrist - You're continuing with the perspective that nobody with the slightest impurity is allowed to criticize anybody else. This makes no sense. Of COURSE none of us are pure. I think everyone here is aware of that. It's a matter of degree, and of what direction one is headed in. If I use x amount of resources today, and am attempting to be more responsible and less wasteful, and I use x - something resources tomorrow, then I think that's a good thing. If Mr. shit-out-$100,000-every-morning-just-to-get-rid-of-it is accelerating the demise of the planet by spending every waking hour consuming and consuming and consuming, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO CRITICIZE THAT. Yes, we're on the same spectrum, obviously. Do I care? Yes! Does he care? NO, he clearly doesn't give a flying fuck, because if he did he would act more responsibly!
posted by arcadia at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2008


This is not a moral judgment.

You're right. It's a completely relative value judgment.
posted by tkchrist at 11:05 AM on April 14, 2008


it starts to look like there might be something here to be outraged about.

There's plenty here to be outraged about. But it's not this one guy exercising his right to spend his money as he sees fit, it's the system that provides him and his fellow plutocrats the ability to do so, on the backs of the poor and powerless who simultaneously envy them and keep voting for politicians who keep the system running smoothly. Getting pissed at individual people who enjoy their place in a hierarchy they didn't invent is a mug's game. Don't like it? Change the system. Envy, hatred, and disgust won't help you.
posted by languagehat at 11:06 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


accelerating the demise of the planet

The planet will be fine.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:08 AM on April 14, 2008


I would LOVE to leave it but I don't have a spaceship.

Oh, I don't know... North Korea, Cuba ... there are still a few pockets of communist utopias left on Earth. I'm sure they could use more proles to work the fields. Rice doesn't grow on trees, after all.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2008


This is going pretty well.
posted by Mister_A at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Arcadia you can criticize all you want. But it's fruitless to get so worked up about the wrong things. It just muddies up the issue.

That this guys conspicuously spends $50,000 in a single week end is what got everybody up in arms. I honestly don't see that as any worse than some guy who makes 100th of a Wall Street banker spending $500 on comic books in a single weekend. Neither is what I would spend those amounts of money on. But this particular judgment at this end of the equasion (given the facts we have in this case) is irrelevant to a "greater-good" argument.

I'm not sure that ALL Wall Street bankers are bad. Too me it's like hating on Lawyers. It's just some silly irrational bullshit. It would be hypocritical of me anyway since I made a ton of money investing on Wall Street. Even though I was "mindful" of what I invested in. It was a Wall Street Banker that advised me to convert all my Money Markets to Euro based funds seven years ago. And I made a small fortune on nothing but a phone call. Is that evil? I doubt it. I made money on my home becuase it quadrupled in value in the irrational housing market. Is that evil?

But I admit that the system is fucked up. The system itself is approaching evil. But, short of moving into the woods and herding goats, how does one survive with in it and not get tainted? I've tried my best. But you know... I'd still like to have more money so I can feel more secure becuase I think the system is gonna go down and I'd like my children to have something for their future.

I am not a material person. In fact I find gross materialism disgusting. FI: I think its grossly materialistic and irresponsibly consumptive to collect god damned Star Wars toys, too. But who am I to tell people what to do with their money and time.

Now. Let' say the money to buy Star War action figures came from selling child sex slaves in Afghanistan. Okay. Now I got something to REALLY be angry about.

I see a great deal of expended outrage in here without much introspection or reality. It will not help. But Okay. Carry on.
posted by tkchrist at 11:21 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you blow a small fortune on pointless bullshit, you're a moron. This is not a moral judgment.

What? Of course it is a moral judgment. Is this some sort of "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" thing?

You spend money on pointless bullshit. Are you a moron? No? So somewhere between the amount of money you spend on pointless bullshit and the amount of money this guy spends on pointless bullshit is the dividing line between "moron" and "not moron".

Convenient that you fall on one side and this guy on the other despite the fact that compared to the bulk of humanity you're virtually indistringuishable from him.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 AM on April 14, 2008


There's plenty here to be outraged about. But it's not this one guy exercising his right to spend his money as he sees fit, it's the system that provides him and his fellow plutocrats the ability to do so, on the backs of the poor and powerless who simultaneously envy them and keep voting for politicians who keep the system running smoothly. Getting pissed at individual people who enjoy their place in a hierarchy they didn't invent is a mug's game. Don't like it? Change the system. Envy, hatred, and disgust won't help you.

Exactly. That's what I meant. We needed somebody who can actually type and spell.
posted by tkchrist at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't like it? Change the system.

So, uh, how exactly? Real question.

Saying, in essence, "don't hate the player, hate the game," misses the point. The people getting disgusted at how this guy is spending his money are disgusted with the system and the fact that it allows people like him to exist. Being so above it all really strikes me as nothing more than Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da-flavored ennui that simply takes that system and all of its gross manifestations for granted and cheapens the calls for change.

Oh, and of course everyone has the right to be disgusted. That's a trivial observation, as last time I checked no one can induce or suppress thoughts in anyone else. The real question being asked is when is it ok to express that disgust without being shit on by your peers. The answer I hear from some people is apparently "never," which really kind of blows my mind. I just don't get how it's ok to express disgust with a system, but not the products of that system. I guess the assumption is that we would all act exactly the same way he does if we were in his shoes. I think otherwise.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


So how poor do I have to be to have permission to get upset about horrific waste? Is there a dollar figure? Just askin'.
posted by Shepherd at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2008


About 4 billion people on Earth would be angry and appalled at the money you spent last weekend, too.
What's your point?


This is the conservative version of "it's all relative".
posted by telstar at 11:26 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not all bankers are useless douchebags. Not all are rich. Some are. Most work extremely hard for decades for just a shot at making "real money". Many work 15 hours a day, seven days a week for decades without becoming anything close to "ultrarich". Same with brokers, analysts, whatever. Painting the entire industry with same brush as this guy is job-ist.

And "Wall Street" is neither criminal, nor useless, nor a "middleman to taxpayer dollars". It's a necessary, vital part of the economy, and critical for development, the efficient deployment of capital and the improvement of the global standard of living.
posted by loquax at 11:28 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Getting pissed at individual people who enjoy their place in a hierarchy they didn't invent is a mug's game. Don't like it? Change the system.

This is a fair point, and while I won't get pissed at people for enjoying their place in the hierarchy, I will get pissed at them for castigating the rubes who got fleeced so they could make the fortunes they now enjoy. Mostly though, I'm outraged because I simply don't see how we can realistically hope to change the system.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:30 AM on April 14, 2008


Mostly though, I'm outraged because I simply don't see how we can realistically hope to change the system.

There is only one sure way. Participate as little as possible whilst still acquiring as much personal power and wealth as possible. Yeah. It's not easy.
posted by tkchrist at 11:34 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You spend money on pointless bullshit. Are you a moron? No? So somewhere between the amount of money you spend on pointless bullshit and the amount of money this guy spends on pointless bullshit is the dividing line between "moron" and "not moron".

Yes, somewhere between zero and FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. If, in a weekend, you spend an amount that could fund a small family for a year, and having spent fifty thousand dollars you have absolutely nothing to show for it other than a shit-eating grin, then yes: moron. When I say this is not a moral judgment, I mean that I ascribe no evil to this person, nor do I think what he is doing will ultimately provide salvation for us all -- I merely think he is incredibly fucking stupid, because he is funneling vast personal wealth into absolutely fucking nothing. It's sickening because of the squandered promise of that money.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:34 AM on April 14, 2008


This is the conservative version of "it's all relative".

Possibly. But it would also be true. Oh. And those 4 billion people would trade lives with you in a heartbeat.
posted by tkchrist at 11:35 AM on April 14, 2008


because he is funneling vast personal wealth into absolutely fucking nothing

Kittens. You are losing the argument pretty badly if you maintain that statement is true (and if not your argument is still rather tenuous).

He doesn't spend his personal wealth on "nothing" he spends it on charter pilots (who also employ mechanics and baggage handlers), on drivers, on caterers, on tailors, on well paid crafts people of all stripes. He is spending his money on experiences.

Meanwhile the "non-moron" spends his money on Gameboys and PS2 built by exploited Chinese labor in factories that belch pollution and feed money to totalitarian regimes.

Seriously. look at your logic. It's all a relative value judgment largely based on irrational sentiment and the vagaries of personal taste. And. possibly envy. Though I'd give you the benefit of doubt on that.
posted by tkchrist at 11:42 AM on April 14, 2008


I merely think he is incredibly fucking stupid, because he is funneling vast personal wealth into absolutely fucking nothing. It's sickening because of the squandered promise of that money.

If he is simply debiting his accounts as quickly as he can A) he is stupid and will soon be bankrupt, and everyone can laugh at him and B) Nothing is being wasted as he's not burning the money, it's going to someone who then uses it for whatever.

