Farmers Commit

Our worthy overlords speak:

A survey … invited the very rich to write freely about how prosperity has shaped their lives and those of their children. … Roughly 165 households responded, 120 of which have at least $25 million in assets. The respondents’ average net worth is $78 million, and two report being billionaires. … Respondents report feeling that they have lost the right to complain about anything, for fear of sounding—or being—ungrateful. Those with children worry that their children will become trust-fund brats if their inheritances are too large—or will be forever resentful if those inheritances (or parts of them) are instead bequeathed to charity. ….

If the rich do take jobs, they sometimes find that co-workers resent them on the grounds that they’re “taking away the jobs of people who need them.” The rich also leave jobs more quickly than others, for the simple reason that they can afford to do so. … An heir … earned an M.B.A. from a top-tier school and was an obviously intelligent man. He nonetheless moved from one high-tech job to another. “At some point, something would happen at each job that those who have to work for an income would learn to tolerate. … And he’d just say, ‘I don’t want to deal with this.’ Eventually he had to say, ‘I don’t have a career.’” …

One issue that … comes up frequently is the question of at what point in a relationship to reveal one’s wealth—a disclosure he makes sound as fraught as telling your date you have herpes. “When do you tell someone that you have got a huge amount of money?” he asks rhetorically. “If you tell them too soon, you are going to worry that they want you for your money. If you wait too long, can the person really trust you? (more)

The right to complain, and when to disclose to mates, are issues mainly because the very rich are a minority. But committing less to careers because they don’t have to put up with stuff, that issue applies to all of us to a lesser extent, in this our rich world. Our farmer ancestors were way into commitment, to marriage, to land, to family, to religion, etc. But with increasing wealth, we feel less of the fear that inclined farmers to follow strong norms. Overall this self-indulgence is probably good, but let’s not pretend that something valuable is not being lost in the trade.

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