More likely his net worth is tied up in a variety of investments that provide capital for companies that could otherwise not invent new, oh I don't know, solar panels, windmills, baby medicine and cat pajamas. Or maybe it's in municipal bonds, letting cities build roads, bridges and hospitals. Or maybe it's in foreign direct investment funds, so small companies in Paraguay and Hungary and Bulgaria can grow, employing more people and raising wages. And his stupid 50k is still going into someone's pocket where it can do the exact same thing. It's not a zero sum game unless you sit on the cash and let inflation destroy its value or you rip it up into tiny pieces.
posted by loquax at 11:43 AM on April 14, 2008


Eleven million people starving to death every year and people defend this asshole.

I know you love capitalism and all, but I thought part of liberalism was having the decency to feel bad about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:47 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not a zero sum game unless you sit on the cash and let inflation destroy its value or you rip it up into tiny pieces.

Loquax, you know what I do. I bundle up my cash into croquet ball sized wads, mount my giraffe-white rhino chimera hybrid, take my polo mallet and smack each bundle into my gasoline filled swimming pool. Then I light the lot on fire while me and my Billionaire friends dance around and pretend we are at a billionaire version of Burning Man.

Good times.
posted by tkchrist at 11:47 AM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eleven million people starving to death every year and people defend this asshole.

Okay. Gosh. Your right. Now I hate him. HATE HIM. He's bad. THE worst.













So. How many less people starved? 'Cause I reaaaaally want to feel good about myself.
posted by tkchrist at 11:49 AM on April 14, 2008


Eleven million people starving to death every year and people defend this asshole.

I just ordered a $125 book from Subterranean Press. Do I need a $125 book? Not really. In fact, I already have this book in a cheap paperback edition.

How am I less morally culpable than the fellow in question because I sometimes buy expensive editions of books I already own while he buys expensive meals and wine when he can get food and drink cheaper? How are you less culpable because you're (many of you, anyway) people who drive cars and take the occasional plane flight?

Either we're all disgusting fucks who waste money or we're not.
posted by Justinian at 11:55 AM on April 14, 2008


You are losing the argument pretty badly

Well, if you say it enough maybe it'll be true? Keep shooting for the stars, tkchrist. Anyway, this isn't an argument to me; I'm more baffled than anything else that you guys really see this as defensible, and I'm really waiting for a persuasive argument as to why it is that is, pretty clearly, not at all forthcoming. Your weird little false dichotomy between an imaginary buyer of GameBoys and this guy isn't relevant to what I'm saying in the slightest. Quite simply, this person wasted, Marie Antoinette-style, a huge lump sum of money. A few hundred dollars on a gaming system (or whatever) is no parallel. You may argue that you can't put a price on his experiences; but in basic economic terms, you can. They have no resale value, so they're actually worthless. He pissed away his money, just like any dipshit in Vegas. It's stupid. It's practically a tragedy, when you think of what could have been done with that money. Disgust and despair and horror are all valid responses to this story. For me, frankly, it's largely despair.

(It's not envy, though. I do just fine, thanks.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:58 AM on April 14, 2008


It's not about consumption, Justinian. It's about the wealth disparity that has some people able to blow $50,000 and many, many more starving to death. The argument that your consuming anything at all above what you absolutely need gives you no right to criticise the extravagant is an absurdity intended to guilt you into doing nothing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:58 AM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Eleven million people starving to death every year and people defend this asshole.

I'm defending his right to be an asshole, which I though was also part of liberalism.

Anyways, people should be lauding him for not just sitting on it. He spent it, putting it the pockets of others, who bought investments, or bananas, or books, or hookers, or whatever. It's good for the economy for clowns to drunkenly spend their money. It's bad when they're miserly and swim in their Scrooge McDuck-like vault. It's good when they re-invest the money in the market, it's bad when they burn in it gasoline-filled pools with exotic fantasy animals.
posted by loquax at 12:00 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The argument that your consuming anything at all above what you absolutely need gives you no right to criticise the extravagant is an absurdity intended to guilt you into doing nothing.

Of course not; by the same token you don't enjoy immunity from criticism in turn for doing the exact same thing as this guy, only on a smaller scale.
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2008


I'm defending his right to be an asshole, which I though was also part of liberalism.

Right to swing your first, point where my nose begins, you know the drill. There's a difference between calling somebody a dick and accumulating so much wealth that you can piss it away while other human beings are dying for a lack of wealth. "The rich can do whatever they want" is in no sense a liberal argument, though given what passes for liberalism in the US, I'm unsurprised by it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2008


Of course not; by the same token you don't enjoy immunity from criticism in turn for doing the exact same thing as this guy, only on a smaller scale.

That's right, context and scale are meaningless.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2008


The difference in context and scale between a lifestyle that, if everyone enjoyed it, would consume the planet 8 times over and one that would consume the planet 25 times over is, in the big scheme of things, indeed meaningless.

It's sort of worse if I shoot you in the face with a shotgun than with a .45, but it doesn't matter all that much to the guy who gets shot.
posted by Justinian at 12:06 PM on April 14, 2008


Is this the room for cake? Is it alright if I eat pie instead, because I really love pie. Mmmmmm, pie!

As for the article, ahem, workers of the world, throw off your chains! Yadda Yadda Yadda! Vive la revolution! etc.

If I was going to spend $50,000 on a weekend trip, I certainly wouldn't go to Miami. Why doesn't anyone care about that?

Also, life isn't fair. Deal with it.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:06 PM on April 14, 2008


I think you underestimate our planet's capacity to provide.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:08 PM on April 14, 2008


The transparent envy in this thread is just hilarious.

The connection between a $50k weekend and world hunger is tenuous at best, but wailing about the poor sure gives a nice excuse to hate someone else for having more than you do.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:09 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, life isn't fair. Deal with it.

I think you meant to type "Also, life isn't fair, and I'm fine with it."
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:09 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The connection between a $50k weekend and world hunger is tenuous at best, but wailing about the poor sure gives a nice excuse to hate someone else for having more than you do.

Wealth disparity is irrelevant to ongoing mass starvation? Someone alert Christopher Hitchens, I'm sure he'd love to endorse your insight.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:12 PM on April 14, 2008


"I bundle up my cash into croquet ball sized wads, mount my giraffe-white rhino chimera hybrid, take my polo mallet and smack each bundle into my gasoline filled swimming pool. Then I light the lot on fire while me and my Billionaire friends dance around and pretend we are at a billionaire version of Burning Man."

Man, that is seriously f***ing funny. Benjamin Peret would be proud of you.

If I ever do acquire a fortune, I promise you this is exactly what I will do with it. Although I will have to substitute plain giraffes and, um... ponies, since by then white rhinos will be extinct, thanks to the greed of people such as those we're arguing about.
And I'll also have to replace the gasoline with...um... tofu extract, since I'm pure and have never used a petroleum based product in my life. That's why I have the right to criticize.

Technical conundrums (conundra?):
your scenario: if you light a swimming pool full of gasoline on fire, you won't be doin' no dancin' afterwards.
my scenario: tofu extract don't burn.
further problem: now that my words have been forever immortalized on the Interweb, I stand even less of a chance of ever having any billionaire friends.
posted by arcadia at 12:15 PM on April 14, 2008


Wealth disparity is irrelevant to ongoing mass starvation?

That doesn't address what I said. Obviously wealth disparity is "relevant" in some sense to ongoing mass starvation. What an absolutely facile statement.

Establishing such a superficial "relevance" hardly justifies the pile on in this thread, though. It's the connection between the $50k weekend and mass starvation that is less clear.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:16 PM on April 14, 2008


There is only one sure way. Participate as little as possible whilst still acquiring as much personal power and wealth as possible. Yeah. It's not easy.
posted by tkchrist at 1:34 PM on April 14


I don't really see how you can acquire wealth and power without participating fully in the system, nor do I see how acquiring same will lead to the changing of that system. Was this sarcasm? Maybe I need my detector adjusted. If not, I'd love an explanation (seriously, no snark).
posted by adamdschneider at 12:16 PM on April 14, 2008


If I was going to spend $50,000 on a weekend trip, I certainly wouldn't go to Miami.

My estimate:

$20k on a Hawker 800 jet ($9900 each way).
$12k on hotel. Rooms start at $3995 per night in the low season.
$2k on helicopter to the airport.
$5k on dinners. $100 x 4 people x 4 nights. Plus a couple of $400 bottles of wine each night.
$5k on clubbing. You can't go to an expensive club with 4 guys without buying $1000 bottles.

It's really not that hard.
posted by smackfu at 12:16 PM on April 14, 2008


Lest we forget that this shit is not small potatoes..

It's not about trickle downs or the "I want an SUV" fucks.

For the majority in the world, the wealth disparity is now the difference between life and death, trending towards death.

No matter if this guy is or isn't a cock(he is), the ultra rich and ultra poor are being split more than ever before.

And I don't feel even slightly comfortable supporting the right for some gormless fuckwit to take overpriced vacations when the people in a country 500 miles off the coast are being force to eat clay.

and lest those out there say things like "Well, you ate food today.. You are part of the problem"..

To them I say - Eat a dick. A stupid clay dick.
posted by Lord_Pall at 12:18 PM on April 14, 2008


That doesn't address what I said. Obviously wealth disparity is "relevant" in some sense to ongoing mass starvation. What an absolutely facile statement.

Establishing such a superficial "relevance" hardly justifies the pile on in this thread, though. It's the connection between the $50k weekend and mass starvation that is less clear.


The wealth disparity is what enables the $50,000 weekend. Are you dense or just arguing in bad faith?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:18 PM on April 14, 2008


Wealth disparity is irrelevant to ongoing mass starvation?

I expect your own personal wealth is somewhat above that of those who are starving. How does your wealth cause them to starve?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:20 PM on April 14, 2008


Um, it is okay to let trolls starve, guys.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:21 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The wealth disparity is what enables the $50,000 weekend. Are you dense or just arguing in bad faith?

I was about to ask the same of you. Let me see if I understand your argument. Wealth disparity is "relevant" to starvation, and wealth disparity "enables" a $50k weekend.

So, $50k weekend is...what? Responsible for mass starvation?

Does that sound like a good argument to you? If it does, let me know, so I can stop talking to you.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:21 PM on April 14, 2008


If I was going to spend $50,000 on a weekend trip, I certainly wouldn't go to Miami. Why doesn't anyone care about that?

For reals. I just checked and a six-day trip on the Orient Express costs eight grand. Times three, plus dining and all that, and you have a hell of a trip on your hands for fifty grand.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:21 PM on April 14, 2008


I personally have no respect for any billionaire who doesn't don a cape and mask at night to fight crime in the streets.
posted by gurple at 12:22 PM on April 14, 2008


"The transparent envy in this thread is just hilarious."


I think this is called displacement. Is it possible to imagine that some of us get pissed off by self absorbed uberconsumers, and actually don't want to be one?
What if I wrote, "drunk drivers piss me off! They roar around drunkenly running people over! It's horrible!"
Would you respond by telling me that I actually want to be a drunk driver?
Sure, lots of us (including me) would take these people's zillions if offered it. Because money is power whether we like it or not. And lots of us would use it for something better than propping up our weak self image by finding the largest engines to drive us to the largest hotels where we can pick up the largest breasted women with whom we can drink the largest bottles of champagne in the world. The idea of that makes me tired and a little sick. If you insist that's envy, well, whatever. I know what envy is. I envy Michael Ondaatje because he writes 12,000 times better than me. I envy Alexandra David-Neel because she had an incredible life. I envy Shania Twain's husband. It's a totally different feeling.
posted by arcadia at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think this is called displacement. Is it possible to imagine that some of us get pissed off by self absorbed uberconsumers, and actually don't want to be one?

I think it's quite possible that you don't want to take $50k weekend trips, but I do think you want to be able to.

What if I wrote, "drunk drivers piss me off! They roar around drunkenly running people over! It's horrible!"

Well, drunk drivers do run people over. You really don't see the difference between complaining "goddamn, that guy spends so much money!" and "goddamn, that guy kills people!"
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:28 PM on April 14, 2008


Is it possible to imagine that some of us get pissed off by self absorbed uberconsumers, and actually don't want to be one?

Hear hear. I can honestly say that, if a friend offered me the chance to fly a jet to Miami for a weekend and blow $12,500 on booze, driving around in Hummer limos, and helicopter flights, I can honestly say I'd turn them down without a second thought.

Which isn't to say that I'd turn down $12,500, or that I couldn't find things to do with it that are more in line with my tastes.
posted by gurple at 12:28 PM on April 14, 2008


There's only one sensible way to spend that kind of money: knitting bible covers for third-word war orphans. or hookers and blow. I can never remember which.
posted by jonmc at 12:29 PM on April 14, 2008


Um, it is okay to let trolls starve, guys.

One of us isn't sure what a troll is. 'Cause I don't think trolls are people who disagree with me but rather people who say things they don't actually believe for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble.
posted by Justinian at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2008


Look, why is everyone all excercised? He was merely re-plowing his Bush tax cut as he saw fit. And many of you will get Bush tax-cut checks in the mail which will allow you to breath a little easier for a few days, just like him...so what's the rhubarb?
posted by telstar at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2008


so what's the rhubarb?

it's an opportunity to feel righteous and get the warm fuzzies. some people can't pass that up.
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on April 14, 2008


It's good for the economy for clowns to drunkenly spend their money.

You know who really knew how to do conspicuous consumption? That's right, the aristocracy. We should bring those guys back.

I mean, maybe these guys are spending their money on things we don't really want to encourage. Maybe "good for the economy" isn't the final arbiter of everything. I'm not sure we need ultra-rich people to drive a healthy economy and spur innovation.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:34 PM on April 14, 2008


One of us isn't sure what a troll is. 'Cause I don't think trolls are people who disagree with me but rather people who say things they don't actually believe for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble.

And one of those people may be...right...in this...ROOM!!!

(For good or ill, though, I think you believe everything you're saying, man.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2008


Here's the way I see it: if you're absolutely the most skilled, amazing, one of a kind person in your field, and you get paid the most ridiculous amount I could possibly condone under any circumstances, it would come out to, say $200 an hour. And that's ridiculous but I'm being generous. And if you're crazy and work 70 hours a week that's $14,000 a week. And if you work 52 weeks a year and skip out on your taxes, as any good rich person will, that's $728,000 a year. Therefore my conclusion is that it's IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to be richer than this without SOMEONE getting screwed.
Or, perhaps, they've learned that there are ways to make money other than working by the hour for a large corporation.

Starting the corporation, for instance. Putting decades of hard work into making it the best one of its kind, and reaping the reward for successfully creating a system that provides both jobs and valuable goods to the marketplace.

Most of the rich earn their wealth by doing things that a lot of people value, or are the descendants of such people. It's not unfair for people who do things that help a lot of people to be compensated for it.

As to the poverty issue: It is tragic that people are starving. It is tragic that people are living in villages without clean water. But these facts are unrelated to the fact that rich people exist.

The problem isn't that some people are unbelievably wealthy, it's that the systems that we have for providing good food, clean water, and medicine in the wealthy nations are broken in the poor ones. Sometimes they're broken because of war, the most common cause of starvation. Other times, they're broken because of corrupt governments which steal aid intended for the poor. In some places, they're broken because there are laws which prevent people from earning what they are worth--I'm looking at you Cuba.

But war, corruption, and bad laws have little to do with this guy who wasted $50,000 on a vacation.
posted by JDHarper at 12:36 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Arcadia,

I was trying to figure out why your comments were pissing me off - because, as Mister A said somewhere - you do have a sense of humor. But something was niggling...

Here it is: "I don't think I'm important enough that I have to breed."

Your context was that this proves you don't have a jumped up view of yourself.

Perhaps you don't.

But that's a hell of a self righteous swipe all the same!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2008


the systems that we have for providing good food, clean water, and medicine in the wealthy nations are broken in the poor ones

At least one of those systems is pretty broken in a certain wealthy nation I could name.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:40 PM on April 14, 2008


Mrpresidentdrsteveelvisamerica (great name by the way) - you're misinterpreting what I said. I wasn't equating people who waste money with people who run people over, I was making the point that whenever someone trashes someone else for having too much money, other people say it's being driven by envy. The drunk driver example was intended to portray a reaction to an unadmirable person that was obviously not driven by envy.
posted by arcadia at 12:41 PM on April 14, 2008


At least one of those systems is pretty broken in a certain wealthy nation I could name.

True enough, but it isn't as badly broken as it is in, say, Togo, West Africa.
posted by JDHarper at 12:42 PM on April 14, 2008


And lots of us would use it for something better than propping up our weak self image

See, you think that, but you don't know that. You actually have no idea how you'd behave if you acquired a shitload of money, any more than you know how you'd behave in battle, or on your deathbed. You'd be surprised how many "rich assholes" started as concerned citizens much like yourself. Money changes people, much as power does (partly because, like energy and matter, they're interconvertible).

I recently heard a surprisingly moving segment on This American Life about Jerry Springer. Yeah, I know, what a buffoon, right? Did you know he was a progressive politician who ran against the Vietnam War and became an incredibly popular Cincinnati city councilman, saw his political career go down in flames because he hired a prostitute and wrote a check to pay for it (!), decided to stick around and try again rather than leave town in disgrace, ran again while admitting his failing and enduring the ridicule and won, won a term as mayor, and was considered one of the most promising young Democrats in the country? In 1982 he tried to get the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio and lost; he was offered a job in TV news and quickly turned the lowest-ranked program in Cincinnati into the highest, becoming the city's number one news anchor and getting a bunch of local Emmys.

So what happened? He went for the big time, starting The Jerry Springer Show in 1991. It was intended to replace the Phil Donahue Show, but it turned out people didn't want to watch political talk, so in 1994 the show went lowbrow, focusing on "lower class, minimally educated, blue collar people confronted on a television stage with a spouse or family member's adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, transvestism, hate group membership, or other controversial situations." In short, he became the buffoon we all know and despise. And you know what? He's still progressive, he'd like to get back into politics and challenge the Bushies, but he can't, because he's tethered to the show. People won't take him seriously unless he gives it up, and he's got a contract to fulfill. In its pathetic American way, it's a Greek tragedy.

Money changes everything. If you think it wouldn't change you, you're a fool.
posted by languagehat at 12:46 PM on April 14, 2008 [18 favorites]


Jody Tresidder - sorry, I don't see how that's self-righteous. I've heard all the talk about the altruistic role of the parent, and I don't believe it. Most people have kids for themselves, and therefore from a certain perspective, it's at least partially a self important act (or an accident, as is often the case). I honestly don't think I'm very important, and sure as hell don't think the world needs another one of me, or even my progeny. So my progeny don't exist.
And yes, this is relevant to this thread. Because when your view of humanity and the future gets as threadbare as mine has gotten, you reach the conclusion that, while humanity is certainly not all bad, EVERY problem that we cause, particularly ecologically speaking, would be alleviated in direct proportion to how many fewer of us existed. Fewer people, fewer starving people, fewer rich people exploiting them. More animals, more trees, more space. I say IT'S ALL GOOD. Just quit breeding. It won't solve our problems but it will help on all fronts.
posted by arcadia at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2008


Money changes everything. If you think it wouldn't change you, you're a fool.

It could; even small fortune could be a major contributing factor in turning any one of us into a self-absorbed asshole. Does that make it okay to be a self-absorbed asshole? Show your work.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2008


Wealth disparity is irrelevant to ongoing mass starvation?

I would argue that wealth disparity is entirely relevant to ongoing mass starvation, in that it has contributed *greatly* to the reduction of starvation, and the expansion and development of human civilization to the point it is at today as opposed to 100 years ago. The tangible, global improvement in living standards in every country, every continent is directly tied to the free(er) flow of capital and investment facilitated by "Wall Street" including some clowns like this guy who are motivated by creating a disproportionate amount of wealth for themselves by assuming A LOT of the risk (which is often ignored in these conversations). Without global capitalism, there would be roughly 5 billion fewer people on this planet that would have never existed. Without foreign investment and globalization, the percentage of humans living in extreme poverty wouldn't have halved since 1981. The most obvious example is South East Asia, incomparable to what it was even 30 years ago. You think a lot of people didn't get ridiculously wealthy while the GDP in Thailand, Korea, Japan and now China grew in the double digits for decades? Would you have capped and slowed that growth for hundreds of millions of people to prevent excesses like this guys? Even the Chinese thought better of that and the USSR collapsed because they did.

It's perverse (but easy) to view this guy as emblematic of mass starvation. Condemning him as a surrogate for the finance industry is to condemn economic forces that have pulled much of humanity out of abject poverty and continues to do so today. If it weren't for the waste of time that was the whole communist fad, we'd be much further ahead as a species today.
posted by loquax at 12:53 PM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was making the point that whenever someone trashes someone else for having too much money, other people say it's being driven by envy. The drunk driver example was intended to portray a reaction to an unadmirable person that was obviously not driven by envy.

OK, but the reason that people actually do criticize drunk drivers is likewise obvious. It's not at all obvious to me what, other than envy, explains people's reactions in this thread.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2008


languagehat - I absolutely agree that if I devoted my life to amassing money, it would change me. The theoretical (and laughably impossible) premise was that someone might drop a fortune in my lap. In that case, I honestly don't think it would change me that much, and here's why: because my (self) righteous anger against the cash-funded foibles of the human world is at such a white hot heat, that, even from a purely selfish perspective, it would be the most fulfilling for me to buy a huge tract of land and protect it, preferably a huge tract of land that was desperately craved by developers. It certainly isn't because I'm morally superior that I would do that, it's because I would find that infinitely more personally fulfilling than say, fucking around with my buddies in Miami. The point is moot, unless you're planning on giving me a huge pile of money and testing your hypothesis.
posted by arcadia at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2008


"Without global capitalism, there would be roughly 5 billion fewer people on this planet that would have never existed."

I rest my case.
posted by arcadia at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2008


Does that make it okay to be a self-absorbed asshole? Show your work.

'OK' is a concept that held dear by religious fundamentalists and political zealots. Beyond that it's kind of meaningless, especially when it's a bunch of us Americans and Euros typing our little screeds our neat little glowing boxes. L-hat's observations are definitely relevant in the sense that they ask the obvious question of how much of the outrage in this thread is genuine and how much is just plain sour grapes.
posted by jonmc at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2008


Without global capitalism, there would be roughly 5 billion fewer people on this planet that would have never existed.

Is that some kind of goal? More people = better, somehow? When we get to, say, 10 billion, we win?

Would you, moreover, say to someone starving in a horrifyingly poor country: thank your lucky stars and tip your hat to the ultra-rich, without whom you wouldn't exist?
posted by gurple at 12:58 PM on April 14, 2008


Can you really be against both population growth AND wealth disparity?
posted by smackfu at 1:02 PM on April 14, 2008


Just quit breeding. It won't solve our problems but it will help on all fronts.

Arcadia,
I can't figure out if you're callow - or defeatist - or what!

(Fwiw, on reflection I should not have called you self righteous. Honestly, I think it was a jerky thing to write. Sorry!).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:04 PM on April 14, 2008


L-hat's observations are definitely relevant in the sense that they ask the obvious question of how much of the outrage in this thread is genuine and how much is just plain sour grapes.

It's a valid question, but its answer (which is undeliverable) is really kind of sideways to the point, which is whether the guy's spending is reasonably defensible. Whether you or I would treat vast fortune the same way this guy does isn't the question; the question is whether that kind of spending is something we should endorse, condemn, or just basically not give a shit about.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2008


Would you, moreover, say to someone starving in a horrifyingly poor country: thank your lucky stars and tip your hat to the ultra-rich, without whom you wouldn't exist?

Would you say to someone in 1920's Thailand: Don't worry, your life, your children's life and your children's children's lives will never improve, nor will infrastructure be built, medicine be invented or commercial farming reduce starvation, because we're not going to allow the use of capital to generate returns. Enjoy indentured servitude to the king!
posted by loquax at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2008


It's not at all obvious to me what, other than envy, explains people's reactions in this thread.

It's not at all obvious to me what explains your trolling this thread with bad faith reasoning and non sequitors. I'd pay $50000 for an answer, if I had that kind of money.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2008


It could; even small fortune could be a major contributing factor in turning any one of us into a self-absorbed asshole. Does that make it okay to be a self-absorbed asshole?

Like jonmc, I'm not sure what to make of the "is it OK" question. How you react is up to you. Me, once I realize "there but for the grace of God" about some situation, I'm a lot less quick to judge. There are lots and lots of people who are doing much worse to humanity and the planet than this guy. Would I enjoy hanging out with him? Probably not. But that's not really my litmus test for whether someone is a good or worthwhile human being.
posted by languagehat at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


EVERY problem that we cause, particularly ecologically speaking, would be alleviated in direct proportion to how many fewer of us existed

With an attitude like that, I would have to assume you're opposed to any kind of socialized medicine, or maybe even the whole medical profession itself. After all, if the sick would just die already, the world would be so much better off.
posted by rocket88 at 1:23 PM on April 14, 2008


Also, has it ever occured to you that the 'us rich people spend money which helps the poor survive, blahblahblah' people and 'the every minute decision that I make effects the health and welfare of a starving family in Lower Blecchistan who will be ever so grateful to me if I only...' people are basically two sides of the same narcissistic coin?

Get over yourselves. Nobody gives a rat's ass what you do.
posted by jonmc at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


And I'm not exempting myself from this equation: me and the mrs. got a nice tax refund this year (mainly due to me being on unemployment for 6 months), I used it to by a kickass new PC that I use mainly to steal/listen to music, look at porn and post to MeFi/Cha. Worse or better than this guy? who knows?
posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on April 14, 2008


Would you say to someone in 1920's Thailand: Don't worry, your life, your children's life and your children's children's lives will never improve, nor will infrastructure be built, medicine be invented or commercial farming reduce starvation, because we're not going to allow the use of capital to generate returns. Enjoy indentured servitude to the king!

Bad example. Thais today are much healthier than their western counterparts. I don't like kings either (loathe the British royal family), but the current Thai king is a pretty cool guy as kings go. Thailand's as capitalist as it gets these days, maybe even hypercapitalist.
posted by telstar at 1:30 PM on April 14, 2008


Thailand's as capitalist as it gets these days, maybe even hypercapitalist.

I know. That's my point. Thailand is awesome now because of capitalism. And it sucked in the 1920s. Right?
posted by loquax at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2008


It's not at all obvious to me what explains your trolling this thread with bad faith reasoning and non sequitors.

Was that remark intended to be so richly ironic?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2008


With all the back-and-forth about the starving masses, it's easy to forget that every single person here has the ability to save someone from dying a miserable death. A couple bucks, and that kid won't die of malaria. Or starve. Or whatever else.

The question, then, is whether or not you care about that. What level of personal sacrifice is warranted in order to save lives? Anything?

People prattle on all the time about how human life is precious. It isn't. It's dirt-cheap; about ten bucks, give or take. Maybe less, in some areas of the world. More in others.

On some level, I have decided that this computer is worth the death of a couple dozen children -- I could have saved them by donating the money so they'd have mosquito nets, but I didn't. Same goes for my shoes: sure, they cost me only $40, but I could have gone with something cheaper, and didn't. Someone will now die because their mom couldn't afford sufficiently nutritious food, because the aid packages ran out early. We've all made the same decisions in countless ways, both direct and indirect. Every single dime I spend on anything unrelated to my survival is a dime I could have spent trying to keep someone alive.

There are corpses behind everything I own; everything you own as well.

Personally, I am a monster. I don't care in the least. Do you?
posted by aramaic at 1:46 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, the point here is that we should probably take some measures to promote a more equitable distribution of income.

There--was that so hard?

Also: life isn't fair. Deal with it.

Marx couldn't have said it better.
posted by washburn at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2008


There are corpses behind everything I own; everything you own as well.

I prefer to think of the factory worker in China that has a job because I bought shoes, the shipping company that brings me shoes and its employees and the store that sells me them. How many people are alive and prospering because I'm buying those shoes?

So, the point here is that we should probably take some measures to promote a more equitable distribution of income.

There--was that so hard?


God forbid.
posted by loquax at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2008


This is pure insanity. I can't believe that there are people who spend 50K on jaunts down to Miama, complete with lamborghinis, hummers, and helicopters.

It's crazy. Even if I was a billionaire I would never be so foolish.
posted by AliaCamu at 2:05 PM on April 14, 2008


The great melting pot. The scum rises to the top, and the ones on the bottom get burned.

I enjoy your metaphor, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Unfortunately, I can only pay you in favorites, which, as Malor will tell you, aren't even worth the paper they aren't printed on.
posted by oaf at 2:07 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


How many people are alive and prospering because I'm buying those shoes?

There are many people who rely on our shoes, some of whom will get to have noticeably nicer lives than their predecessors did, but overall there are fewer than if the survival of others was our paramount goal. That's all.

Human life has a very real price on it, and when that price is exacted in far-distant places we're very unlikely to care. I'd probably (but not certainly) take substantial risks to save a kid in the same crosswalk as me, but I wouldn't wear $5 shoes to save that kid in Africa.

His ghost inhabits the vacuum left by the money I spent for nicer shoes.
posted by aramaic at 2:07 PM on April 14, 2008


I can't believe that there are people who spend 50K on jaunts down to Miama, complete with lamborghinis, hummers, and helicopters.

My late Uncle Vinny was a blackjack dealer in Atlantic City for a while. He saw people drop $50k on a single hand. You need to get out more.
posted by jonmc at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2008


I don't really see how you can acquire wealth and power without participating fully in the system, nor do I see how acquiring same will lead to the changing of that system. Was this sarcas

Like I said. It's not easy. And you know it cannot be done by everybody. But is can be done. I'm doing it.

First off— question your own assumptions. You made many, as many in this thread have.

What is wealth? What is power? I bet you assumed both are purely material.

Oh. How wrong you are.

Wealth, in terms that are truly meaningful, is not about possession or consumption. In fact it's about the opposite. Nor does it necessarily have to do with the currencies related to exploitation— though it hard to extricate oneself from history. Wealth can be acquired by transcending possessions. Not by accumulating them. Wealth is what lasts. Wealth allows you freedom to exorcise your own power. You may need money to get wealthy. But also you may need less than you think. it depends on what you really need to be happy.

Power is about owning YOURSELF. Be free from doing anything you do not want to do. Therefor, power is about owning your time.

How do you do these things without being tainted and full participating in the most exploitative parts of the system? Writers and artists do it sometimes. You can sell directly the products of your labor to people who really want it. Rather than sell your time to somebody else. You can use the money you make to invest in responsible things. To fund land trusts or certain types of futures. All sorts of things.

posted by tkchrist at 2:13 PM on April 14, 2008


Jody Tresidder - No problem with you calling me self-righteous; I am, for what it's worth. But my dictionary defines 'callow' as either 'destitute of feathers' or 'immature'. Assuming you mean the latter, why? Although obviously I realize everyone in the world isn't going to stop breeding because I say so, how is it immature to advocate it? I didn't breed, and many people I know didn't breed. Our lives are fine. And personally mine would be even better if there were about five billion fewer people in the world. I like trees and grass and animals more than humans. That may be a minority opinion, but I can't see that it's immature or even unreasonable. And people such as those that are the ostensible subject of this thread are, in my opinion, prime examples of why vasectomies (specifically, their fathers') can be a very good thing.
(In answer to the boring, inevitable questions: I'm the fifth child. Yes, it's true that if my father had done that I wouldn't exist. No, as a matter of fact, if I didn't exist it wouldn't bother me. Because I wouldn't exist.)
posted by arcadia at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2008


His ghost inhabits the vacuum left by the money I spent for nicer shoes.

You are oversimplifying dramatically. There is a very real human cost inherent in lost economic opportunity. It's not a matter of someone in China having a slightly better job, it's the difference between being a rural rice farmer, dependent on your fallible crop to feed your children or living in a modern city with access to education, clean water and health care. It's the difference between working on stripping old oil tankers by hand and dying by age 30 or sewing baby clothes in relative comfort. Lives are at stake either way, I would argue that generally speaking, on the balance, creating sustainable economic growth via the international flow of capital and goods has done more to save and improve lives that closed-ended altruism possibly could have.
posted by loquax at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2008


I can't believe that there are people who spend 50K on jaunts down to Miama, complete with lamborghinis, hummers, and helicopters.

I worked with a woman who was quite shocked to learn that I had spent $100 on books over my lunch break.

It's a big world out there. Lots of people in it. Quite a few of them have values and tastes that differ from yours.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:23 PM on April 14, 2008


Forgot the /EM tag there. Sorry.
posted by tkchrist at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2008


[a few comments removed - take all the "you're an asshole" talk to email or elsewhere]
posted by jessamyn at 2:33 PM on April 14, 2008


Lives are at stake either way

It isn't a binary choice.
posted by aramaic at 2:33 PM on April 14, 2008


[a few comments removed - take all the "you're an asshole" talk to email or elsewhere]

Elsewhere please. I don't want to get those emails.
posted by tkchrist at 2:34 PM on April 14, 2008


It isn't a binary choice.

You sure made it seem that way when you said "Every single dime I spend on anything unrelated to my survival is a dime I could have spent trying to keep someone alive.'
posted by loquax at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2008


I think what offends me, and probably a lot of other people here, is not so much the amount of money spent by the people in the article as the blatantly crass, uncaring, and boorish nature of its spending. I've just done some figuring about the amounts that I spend in pursuit of my education and frankly I was a bit shocked. For example spending 180 pounds to go to an academic conference. Doing the math, adjusting for people and days it turns out that the people in the article spent about 25 times more than me. Now obviously that's a lot more, but when first considering the numbers it seemed like it must be thousands of times more. But the difference is that I'm ostensibly pursuing some understanding and knowledge, and, admittedly, trying to improve my CV so I can get a job, while these guys are... what? Honestly, I don't know what they're doing. Frankly they seem like overgrown children just seeking some kind of sensory input. I've never lived anything remotely resembling that lifestyle so I wouldn't claim to understand it. I certainly have sympathy for people who say that I'm rich compared to most of the world. I've always known that. But I don't agree that that fact invalidates any criticisms that I might have about anything involving relative wealth. Such a black and white view of the world is ridiculous to me. If somebody wants to criticize me back, that's fine. In fact I long for it. I'm so sick of living in a world where people seem to engage in some sort of mutual conspiracy against judgement and criticism, so we can all indulge in whatever we want and still feel like we're "good", whatever that is. I value people pointing out my faults because I know that I have many that I'm not aware of. And despite the fact that it's never appreciated, I return the favour. Especially when it involves what I see as stupid, excessive, self-indulgent, wasteful, and ecological damaging shenanigans, usually involving engines.
posted by arcadia at 2:36 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think what offends me, and probably a lot of other people here, is not so much the amount of money spent by the people in the article as the blatantly crass, uncaring, and boorish nature of its spending. I've just done some figuring about the amounts that I spend in pursuit of my education and frankly I was a bit shocked. For example spending 180 pounds to go to an academic conference. ... Especially when it involves what I see as stupid, excessive, self-indulgent, wasteful, and ecological damaging shenanigans, usually involving engines.

So basically you're not morally offended, just disdainful of all the gauchity. Your idealism is old fashioned snobbery turned inside out and dressed up, sir.
posted by jonmc at 2:43 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I don't know what they're doing.

They're having a fucking blast.

A vulgar, tasteless, self-indulgent blast.

Some people like that kind of stuff, you know? It's not my cup of tea, personally. The whole thing strikes me as a little tacky and not very original. But it does sound like something that would appeal to a lot of people out there. Power to 'em. I know that if I had $50K in stoopit blowout money, and the financial security to spend like that, my own choices would likely offend or confuse some people out there.

I value people pointing out my faults because I know that I have many that I'm not aware of.

Wellll, don't hate me for this, but you do come across as a bit uptight, humorless and narrowminded in this discussion. I don't know how you are in real life. But that is the image you're projecting here.

Just thought I'd share.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:51 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


... And personally mine would be even better if there were about five billion fewer people in the world. I like trees and grass and animals more than humans

Arcadia,

Yes, I did mean immature.
Maybe I'm wrong - but this hippie acpocalyptic visionary stuff and the passive aggressive use of "breeding" just sounds a bit wet behind the ears!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:52 PM on April 14, 2008


$50k spent by 4 guys in 4 days? And this is news worthy?

Anyone want to put the over/under on this happening in Vegas? My guess is this happens at least a couple hundred times a year there. If we're factoring in the cost of private jets for transportation, it's even higher.
posted by Crash at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2008


Semper pauper eris, si pauper es, Aemiliane: dantur opes nulli nunc nisi divitibus. (Martial, roughly 1900 years ago or so.)
posted by gimonca at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2008


Yeah, I probably am a snob, but at least I'm not speaking Latin.
posted by arcadia at 3:00 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Such a black and white view of the world is ridiculous to me.

That may be the most unintentionally ironic thing I've read so far this month.

this hippie acpocalyptic visionary stuff and the passive aggressive use of "breeding" just sounds a bit wet behind the ears


Ayup.
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on April 14, 2008


I'd rather see rich people pumping money into the economy than not, but can't he just buy a few Van Goghs or something?

Heh. If he did that he would depreciate the art and write it off against his income, thereby depriving the world of his tax dollars. And someone would come along and write "I'd rather see rich people employing engineers and architects and laborers by buying cars and apartments than piss their money away by giving it to some other rich asshole (who will probably spend it all on coke) for a stupid painting whose creator is too dead to profit from his genius."

And, really, the only reason to get pissed off at rich people for how they spend their money is that they either create pecuniary externalities or they overconsume real resources to someone else's detriment.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:08 PM on April 14, 2008


But how can I be idealistic and apocalyptic at the same time? Christ on a cracker, folks, have you looked around you lately? Are you saying the state of the world is all in my callow mind? Like I said about 27 yards up this thread, human population has doubled in 50 years! In geological time that's NOTHING. It's an instant! Things have gone massively out of whack, and more and more people are admitting it, but those who aren't are just burying their heads deeper and deeper into their consumptive lifestyles. Don't dilute the issue by worrying about whether I'm uptight (I am) or humorless (I'm not) or narrow minded (sometimes). I've got nothing to do with the truth of the situation.
Sure I'm a snob who's offended by the gauchity of it all. But I'm also morally offended at senseless waste. I'm angry that I'm forced to live in a world where everything I love is being destroyed and everything I hate is just multiplying, and multiplying, and multiplying. Call it callow, negative, apocalyptic, or whatever you want. All I can tell you is it's honest. And for those who think the right of humans to "have fun" is more important than trees and grass and animals, well, unless you're relatively elderly you've got a serious wakeup call coming up.
My rants are made worse by the fact that I'm living on a council estate in the north of England and spend every day surrounded by more waste than you could possibly imagine. So no, it aint just the rich, it's everyone. It's all of us. Thus my blatantly misanthropic stance against breeding, a word I don't see as "passive-aggressive", whatever that means. Breeding is breeding, is it not?
I'm just ranting now, sorry. I'll pause and catch my breath. Try to ignore my offensive tone and listen to what I'm saying.
posted by arcadia at 3:10 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't believe that there are people who spend 50K on jaunts down to Miama, complete with lamborghinis, hummers, and helicopters.

I think at a certain point, you just don't care. If you can afford a personal jet, you are blowing obscene amounts of money on every trip. Probably $5k to fly anywhere. If that kind of expenditure mattered to you, you wouldn't take the jet. But when you do have enough money... why wouldn't you take the jet? Airline travel sucks, and a jet avoids all the problems, so that seems like a pretty good way to use your money.
posted by smackfu at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2008


There's a great passage in the second volume of Kristin Lavransdatter (1921) where Kristin is disgusted by the mismanagement and sheer waste on her new husband's farm.
Kristin had not slept much on the first night, even though the priests had blessed her bed. On top were spread silk-covered pillows, and linen sheet, and the finest blankets and furs, but underneath lay filthy, rotting straw; there were lice in the bedclothes and in the magnificent black bear pelt that lay on top.

... there was a loft half-filled with flax, and nothing had been done with it--it seemed to be a large part of several years' harvest. And a storeroom full of ancient, unwashed, and stinking wool, some in sacks and some lying loose all around. When Kristin put her hand into the wool, tiny brown worm eggs spilled out of it--moths and maggots had gotten into the wool.

The cattle were feeble, gaunt, scabrous, and chafed; never had she seen so many old animals in one place. ...

When she saw into what a sorry state everything had fallen and how much she would have to tend to, then the thought shot through her mind, hard and clear: if she had committed a sin to come to this place, so be it--but it was also a sin to make use of God's gifts as was done here. Shame was deserved by those who had been in charge before....
The people profiled in this story are a walking argument for greater progressiveness in income taxes.

Thirty years of tax revolts in the United States have resulted in drastic underfunding of public education and public infrastructure, as well as mounting public debt (approaching $7T, or $25,000 per person).

It's not so much the disparity in wealth that irritates me (I understand loquax's argument about the beneficial effects of capital accumulation), it's the wastefulness.
posted by russilwvong at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


human population has doubled in 50 years! In geological time that's NOTHING. It's an instant! Things have gone massively out of whack, and more and more people are admitting it, but those who aren't are just burying their heads deeper and deeper into their consumptive lifestyles.

Don't worry too much. We'll be out of food soon.
posted by oaf at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2008


tkchrist: Food for thought. You have a pretty consistent message when it comes to this stuff.

Wealth allows you freedom to exorcise your own power.

That's got to be the most transcendental typo I've seen all year. :-)
posted by adamdschneider at 3:21 PM on April 14, 2008


They're having a fucking blast.

A vulgar, tasteless, self-indulgent blast.

Some people like that kind of stuff, you know?


I've heard tell of it:

Then breaking into the credits, we see what happens to the students in the future:

Jeff Spicoli saves Brooke Shields from drowning and is given a sizable reward, which he blows hiring Van Halen to play at his birthday party.

AWESOME, DUDE!!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:23 PM on April 14, 2008


Despite Victorian predictions, the sun has set on the British Empire, and I'm going to bed. I really appreciate the discussion here, it's a lifeline to a world of people who think. It's good to be reminded that so many people are radically different than me in opinion and belief, even though it stings a bit sometimes. Thank you!

ps - we all know that in the end... I'm right.
posted by arcadia at 3:25 PM on April 14, 2008


Our lives are fine. And personally mine would be even better if there were about five billion fewer people in the world.

Funny how I don't see you volunteering to be one of the 5 billion dead people. What's stopping you?
posted by Justinian at 3:39 PM on April 14, 2008


I submit you guys and girls this little scenario:

You have a gob of cash , either hard worked by sweat blood or "created" by sustaining unlikely risks for a price, or somewhere in between.

Some of that cash finances a production system that promotes and sells good/services, some of which have evident side effects such as

1. increasing the price of essential goods (more demand for oil --> oil from corn becomes profiteable --> price of corn rises --> price of food rises)
2. promoting a culture of here/now that is unreasonably self-destructive ( chemical fertilizers --> dirt becomes increasingly less nutrited and plastic like)
3. creates unescapable dependencies ( 99% of people have a car, if you don't own one & you don't have public transport, you're effectively cut out the world)

Now, assume most of your are happy fat cats sitting on all that "good" and purring , but you really are on a kitteh high of catnip , so hi Afroman pales in comparison.

Should I smack your sorry junky ass or not? Course not, you'd say. Yet some will realize the dependecy, others will not, so I'll have to take the catnip away, bad kiiteh! You are free to grow your own, assuming kitteh knows how to grow it and they don't.
posted by elpapacito at 3:53 PM on April 14, 2008


Extreme paintball? Such a lack of imagination. Imagine the pranks you could pull for $50k.
posted by mecran01 at 4:04 PM on April 14, 2008


The four friends didn't waste the 50,000. They had a great time and received exactly what they agreed on with the company when they signed the contract. If this article had been about how one of them had purchased a beautiful antique desk with the money, no one would have noticed or cared; his good taste would have met with approval even if the desk was put in a corner of the living room and forgotten. What rankles the Mefites in this thread is that they spent 50k on an experience, and that they felt no guilt over preferring an emphemeral pleasure to a concrete acquisition.

"The system" didn't create automobile culture etc. - CONSUMER DEMAND FOR CARS CREATED IT. Please think about that carefully. And saying they were manipulated into it by evil fatcats is a patronising dead end argument - if only the Socialist Workers' Party had hired the right ad agencies things would be SO DIFFERENT, and we could all eat organic vegetables transported by coolies paid a fair trade wage. lol no, sorry.

It's also odd how many people are flinging around talk of these people spending government bailout money or how everyone on Wall Street is evil or something - usually Metafilter is smarter than this. These people have money because they don't need bailouts - plenty of people on Wall Street made money by betting correctly against the firms who fucked up and now are in trouble. The people in this article aren't parasites, they've succeeded and are now enjoying their rewards. They get paid such amounts because they make much more for their clients, and talent gets rewarded. That's all.

Can we kill this breathtakingly stupid thread now?
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:21 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow! Very interesting thread. Wish I could have dived in earlier but fast moving markets today, only now getting seriously freed up ...

Ok, although the recession headline initially attracted me (more on that later), I have to say I agree fully with tkchrist's points on wealth and, more importantly independence.

Banking for me is only a means to an end; largely the same end as tkchrist refers to. I've made several posts about this to MeFi, and they all make the same point; just because you work in banking - or any field for that matter - doesn't mean you have to spend (consume) all or even large portions of your income. Mrs Mutant & I get along just fine living in London of all places and saving about 85% of our net.

How do we do this? Well, we live absolutely not relatively. We live to please ourselves, not others, and are very happy in our East End flat - the quality of our lifestyle suits us both just fine, thank you very much. Folks out in Seven Oaks or Reigate (Stock Broker belt) might - and in fact do - look down at our Ghetto location, but we rather like walking to work or Tate Modern and especially like low Council Taxes, inexpensive local markets, cheap food and cheap pubs; these are our means to an end.

This 38 year old guy who dumped $50K in one weekend? Yeh, believe it or not, I've heard of worse profligacy, far worse, but not only in banking. Just look at what some of the movie stars, models and other such folks get up to. Now they's rich. This guy? Like it or not - he works for a living.

But even so, I'm willing to bet he ain't got no exit plan. I mean, if the (relatively) easy money ends, his consumption will no doubt be seriously unbalanced with respect to the passive earning power of his assets. His lifestyle will change - dramatically. More than likely, he's not in control of his own fate, and one could easily run into this guy driving a black taxi or working as an estate agent.

Here in London I've met many ex-traders working in both (and other) jobs. And these are honourable professions, by the way, don't get me wrong. After all, Harry Truman said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "never disrespect anyone for doing an honest days work" and I'm certainly not here nor do I ever - just following up on a point others raised about financial prudence. Or, more properly, lack of.

I've posted many times about frugality, and mentioned how Mrs Mutant & I try to balance our lives and consumption against our sustainable, passive income. This is a practice I've been undertaking for a large part of my life, and soon Mrs Mutant & I will be taking a year off; we couldn't do this at all if we spent large amounts of our income early on in our lives, if we hadn't used resources if and when they became available to achieve financial independence.

I don't judge others for how they live. But I do (sorta privately, but here it is out on MeFi now) agree with views upthread about "idiot". Although I would tend to sugar coat the phrase, calling his actions with respect to conspicuous consumption "ill advised" or "imprudent".

So there you go. If past history is any guide, a "what is he doing now?" article in a decades time might see this guy driving a lorry, teaching school, or any other of a large number of honourable but low key (and relatively low paying) professions. I've seen it happen before in this business ...

And that recession? I really don't know why the media goes on and on about it; many people in banking knew since early 2006 or so there was a high degree of probability of a US recession; after all, the yield curve (almost) never lies and in fact many firms were seriously hiring liquidation specialists and experts in distressed debt Q1 2007. All the signs were there long ago that some big money was being wagered a US recession was a'comin. So that's a story if they cared to write it. Instead they yammer on and on about the recession that caught everyone by surprise. I just don't get the media sometimes ...

Of course Harry Truman also was quoted as asking for "an honest weeks pay for a honest days work", showing that none of us are immune to greed.
posted by Mutant at 4:45 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Spacelegoman writes "'The system' didn't create automobile culture etc. - CONSUMER DEMAND FOR CARS CREATED IT."

Sez the pusher to the junkie: you demanded for drugz, I am just a provider! Stop demanding drugs and I'll stop pushing it to you.

And the junkie sez: you may be right after all, I quit!

The pusher sez: excellent! there you go, let's celebrate with your last snort of coke! Did I mention how good this new coke is?

And the junkie: *sniff* damn that's good junk! Wait, I'm hooked again! Why did give me that stuff ?

The pusher sez: you could have refused! I can't be faulted for your accepting my offer!

The junkie: but nobody forced you to give me that stuff!

The pusher: Hell what do you think, I have a family to feed, do you think I go around stealing stuff? I am all for my family!

The junkie: I have a family too!

Pusher: fuck your family.
posted by elpapacito at 4:53 PM on April 14, 2008


The worst thing about the widening gap of the class divide is that the higher you get, the smaller the problems of the people below you seem.
posted by lukeklein at 4:58 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The system' didn't create automobile culture etc. - CONSUMER DEMAND FOR CARS CREATED IT.

The automobile companies buying up the light rail systems so that they could destroy them and rip up the tracks, making the use of cars mandatory for those who had previously depended on the light rail, had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

Anybody who tells you that our culture is how it is because of consumer demand- and who denies the roles of advertising agencies and marketers who've been paid billions of dollars over the years to shape, direct, and create the very demand they attribute to consumers- is either too stupid to be discussing or thinks that you're stupid enough to buy it. Marketing and advertising isn't a multi-billion dollar industry because corporations feel generous. They've paid people to get inside your head and make you want things you wouldn't want otherwise, and when you've bought them- and discovered that your desires aren't really sated, after all- well, who cares, really? Your money's in their hands now, and who the fuck are you to object to how they spend it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:38 PM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's rare to see a thread where "why don't you just go kill yourself?" is a valid argument. Rare, and sorta fun.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:42 PM on April 14, 2008


1 Although my wife did spend some on food, so I guess we have no right to say anything about people who devote their lives to maximum consumption, all the time.

That is great schtick.

posted by YoBananaBoy at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2008


They've paid people to get inside your head and make you want things you wouldn't want otherwise, and when you've bought them- and discovered that your desires aren't really sated, after all- well, who cares, really? Your money's in their hands now, and who the fuck are you to object to how they spend it?

Speaking as some one who worked in Advertising for years and got out barely in time to save my soul let me be first to say... you are waaaaaaay over stating your case.

You want to know what the absolute worst thing about Nike spending billions in advertising dollars really is? It's not how much it manipulates peoples minds. No. It's how little. Advertisers are con artists. But it's the clients that get conned.

The filthy secret of advertising is they get paid sickening amounts of money to do next to nothing measurable. It's true. Advertising largely doesn't do shit to "make" people want or buy anything.

What it can do, when it's done well and when it's most insidious, is to somewhat convince you that a object has metaphysical talisman-like attributes. Or that a brand has human personality attributes.

Axe will make you sexier. Or that a Chevy pick up truck will make you a patriot. Or eating anything that doesn't have beef in it will turn you gay. Or that ADM cares about the planet.

But making you desire those things enough to buy them? Let's just say Madison Avenue has done gloriously well selling you THAT idea. But there is not much in the way of proof.

And frankly your accusations of stupidity are going in an incorrect vector. If people are the sheep you claim... then they are the stupid ones. I mean seriously. You buy Axe aftershave because you think it's gonna make you sexy? Your a moron who likely should be parted from his money before you spend it on crack.

People are materialistic. And what we have in this country is the idea that material=status. And that Status is the end all be all of human happiness. And that my friend was around in America LOOOOONG before Madison Avenue. Though they didn't help.
posted by tkchrist at 6:12 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


The worst thing about the widening gap of the class divide is that the higher you get, the smaller the problems of the people below you seem.

Wait. I thought that was the best thing about it.
posted by psmealey at 6:13 PM on April 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


tkchrist writes "And frankly your accusations of stupidity are going in an incorrect vector. If people are the sheep you claim... then they are the stupid ones. I mean seriously. You buy Axe aftershave because you think it's gonna make you sexy? Your a moron who likely should be parted from his money before you spend it on crack."

Well I fancy believing I am an intellectual too and that I am immune from suggestion, but to tell you the truth, I am just less suggestionable than others are. Frankly, are you really convinced nobody can p0wn you? I'd think twice, you are human after all.

I don't think you'd like to discover you are one tiny iota less brilliant than you think and that somebody is exploiting that to part you from your money ; I think it is a lot more acceptable to realize that you just can't do it all alone and that an organization is often need to achieve something , and that's why you don't pay just the mere material transformation costs, but significantly more.

From another perspective, I could say that I am tired of working for people who tell me Santa loves me and that I should feel good when I think that ; similarly, I am growing tired of the second generation pushed that, having lost Santa et similia, now wants to convince me that paying a tax on suggestionabiltiy is just what I deserve.

tkchrist writes "People are materialistic. And what we have in this country is the idea that material=status."

That's utter bull and you know it is, look at how religions spun millions over million over thinking they shall wait for goods in the afterlife. Of course people do appreciate whatever is pleasure inducing, fatigue removing et al and as long as they don't realize the bottom line problem, exactly as junky they are going to remain blissfully hooked.
posted by elpapacito at 6:30 PM on April 14, 2008


The filthy secret of advertising is they get paid sickening amounts of money to do next to nothing measurable. It's true. Advertising largely doesn't do shit to "make" people want or buy anything.

What it can do, when it's done well and when it's most insidious, is to somewhat convince you that a object has metaphysical talisman-like attributes. Or that a brand has human personality attributes.

Axe will make you sexier. Or that a Chevy pick up truck will make you a patriot. Or eating anything that doesn't have beef in it will turn you gay. Or that ADM cares about the planet.


I imagine you playing poker, showing your opponent that your hole card is a 2 and continuing to bluff as if it were an Ace.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:31 PM on April 14, 2008


The filthy secret of advertising is they get paid sickening amounts of money to do next to nothing measurable. It's true. Advertising largely doesn't do shit to "make" people want or buy anything.

What it can do, when it's done well and when it's most insidious, is to somewhat convince you that a object has metaphysical talisman-like attributes. Or that a brand has human personality attributes.


You realize, of course, that convincing people that an object or brand has talismanic attributes is exactly the same thing as "making" people want to buy said object or brand? I mean, if I actually thought that Axe would make me a sex king or that a particular pair of shoes would make me play like LeBron, hell YES I'd buy all that shit. Who wouldn't?

The "human personality attributes" part is a little trickier, and while I think we may be straying offtrack, this is something I find interesting, so fuck it: If you say that a certain kind of person reads The New Yorker or watches NASCAR or subscribes to HBO, then certainly people who want to be a part of those social groups may hitch themselves to these wagons. But if people of this type are all susceptible to such advertising, and others are not, then isn't the promise that "hey, a guy/girl like you digs stuff like this" pretty much actually true? I'm not sure this is really a con, even if it does belie the special snowflake status we all like to ascribe to ourselves.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:32 PM on April 14, 2008


Axe will make you sexier. Or that a Chevy pick up truck will make you a patriot. Or eating anything that doesn't have beef in it will turn you gay. Or that ADM cares about the planet.

Heh. The most insidious thing is that you know the brand names that you're complaining about.
posted by smackfu at 7:45 PM on April 14, 2008


Heh. The most insidious thing is that you know the brand names that you're complaining about.

He isn't complaining. He's bragging.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:01 PM on April 14, 2008


I'm composing this using bongo drums in this little box I live in. I wired the drums to a convertor that I spliced directly into an overhead cable line. When I want a zero I hit the little drum, the big drum is for ones.

I'd not only buy this, I'd invest.
posted by rokusan at 8:05 PM on April 14, 2008


Smart money says don't bet on anyone who spends more than a hundred bucks on a game of paintball...
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 8:16 PM on April 14, 2008


Half the money spent on advertising goes to waste but which half? I think I got the saying wrong...
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 8:19 PM on April 14, 2008


I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

'course, they're really naugahyde, and it's a "Mahogany Spice" scent sack air freshener . . .
posted by exlotuseater at 8:25 PM on April 14, 2008


Money = desire incarnate.

That's the bottom line. We all have desires; this thread is filled with them. Did that guy have more fun than I did last weekend? NO WAY! I would not trade any of last weekend for living his life.

The funny, and ironic, thing about this is that this big spender is necessary for small spenders to feel bad about themselves, good about themselves, or indifferent to this rich fellow's good time.

My Dad, at dinner, used to say "watch your own plate". That's good advice.
posted by MetaMan at 10:50 PM on April 14, 2008


"Funny how I don't see you volunteering to be one of the 5 billion dead people. What's stopping you?"

yawn... Go back and read through my (excessive) posts on this thread, and please note that nowhere do I advocate, promote, or even suggest suicide or murder. Of course I'm not volunteering to be a dead person. But guess what? I'm going to be, eventually, and so are you. The span of a human life is nothing in ecological time, and suicide would make no difference at all. As I've stated, all you need to do is not have children. It's the most ecologically sound act that any human can undertake.
My last word on the subject, in the interest of making myself sound moderate, I leave to Bill Hicks (RIP):

"By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence."
posted by arcadia at 11:16 PM on April 14, 2008


Quoting Bill Hicks doesn't make you sound moderate. I mean, Bill Hicks was teh funny but moderate he was not.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on April 14, 2008


Justinian - That's the whole point! I'm making myself sound moderate by comparing myself to Bill Hicks.

Also, sorry for posting three times - computer issues. I flagged the last two so hopefully a kind moderator will remove them and make me look more intelligent than I am.
posted by arcadia at 12:29 AM on April 15, 2008


Conspicuous consumers are not generally happy people in my experience. I would be very suprised if they managed to get any sense of acheivement or relaxation from their activities on this weekend. They are slags, going from one frantic coupling to the next without ever acheiving a sense of worth that arrests their need to continue this spiral of ever decreasing sensation. A bit of pilates is what they need, but they can't engage in such activities, addicted as they are to instant gratification.

Just think, if the dollar continues it's slide, blowing 50k on a weekend for three will seem like value for money in a few years!
posted by asok at 5:06 AM on April 15, 2008


HA! What the article doesn't say is that they drove to Miami... and the 50k was mostly spent in gas!!!

Sry if someone already said this but I didn't read EVERY comment.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:31 AM on April 15, 2008


I'm making myself sound moderate by comparing myself to Bill Hicks.

Suggesting that all humans should stop reproducing is in no way moderate. Not even compared to suggesting that a small subset of humans should kill themselves.
posted by Perplexity at 6:01 AM on April 15, 2008


asok -- "A bit of pilates is what they need..."

Agreed about the negative correlation happiness and conspicuous consumption, at least from the (limited) of set of folks I've known in banking engaged in such practices.

Every year the bonus (in banking this generally is a multiple of base salary) is spent long before received, and every year the spending gets more extreme, the damage to their personal balance sheet more severe.

I think what these folks really need is to throw something away. Then something else.

I make it a point to discard something every day, and I'm not talking about just taking out the trash which I do at least twice a day. Its amazing the sheer amount of CRAP one accumulates in modern life. Absolutely unbelievable.

I enjoy tossing shit out. As I've said before fuck consumption. I've had enough.
posted by Mutant at 6:26 AM on April 15, 2008


When the situation is extreme, moderation is a vice.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:56 AM on April 15, 2008


Pope don't you ever get tired of being hysterical and rude. It must be exhausting. Haven't you noticed that fewer and fewer people reply to you?

How many times must you get your little name calling tantrums axed by the moderators before you "get it." Seriously. You need to look at how you talk to people here.
posted by tkchrist at 11:01 AM on April 15, 2008


Justinian - That's the whole point! I'm making myself sound moderate by comparing myself to Bill Hicks.

People need to resist the temptation to quote Hicks when the subject gets heady. He is not the final word on anything. He didn't exactly cure diseases or offer any solutions. He bitched about obvious shit. He was funny. Sometimes. But he was just a stand up comedian. Not a guru.

I make it a point to discard something every day, and I'm not talking about just taking out the trash which I do at least twice a day. Its amazing the sheer amount of CRAP one accumulates in modern life. Absolutely unbelievable.

That is the truth. We down sized three years ago from a 6000 sq foot home to a 2000 sq foot condo. The amount of stuff we sold, donated, or gave away... over six truck loads. And we had already made a concerted effort to not buy shit for years. My motto now is if I havn't used it for three weeks? It GOES.

Even poor people accumulate swaths of crap they don't need. We lived adjacent to housing projects in what passes for the hood for about six years. When the city decided to renovate portions of the projects we volunteered to help some of the residents move and find temporary housing until their places got re-done. It was astounding the amount of shit people who were dead broke had. Tons of clothes. Three or four TVs a couple of stereos. Those places were packed. I thought a better use of money would be to supply these Units with decent quality durable furnishings and built-in entertainment centers so residents wouldn't feel compelled to buy Ikea crap that breaks and accumulates.
posted by tkchrist at 11:14 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the situation is extreme, moderation is a vice.

Words used by every despot throughout history in self-justification.

When you find yourself paraphrasing Barry Goldwater, but excising the good parts ("in the defense of liberty"), I submit to you that this indicates you are on the wrong side of an issue. I agree with you about many things, but on certain issues (atheism, income disparity) you come off as shrill, to say the least.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:39 PM on April 15, 2008


Arcadia, you're kinda weird. You advocate that we stop breeding or we'll kill the planet. If we stop breeding, who's going to be around to enjoy the planet?

Life is brief and much of the time a real struggle for the vast majority of us. Having children for most of that majority brings unparalleled joy in their lives, and maybe having those kids will change their attitude towards the future of the world. So breeding isn't all bad. If you really want something at which to direct your hate, point it at agriculture. That single invention is what caused the world's population to explode.

Now I'm gonna go outside, fire up my Diesel F350 Superheavy Duty and write "I <3 arcadia" in a grassy field with my big knobbly spinning tires.
posted by illiad at 12:53 PM on April 15, 2008


[a few comments removed - please find a room you two, if that room is metatalk, so be it.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:10 PM on April 15, 2008


Related article from the NY Times: Recession Diet Just One Way To Tighten Belt.
Spending data and interviews around the country show that middle- and working-class consumers are starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, to eat in instead of dining out and to fly at unusual hours to shave dollars off airfares.

Though seemingly small, the daily trade-offs they are making — more pasta and less red meat, more video rentals and fewer movie tickets — amount to an important shift in consumer behavior. ...

Burt Flickinger, a longtime retail consultant, said the last time he saw such significant changes in consumer buying patterns was the late 1970s, when runaway inflation prompted Americans to “switch from red meat to pork to poultry to pasta — then to peanut butter and jelly.”
posted by russilwvong at 10:04 PM on April 26, 2008


« Older A Saudi national has made a short film intended to...  |  13-year-old Andrew Johnston, b... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments