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Wealth in America

By thelizman in Culture
Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 08:53:06 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In what has become an annual ritual, Forbes Magazine has released its "400 Richest in America", a list of the wealthiest in a land which is simultaneously revered and reviled for its wealth. Between the lines are some suprisingly revealing truths about what it takes to be rich in America.


Wealth is Fleeting
...or "Rags to riches, then back again."

Wealth is no guarantee of comfort. In fact, in the past two decades, there has been a 75% turnover rate on the Forbes list. If you were to look on the list in 1984, you wouldn't find Paul Allen (#3 at $20 Bn USD) or Bill Gates (#1 at $48 Bn USD), both of Microsoft fame. You wouldn't find Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (#38 at $4.3 Bn USD) either: he made his money on the rise of the Internet in the 1990's.

The dearly departed from last year include Michael Eisner, who slipped under the top 400 requirements after falling out of favor with shareholders and executives at Disney. Also dropped from the list was Joan Kroc, whose late husband Ray Kroc bought a fledgling McDonalds in the early 1950s, and turned it into a multibillion dollar global fast-food empire. Kroc fell off the list not for lack of money rather, she passed away leaving an estate worth $1.7 Bn USD, which would have put her in cozy company at #142 on the list. Also missing is Martha Stewart, also known as Federal Inmate Number 55170-054, whose net worth took a dive along with share prices of her home decor empire Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia after allegations of insider trading hit the headlines.

Parentage helps, but is not everything. 156 on the list inherited at least some of their money. Silver spoons aside, the sources of fortune are widely varied. 34 made their fortunes in the Oil Industry. 45 got their chunk of change by riding the wave of new media that have sprung up thanks to cable, satellite, and Internet. The one constant seems to be hard work and education: at least 266 listees have a college education, and their average worth is $2.4 Bn USD. The overall list average worth is $2.6 Bn USD, and some may note that Bill Gates - the number 1 person on the list - never finished college, and holds only an honorary degree.

Demographic Shenanigans
...or "Rich White Men Feel the Heat"

The traditional concept of the wealthiest Americans brings to mind pictures of curmudgeonly old white men. At 96, Max Fisher fits the brandy-sipping cigar smoking profile. At the other end of the spectrum is 31 year old Sergey Brin (#34 at 4.0 Bn USD), who helped found the Google search engine in 1998 with fellow Stanford Alumnus Larry Page (#43 at $4.0 Bn USD). Sergey, whose parents were middle class math teachers, had an estimated net worth of $550 million just two years ago, but Google's recent IPO inflated his fortunes. Likewise, Page - whose parents were also math teachers - saw his fortunes blossom.

Age isn't the only area seeing shifts- there are now 51 women on the list worth an average of $2.8 Bn USD. Those women include Oprah Winfrey (#253 at $1.3 Bn USD), whose public career began with radio at age 17. Another woman who made the list is the Queen of Mean: Leona Helmsley, infamous for her quote "Only the little people pay taxes", made shortly before she spent 18 months in jail for tax evasion.

The changing face of America's wealthy also includes the likes of Arturo Moreno (#352 at $850 Mn USD). Moreno, a Vietnam Veteran, made his money by building an advertising empire with billboards and bus signs, then sold it to Viacom. Indian-born Amar G Bose, best known for his innovative small speaker systems, has applied his knowledge of engineering and acoustics to everything from automotive suspensions to the Space Shuttle. Jerry Yang (#97 at $2.2 Bn USD), on the other hand, remains one of the many who made their fortunes off the Internet in the last decade. As one of the founders of Yahoo!, he's found close company on the list with Brin and Page. The list still falls short of representing the demographic makeup of the US, however. With the loss of Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, Oprah Winfrey stands alone as the sole African American on the list.

Single and Swank
...or "Who Wants to Marry a Billionaire?"

Of course, if you think its too late to make your fortune in life, you can do the next best thing. Put on your best suit and woo yourself a rich one. Ladies looking int the about-thirty-something crowd can choose between Sergey Brin or Larry Paige, both 31, or 38 year old David Filo who is worth $2.2 billion. If you'd like to win it all through "natural causes", then look no further than billionaire financier Warren Buffet, who at 74 surely has one or more feet in the grave. If you're patient, then media mogul and New York City major Michael Bloomberg probably has a few decades before he buys the farm for $5 billion USD.

The ladies don't get all the fun. If you don't mind being referred to as the 'kept man', young bachelors can likely weasel their way between Oprah and Stedman, with whom she has never tied the knot. The reward for wrecking that happy home is a cool $1.3 billion. If you don't mind old, but do mind sharing, 84 year old Leona Helmsley may soon be taking the down-elevator, leaving behind $2.2 billion for the lucky bachelor and army of lawyers that enforce that prenup.

Let Them Eat Cake
...or "Give till you still can't feel it."

Of course, being rich won't make you popular with the have-nots, but you may be able to buy your way to redemption and impress your fellow haves with your charity. George Soros has contributed $5.4 billion to charitable and political organizations, accounting for 43% of his wealth. But that doesn't stack up to Gordon Moore, who gave 64% of his net worth away to environmental causes, for a total of $6.7 billion in tree hugging goodness. In third place is Bill Gates, who has donated 37% of his net worth to charitable causes. Of course, he's first in actual cash, with a total of $28.2 billion, and that does not include the $24 billion in endowments given to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Other big givers included Michael Dell at $1.2 billion and Eli Broad at $1.6 billion.

These good deeds aren't exactly helping the have-nots. Joan Kroc gave $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army, and aside from that most giving goes to support the arts and medical research. To date, the greatest philanthropist remains Andrew Carnegie, who gave his entire $475 million dollar fortune ($5.56 billion) to charity on his death.

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o Paul Allen
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o Joan Kroc
o Martha Stewart
o Max Fisher
o Sergey Brin
o Larry Page
o Oprah Winfrey
o Leona Helmsley
o Arturo Moreno
o Amar G Bose
o Jerry Yang
o Robert L. Johnson
o Warren Buffet
o Michael Bloomberg
o Michael Dell
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o Also by thelizman


Display: Sort:
Wealth in America | 148 comments (81 topical, 67 editorial, 2 hidden)
A great man once said (2.42 / 7) (#2)
by Resonant on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 08:59:13 PM EST

(loose quote) "First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women."

"I answer, 'This is _quantitative_ religious studies.'" - glor
Hmmm ..... (1.00 / 2) (#99)
by mrt on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 10:06:53 PM EST

That sounds like something Homer Simpson would say.
-

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous
[ Parent ]
wow (none / 0) (#136)
by Resonant on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:23:34 AM EST

arent you perceptive

"I answer, 'This is _quantitative_ religious studies.'" - glor
[ Parent ]
-1, editorializing (1.22 / 9) (#5)
by The Fifth Column on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:25:56 PM EST

Unless you resection to op-ed.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.

lol... (1.68 / 22) (#10)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:42:49 AM EST

Freedom in the US of A:

You can get really rich...

...unless you're black. (Well, we're let one up there, but only one)

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Weird (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by CodeWright on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:34:12 PM EST

I thought Bill Cosby would be on that list. He once offered to buy either CBS or NBC for $2bil (can't remember which one).

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Once (2.57 / 7) (#24)
by thelizman on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:17:12 PM EST

Cosby was on the list at one point in the 90's. The base target for the list - that is the minimum net worth - was revised upward to reflect inflation, and about that time Cosby retired. Make no mistake, he's rich rich rich, just not in that top 400. As for the CBS buyout, its not all Cosby's money. Generally when a person or entity buys a corporation, they don't pay 100% of the assessed value. They instead by more than half the companies net worth in stocks. Some of this stock is purchased on borrowed money (buying on margin), some of it is actual stock that you don't buy but borrow and sell with a promise to repurchase and return in a matter of time (this is called a short sell and its very risky, but you can make money on a short sell if you can predict when the price goes down or comes back up). Believe me, people who pay attention to stocks can make gobs of money just by playing the shell game of finance.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Heh... (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Shajenko on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:45:57 PM EST

It's not like being white will make you rich either. Just because the rulers tend to be white men doesn't mean all white men (or even that many white men) benefit from that.

[ Parent ]
Number of ex-Canadians also 0. (2.66 / 3) (#35)
by Esspets on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:46:17 PM EST

Conincidence? No.


Desperation.
[ Parent ]
Freedom in (insert favorite socialist country): (1.60 / 5) (#81)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 08:37:03 PM EST

You can't get rich, sucka. Period.

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (2.40 / 5) (#95)
by trhurler on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 07:52:44 PM EST

There are a ton of really wealthy black people in the United States, even if few of them are in the top 400. There'd be a ton more, if your average professional athlete was smart enough to invest his money instead of buying gold plated luxury SUVs for all his friends. Sadly, a fool and his money soon ARE parted, so most athletes, white black or otherwise, end up as poor as they started out.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Any disadv. grps in "hard" industries? (1.50 / 4) (#17)
by nlscb on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:52:32 PM EST

I don't have time to look, but are their examples of women and disadvantaged minorities (translation - not Asian) making it big in growing industries such as IT and Biotech, tech capital heavy industries (Oil, autos, chemicals, etc..), instead of things like entertainment or hotels? I hope so. I'm sorry, but it doesn't bode well for these groups if they are only making it big in the "fluffier" parts of the economy.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange

Lazy (1.33 / 6) (#28)
by thelizman on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:23:04 PM EST

I don't have time to look, but...
But you had time to compose this comment? RTFS
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
"RTFS"? Jeez, that's petty of you. /nt (none / 1) (#31)
by RandomLiegh on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 08:54:16 PM EST



---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
[ Parent ]
What's a "disadvantaged minority"? (none / 1) (#148)
by partykidd on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 11:05:06 PM EST

And why does it matter?

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

Carnegie (2.66 / 3) (#33)
by pHatidic on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:39:29 PM EST

Princeton university asked Andrew Carnegie for an enormous sum of money to build a law school. Carnegie replied, "those boys don't need a law school, what those boys need is a lake to row on." So he damned up a river to create lake Carnegie and built a nice boathouse on it. To this day Princeton has no law school.

heh (none / 1) (#79)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 08:24:08 PM EST

Oh yeah, that Carnegie, what an asshole. >:)

[ Parent ]
What is this? (2.00 / 9) (#34)
by Magnetic North on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:41:39 PM EST

Cosmo? Ladies Home Journal? Who the fuck cares? We already know what these evil fucks are up to. Walking over dead bodies, grabbing everything in sight. That's why they're on this list. And that's why they don't deserve anymore of our attention.

--
<33333
kill the rich (1.80 / 15) (#42)
by circletimessquare on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:14:49 PM EST

then eat them

justice is served


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Indeed (3.00 / 2) (#94)
by trhurler on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 07:49:57 PM EST

Shortly after you do that, justice will indeed be served - upon you, and by your own lack of competence to run the world you live in.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
The rich - competent? (none / 1) (#101)
by cicho5 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 11:46:08 PM EST

Surely you jest. You don't really believe the world is run by the people hwo spend most of their lives on fucking golf courses and shopping for Prada clothes in Paris, do you?

The world would be run much more competently by the people who have always made it run through the hard work they personally delivered.

Bill Gates didn't design Windows, he didn't write Windows, he didn't market Windows, you know? Bill Gates is disposable, the designers, coders and marketers are not. That, and a lot of fortune has been inherited and is held by people who've never had put in a single idea, let alone a day's work. How much did Teresa Heinz do to enhance the brand value? Come on.

[ Parent ]

Hehe (none / 1) (#104)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 01:01:00 AM EST

First of all, who put his ass on the line for Microsoft? Not some designer who came along AFTER it was a multimillion dollar a year company. That guy would never have risked $100 on a poker game, let alone his whole future on a company.

Second, you do realize that all Bill Gates does these days is head up architecture, right? No, he's not as good as Microsofties think, but he's not bad either; he did get his start as a programmer, and he does know what he's talking about, more or less, which is more than most corporate "software architects" can claim.

Third, most of the rich are not idle. Most of them are first generation rich, and they earned every penny - and are still earning more.

Fourth, if the poor suffering underclass is so competent, why aren't they getting ahead in life? Lots of other people ARE getting ahead in life, mainly on their willingness to work really, really hard and a mild dose of competence. So, what's wrong with all those underachieving slackers that keeps them behind, if they in fact are the ones who keep everything going? (Hint: most of those people can't handle it if the buttons on the cash register are rearranged, let alone are they "competent" at anything that matters.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Competence (none / 0) (#138)
by drquick on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 02:21:16 PM EST

You assume competence leads to success. Competence leads to results (not success) and not necessarilly for the competent person himself.

[ Parent ]
-1, Idiotorializing. (1.66 / 6) (#48)
by felixrayman on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 01:36:44 AM EST

Plus, all that needs to be said about the rich was said a few decades ago by Strummer and Jones:

"I don't wanna hear about what the rich are doing
I don't wanna go to where the rich are going
They think they're so clever, they think they're so right
But the truth is only known by guttersnipes"

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

Number one (1.13 / 15) (#50)
by bankind on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 04:19:51 AM EST

should be the American People. Because god has given us the greatest gift of all:

OUR FREEDOM!!!!!!!

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

Money is only worth something when it is well aged (2.00 / 11) (#60)
by IHCOYC on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:39:12 AM EST

The high turnover rate of this list is itself an indication of a problem.

Money is only worth something when it is well aged. The movers and shakers of the world are the dangerous ones, the ones that should be hammered down. The qualities of ambition, of being on the make, are wicked qualities according to many centuries of western Christian values. Moreover, their presence indicates that those who wield these fortunes have not progressed far enough to remove themselves from their bourgeois roots. They still are directly involved; they dirty their hands with the business of buying and selling. This cheapens them, coarsens their character, and no matter how large a fortune they have amassed, they will want more.

Old money is far more socially valuable. Those who own that sort of fortune grew up with the money as part of the furniture. The day to day management of business affairs is left to hired men. The money becomes a buffer for them against the cares of the business world. It buys them better educations than the people who only studied such things as accounting in college receives; it enables them to travel and meet rich folks from around the world.

old money guarantees the heirs' rank in society without much regard to their skills, their ambitions, or their unwholesome drivenness. Some of these people may devote themselves to literary or scientific pursuits, or to politics or public service. Others may simply lead interesting lives out of the desire to avoid ennui. Either way, it should be obvious that the heir of old money is much less socially obnoxious than the person who acquired a fortune by luck, wits, or sharp practices.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

Bigots (1.83 / 6) (#71)
by thelizman on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 06:55:56 PM EST

"The movers and shakers of the world are the dangerous ones, the ones that should be hammered down."
I hear the same thing about the Jews, Blacks, Arabs, Democrats, Republicans...why is your first instinct to destroy what you don't understand?
"Old money is far more socially valuable."
Which, as we see in over 3/5ths of the richest individuals in this country, means jack shit.
"old money guarantees the heirs' rank in society without much regard to their skills, their ambitions, or their unwholesome drivenness. "
Okay, here's a newsflash for you. Old money is gone money if people don't manage it money. And that's what separates the rich and the poor. The rich get richer because they know how to do it. The poor stay poor because they don't. The graveyards of the world are full of pathetic souls who squandered their "old money".
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
old money being gone money.. (none / 1) (#82)
by Rahaan on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 03:55:34 AM EST

I don't know what your status is, so not being on the Forbes 400 may not be rich from your point of view, but from my eyes.. position number #401 (ie, "off the list", which you consider to be 'turnover') with a value somewhere just under $750 million is pretty-fucking-rich.

Someone's net worth fluctuating below that threshold is not an indication that the rich are rich because they know how to manage their money, it's a small sample size.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

Again with the bigotry (1.00 / 2) (#84)
by thelizman on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 08:18:10 AM EST

"I don't know what your status is,"
It doesn't matter what 'my status' is.
" Forbes 400"
The issue isn't merely the Forbes 400, it's everyone you consider "rich",which if our so-called progressive tax code is any indication, wealthy begins at $100,000/yr annual income. This 'hatred of the wealthy' thing is unproductive, and only damages those who develop unhealthy attitudes towards wealth.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Bigotry? (none / 0) (#87)
by Rahaan on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 11:47:23 AM EST

I commented about status because the debate depends on your perspective of what is 'rich'.  Your arguments in the article imply that someone not being on the Forbes 400 is not rich.
The issue isn't merely the Forbes 400, it's everyone you consider "rich",which if our so-called progressive tax code is any indication, wealthy begins at $100,000/yr annual income.
Then in your article you should probably site the 'turnover rate' for this set of people instead of what you actually talk about.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]
Yes, Bigotry (1.50 / 2) (#90)
by thelizman on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 06:18:51 PM EST

"Your arguments in the article imply that someone not being on the Forbes 400 is not rich."
No. They don't. Not by any reasonable stretch of a sane individuals imagination. In this debate alone I have stated otherwise. Open your ears.
"Then in your article you should probably site the 'turnover rate' for this set of people instead of what you actually talk about."
Why? The article is about what the Forbes 400 list and what it says about wealth. If you want an article for another set of people, do one yourself. Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. And yes, you're a bigot.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
point out my bigotry (none / 0) (#105)
by Rahaan on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 01:55:48 AM EST

thanks


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]
Look it up (none / 0) (#116)
by thelizman on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 12:50:19 PM EST

...and then think about how your class-warfare mentality and disdain for the achievements of others makes you a bigot.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Bigotry (none / 0) (#120)
by IHCOYC on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:37:09 PM EST

"Bigotry" only means something when you are talking about a prejudice against people for things they were born with and can't change. It's bigotry if you're against Blacks, the French, or homosexuals. It ain't bigotry to doubt, for example, the intelligence or good judgment of Scientologists, Mormons, or anti-evolutionists. We're talking about the fatuity demonstrated by people who believe obvious untruths here. There is a relationship between these beliefs and the quality that's being prejudged, which means "bigotry" is not the right word to describe it. You have apparently assumed that "achievement" is a positive thing and that we are not living in a society that is way too goal-oriented for its own good. You apparently also assume that "class warfare" is not already a fact of life, and that it is useful and not disruptive to discourage people from being content with their lot in life. These things, however, are at least not obvious untruths; they're value judgments about which people will always differ. You may form conclusions about the beliefs of people who disagree with you about them; but an accusation of "bigotry" is quite wide of the target.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]
Bigotry (none / 0) (#122)
by thelizman on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 07:11:15 PM EST

Bigotry" only means something when you are talking about a prejudice against people for things they were born with and can't change.
Bigotry, my dear fellow, has nothing to do with race, heredity and title, religeon, sex, or creed. It's when you feel yourself superior to another identifiable group. Now let's discuss the meaning of ignorance.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
I don't have a class-warfare mentality (none / 0) (#126)
by Rahaan on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 10:36:57 AM EST

I was questioning you as to whether you were implying people not on the Forbes 400 were not wealthy because of your wealth relative to theirs or because you're just stupid.

I found my answer!  have a nice day.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

the Forbes 400 (none / 0) (#106)
by Rahaan on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 01:57:48 AM EST

The article is about the Forbes 400 list and what it says about wealth.  One of your major points is the 75% turnover rate on the list.

An absolutely meaningless statistic which serves only to suggest that it's easy for the rich to lose their riches.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

The vice of ambition (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by IHCOYC on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 09:51:10 AM EST

I hear the same thing about the Jews, Blacks, Arabs, Democrats, Republicans...why is your first instinct to destroy what you don't understand?
It ain't bigotry unless it ain't true as well. Here, the problem with ambition and drivenness is not only true, it follows by definition from the meaning of the words themselves.

Ambitious and driven people raise the level of stress, not only on themselves, but also their neighbours. They bring disrupted change into the lives of their contented neighbours; they keep everyone else running just to stay in the same place. We need to stop looking at this as if it were some sort of virtue; that's a recent innovation contrary to two thousand years of better moral reasoning.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]

Nice. TROLL. (2.25 / 8) (#78)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 08:20:08 PM EST

This has got to be a troll. In fact, it sounds like dialogue from a Charles Dickens novel.

... "it should be obvious that the heir of old money is much less socially obnoxious"

The whole argument above is actually a checklist of reasons that "old money" is useless, detrimental, obscene, and socially obnoxious. I'm feeling uppity, so I'll respond to the troll:

(RANT ON:)

You know what I want to do when I see "old money"? Tax it into oblivion. You know what I think of when I hear the term? Paris fucking Hilton, poster-child for the undeserving. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with being rich. There is something wrong with spending your whole life with your lips welded onto the cock of America's economy, sucking and sucking and producing zero, except for the feces squirting out your ass. Trust funds are like welfare, only unconditional. So I say, good job to the people who made themselves rich via hard work. They're more likely to honor their roots.

(RANT OFF.)

[ Parent ]

by an odd coincidence (none / 0) (#100)
by Battle Troll on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 10:12:34 PM EST

My wife just hit the part of her Rothschild family history where they all become decadent playboys.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
And that's the beauty of it. . . . (none / 0) (#103)
by IHCOYC on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 12:35:19 AM EST

Since we will have a corrupt government no matter who we elect, wouldn't you rather vote for the decadent playboy rather than the Moral Improver or the ambitious would-be Master of the Universe? Ultimately, he's less dangerous, and more fun to watch in the news.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]
The first paragraph from the link says it all (2.75 / 4) (#65)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 01:29:44 PM EST

The U.S. economy's recovery may be a little shaky, but you wouldn't know it from looking at this year's Forbes 400. The combined net worth of the nation's wealthiest climbed to $1 trillion, up $45 billion in 12 months.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
some perspective (none / 1) (#98)
by emmons on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 09:04:09 PM EST

In the last 4 quarters, total GDP has increased $540 billion dollars, from $11,116 to $11,657. (Source) So, in fact, the top 400's combined net worth has decreased when compared as a ratio to GDP.

This is a bit misleading, however. It does not mean that 400 people own 9% of the country.. it's nowhere near that. GDP (depending on which method is used to count) is the annualized total of transactions, whereas the top 400 are based on total market value of personal holdings. Total market value of all personal holdings in the US is difficult to ascertain. (though I could find some numbers if I felt like searching a bit more)

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

sounds like communism. (1.25 / 12) (#69)
by the ghost of rmg on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 04:05:14 PM EST

why do you hate America?


rmg: comments better than yours.
"Wealth is no guarantee of comfort" (1.33 / 3) (#76)
by mcgrew on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 07:45:13 PM EST

Read no farther, old man, this young idiot isn't just special, he's very special.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

PS (1.00 / 4) (#77)
by mcgrew on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 07:46:05 PM EST

Leave it in the edit que a while, moron.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

PS (1.12 / 8) (#92)
by thelizman on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 06:24:08 PM EST

If you're going to make a point, moron, then make a point. Otherwise, you're just a crapflooder.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Care to elablorate? (none / 0) (#88)
by Millennium on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 12:47:45 PM EST

Honest question, because I'm not sure what you mean. How does wealth guarantee comfort? For that matter, how does wealth in the present guarantee it in the future, which is what I think the article was trying to get at?

What's the fun in being "cool" if you can't wear a sombrero? -Hobbes


[ Parent ]
How do we know the sky won't fall tomorrow?!? (none / 0) (#97)
by esrever on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 08:31:14 PM EST

How does anything guarantee anything, in this life... Sheesh, what a pointless question.

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
Turnover is low, actually. (1.11 / 9) (#89)
by rdmiller3 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 03:52:17 PM EST

Don't look at Forbes 400. Try looking instead at "people wealthy enough to own a whole neighborhood or two".

Like poor Sergey Brin who had to grow up in a family where Mom had to work 'cause their net worth had barely reached $550 MILLION a couple years ago (before Google went public). What an amazing tale of poor boy makes good, eh?

"Hey Pop! Mom said it's okay, so can I borrow a couple million dollars?"
"What for?"
"I wanna start a company."
"Aw, Son, everybody's starting companies..."
"Pleeeeeeeeease?"
"Well, okay. Have fun!"


Sergey Brin (2.25 / 4) (#91)
by thelizman on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 06:23:05 PM EST

Was raised by Russian immigrants. His father was a math teacher. They were middle class at best. Brin made himself a millionaire by founding Google, then became a billionaire during Google's IPO. Get your story straight.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Nothing unusual (2.00 / 6) (#96)
by trhurler on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 07:54:37 PM EST

About that rate of turnover. The United States has always had more first generation rich than all others combined. A trait, by the way, in which we are unique in the whole world as far as I know.

But of course, you can remain comfortably broke as shit while drinking cheap beer all day if you move to Europe or Canada, and unlike getting rich, it takes no effort, ability, or ambition whatsoever.

That's the new ideal you know - equality for everyone, by making everyone meet the lowest common denominator as often as possible.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

actually (none / 1) (#109)
by kromagg on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 05:02:48 PM EST

You can be broke and not live in a box on the side of the street.



[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 1) (#110)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 07:26:33 PM EST

You can do that here too. Sorry to speak the truth instead of some leftist bullshit, but there are roughly twice as many beds available for those who are truly broke in the US than there are people truly broke. The problem is that people don't always USE them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Dear trhurler, (2.50 / 2) (#112)
by Cornelius on Sat Oct 02, 2004 at 11:20:03 AM EST

I find your condescending attitude toward people with no money quite revolting. For your information, the majority of these broke people, to whom you are refering, actually work their asses off.

The thing is that most of the money we have today was generated by the industrial revolution. The wealth created the last century wasn't the result of "effort, ability or ambition". It is the result of invention.

There's been a lot of hard-working, able and ambitious people around since the dawn of mankind. It hasn't had half the impact on their lives as the invention of the steam engine (which, at least according to popular myth, was invented by a guy who took a break for tea).

Looking at statistics you will see that the social movement between the haves and the have-nots is quite small. Nowadays you are likely to inherit your social position. There isn't really any room for competition, because the people who are rich (or at least semi-wealthy) are in a position to rig the game, by inventing all sorts of diplomas and specialist education to which they alone have access.

The marketplace isn't working and the most gifted and ambitious aren't ncessarily those who get the best jobs, or the ones who make a fortune. Rather, where you grow up, who you know, which education you get have a much greater impact (on your success in life) than any of the qualities you mention.

Yours,

Cornelius


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Keep saying that (2.00 / 2) (#113)
by trhurler on Sat Oct 02, 2004 at 04:01:53 PM EST

Meanwhile, most millionaires in the US are and always have been first generation.

You are repeating a myth you've been told and/or invented for yourself. It isn't true.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Brief (none / 1) (#114)
by Cornelius on Sat Oct 02, 2004 at 07:07:13 PM EST

Can you please try expand on your answer. You leave me guessing as to what you're trying to say.

But here goes my answer your brief (and ambiguous) answers:

The fact that the US produces new millionaires all the time proves/explains nothing. The US has not risen to its prominence as an industrial nation due to a few millionaires now and then. Its efficiency as a nation is the result of readily available capital, industrial ingenuity, geographical placement, beneficial trade agreements, and a diligent middle class. The millionaires are coincidental.

To what myth are you referring? The one about James Watt?? I clearly represented it as a "popular myth". So what are you getting at?


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Heh (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 05:23:57 AM EST

You are trying to assert that most rich people in the US got that way by means other than busting their asses. It ain't so. Your average rich US citizen is first generation, started his own business, probably sold it at some point and started ANOTHER, and so on. He didn't invent a damn thing. By now, most rich people in the US didn't get that way from any effect of the industrial revolution. In short, most of what you said a couple of posts ago is completely at odds with the facts.

The US has more opportunity for those who are NOT wealthy than any other place on earth(more especially than the more left wing first world countries, in which wealth may not be concentrating as quickly, but also isn't moving around much AT ALL.) Yes, you have to work for it, yes, it takes a bit of luck to succeed, and all that, but that's life; success is not a guarantee.

But hey, go on bragging about the wonders of a society in which you are taxed so heavily that you cannot possibly become rich through investments, in which small businesses are so hard to start and run profitably that basically all new business concerns are started by existing business concerns rather than by entrepreneurs, in which wealth long ago stagnated in the hands of a few people who have ever since been handing it down to their kids and is now a hereditary privelege, and in which the rest of the people rest easy at night knowing that they can live their whole lives like they're in high school.

Sad.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Jumping (3.00 / 2) (#119)
by Cornelius on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 05:30:39 PM EST

I am afraid you are jumping to conclusions. I have not, as of yet, claimed that "most rich people in the US got that way by means other than busting their asses". I did, however, claim that wealth is not generated by hard work to the extent that it is generated by inventions. I hope that you will agree to the following: the wealth of modern society is predicated on the use of industrial production processes rather than physical labour, which is basically what my argument boils down to.

I agree with you though that some rich people (perhaps even the majority) have actually worked hard to earn their money. This is just fine with me. But the hard work part of getting rich isn't a necessary requirement; it might in some cases have been an important element in the success of particular individuals, but in most cases it is just coincidental. Those who become rich (or semi-wealthy) do so due to having come up with a good idea for a product or service, ( i.e invention).

If this "invention" is selling a new flavor of ketchup, it does not necessarily add to the multiplication of means of production (which is otherwise typical of an industrial invention), but instead it caters to a market need. The gains from this production of ketchup (if any) then rely on productivity surplus from other economic areas, which can properly be labelled as industrial.

Sure, you can argue that an athlete or a pop star (or even a new flavor of ketchup) produces something of value for instance entertaiment or better tasting food, which in return contribute to improved worker morale and increased productivity in real industrial areas (like the steel industry). But, hey, we can clearly do with out yet another flavor of ketchup, if you take away industrial production processes though you'll send us back to the late 1700s.

What I am getting at is indeed quite simple: no machinery, no good life. I am not saying that we shouldn't have competition or that we just should fold our arms and be content. I am just trying to get across that "hard work" has less to do with getting rich and more to do with the need for moral justification of being rich.

As to bragging about my country, I have done no such thing. I am anything but bragging about my country. Such national abstractions mean nothing to me, I just hapen to live here. And for that matter, how on earth does the "historical (or contemporary) triumphs" of my countrymen in any way reflect on me?


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
No... (none / 1) (#121)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:57:54 PM EST

I hope that you will agree to the following: the wealth of modern society is predicated on the use of industrial production processes
If true, still uninteresting. Industrial production processes are not incompatible with the well being of the masses, nor with a society in which it is possible for an ordinary person to become wealthy through his own efforts.
But the hard work part of getting rich isn't a necessary requirement; it might in some cases have been an important element in the success of particular individuals, but in most cases it is just coincidental. Those who become rich (or semi-wealthy) do so due to having come up with a good idea for a product or service, ( i.e invention).
Not always or even usually. Most successful businesses merely took an idea that was already out there and did it better, a bit differently, or maybe just did it BIGGER in some cases. Yes, many businesses that have a new idea are wildly successful, but that hardly means they're the majority - it just makes them more visible. I've worked for quite a few small companies, and most of them were successful(at least for a time - long enough to make the owners/founders wealthy people before they were bought out, shut down, or whatever,) but only ONE of them had a genuinely new idea. By far, that one was the worst to work for AND the least likely to succeed, although it did in fact succeed.
The gains from this production of ketchup (if any) then rely on productivity surplus from other economic areas, which can properly be labelled as industrial.
There are a lot of ways for this to fail to be true. For instance, if you start a company that provides a certain service other companies need and either do themselves or buy from someone else, and your cost structure is lower than the next guy's due to a better process or whatever other means, you are not just eating up a surplus from his industry. He is making more money, and so are you, because you have decreased his costs. There's nothing more "real" about the value he provides than the value you provide. Yes, his work may result in a physical product, but he didn't produce the materials out of thin air, and the miners, drillers, and/or farmers who produced the raw materials did not create the land they got them from, and so on. At some level, we are all providing services rather than products, and it is only foolishness that leads many to believe otherwise.
What I am getting at is indeed quite simple: no machinery, no good life. I am not saying that we shouldn't have competition or that we just should fold our arms and be content. I am just trying to get across that "hard work" has less to do with getting rich and more to do with the need for moral justification of being rich.
The principal wealth generator today is not machinery. Machinery is necessary as an infrastructure, but the principle wealth generator today(in fact, almost the entire gain in productivity between the 1950s and today,) is better decision processes that result from superior acquisition and analysis of information. Yes, machinery itself has improved, but that alone might have been a 20% increase - not nearly enough to account for the HUGE difference in our economy now vs then. A man who works twelve hour days six days a week creating and building a company that cuts the cost basis of his customers by a substantial margin will not only create jobs for his own employees and wealth for himself, but by saving his customers money, he will free up resources they can then invest productively, hiring more people, acquiring more business, and so on. If anything, this is a MORE real gain than just making more widgets, and there's nothing at all wrong with that man taking huge risks and then becoming wealthy while some nine to fiver who just does what he's told and takes as few risks as possible remains in his middle class status. In fact, how else would you want it to be? Clearly, those who offer more should receive more, if in fact you want any progress at all.

I would say, in addition, that it is quite difficult to get rich manufacturing something these days. Easy to make more money if you're already rich, but starting up a manufacturing business requires a lot of cash, whereas starting up a company that creates efficiencies in other businesses is often a trivial thing.

Then there are stories like Google. You can't say they directly create market efficiencies, although they obviously make life a lot easier for a lot of people. Their income is largely from advertising and selling search functionality. They didn't invent searching. They didn't even invent the web search engine. They've had some new ideas since then, because they specifically work hard to hire the kind of people who will come up with such ideas, but in reality, Google is a perfect example of a business that defies your claims. The guys who started it were middle class college students. Their families were not wealthy. These two guys made themselves and a lot of other people wealthy - not by taking from others, but by convincing others to pay them in trade for something. Then they went public, and now they're rich beyond any conceivable need. Good for them; I like Google, and I am glad that people who do things like it become wealthy, because I think that encourages more things like Google.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
closing the gap (none / 1) (#124)
by Cornelius on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 08:39:13 AM EST

Yes, I do appreciate that we no longer rely on industry as the primary source of income. I agree with your assertion that most income (or wealth) is gained from the selling of different services. I was merely pointing out that the comparative wealth of our times is based on improved means of production, and indeed services can also affect efficiencies in ways similar to machines...

You are also right in pointing out that you do not have to come up with a new or original idea to be successful in business. There are virtually millions of examples supporting this, so I'll leave it at that. However, the gist of my argument was that ideas are more powerful than mere quantity of work, i.e. you can be quite lazy, have a semi-good idea, sell it, and become wealthy.

Furthermore, I agree with you in not having a problem with people getting rich: good for them. I just find phrases like: "I worked hard for my money so I have earned it" lame. There's plenty of people who work hard all their lives and drop dead of a heart attack at fourty-six without a single penny to their name.

I don't care if you've worked hard to get your money. The money is yours, keep it. But don't give me lectures on what a work-ethical, stand-up guy you are. And I repeat: plenty of people work their asses off and they still don't make anything close to a fortune. </rhetoric>

On the question of the occasional "self-made man", like the Google-guys. I am afraid that they are few and far between. It's great they made it, but the fact is that we need a lot more of it. The social mobility to the middle class even, is alarmingly small. In order to have a society that we can call a 'society of opportunity' these numbers just have to increase.


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Um... (none / 1) (#131)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 08:54:36 PM EST

First of all, I defy you to find one rich person who wasn't rich at an earlier point in his life, got rich without working, and didn't basically win the lottery. Whether that's a lottery, or being discovered on a talent search and becoming a movie star, or whatever, the point is the same - that person became wealthy through luck rather than hard work, and is exceedingly rare compared to first generation millionaires who did it via business ventures and/or investments. Exclude the very rare lucky individual, and the VAST majority of wealthy people worked their asses off to have that money.

Second, the idea that it is possible to substitute a good idea for hard work is absurd. If you have enough seed capital, it is possible to substitute a good idea and employees for hard work in some cases, but if you have to start small, you're going to work hard or fail.

Third, of course lots of people fail. Nothing is guaranteed in life - it is a difficult, risky thing. That hardly means something is wrong.

Fourth, I think your problem is that you aren't exposed to the entrepreneurial set. They do exist, and they're not as rare as you think. "Self made men"(and women) are quite common, really. Being as I've spent a good part of my career to date working in small companies, I might have a better view of this than you, but you can meet this sort of people if you try.

Finally: while I think it is crass to brag on your own work ethic or the resulting money(or lack thereof, which a lot more people seem to enjoy,) I certainly think people who bust their asses for their money both deserve and respect it more than those who win the lottery or whatever. I think this is born out by the fact that lottery winners(literally, or sports pros, or movie stars, or whatever,) usually die as broke as they were born, if not moreso, whereas those who earn fortunes tend to keep them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
What's that fallacy again? (none / 1) (#133)
by Cornelius on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 07:01:24 PM EST

You're sliding here. Now you've moved from "working their asses off" to "working". I've never claimed that you can become rich by sitting on your hands. I've said that you can become rich without working your ass off.

Of this there is many, many examples. We can start with for instance real estate brokers. I know quite a few, many of which only work part-time. Or a while back, by starting a completely worthless Internet company and then selling it for a good deal of cash. Or, by starting a construction company. You'll never see the hard work, but you'll see the dough...

Furthermore, you're completely mistaken with your assumption about the "entrepreneurial set". I have like you worked in small businesses. I know many entrepreneurs. Many are indeed close personal friends. I am indeed, come to think of it, something of an entrepreneur myself.

To clarify: I have no beef with people who actually worked hard and made a fortune. Actually, I have no problem with those who slacked their way to big time either. (Lottery ticket, or no lottery ticket.) I just don't like hypocrites. Especially not predictable hypocrites.


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Er... (none / 1) (#140)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:33:36 PM EST

I know people in real estate. Some of them work part time. They're either not making much money, or they busted their asses for a long time and NOW they can only work part time. If you start out, take it easy, and end up wealthy in real estate, you got lucky. Period.

Also, there is nothing hypocritical about a man who busts his ass, gets paid for it, and then says so.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
hello? (none / 1) (#144)
by Cornelius on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:23:19 PM EST

Also, there is nothing hypocritical about a man who busts his ass, gets paid for it, and then says so.

Are you completely missing my point?

I am simply telling you the following: there's simply too many people around claiming they've busted their asses to land on easy street!

And as soon as you start getting into the details those "two empty hands" they started off with weren't that empty. Either daddy gave them a hundred thousand, or they got a super nice eduction, or had a suave, pleasing manner and a glib tongue enabling them to chinwag their way through life. And they've sure as shit spent months if not years of their lives travelling aboad or regularly spend less than nine hours a day at work.

So again. To put it as simply as I can. I don't buy this sanctamonious, lutheran work-ethic crap.

In my book you have to exercise some moral hygiene and be _honest_. If you've gotten lucky or if you've had plenty of breaks (like an education or a starting capital), own up to it! If you truly started with nothing and had no breaks then: fine. Congratulations. You're one in the proverbial million and you've literally done it against all odds.


Cornelius

"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Sure, sure (none / 1) (#145)
by trhurler on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 06:36:06 PM EST

First of all, in order to define the hard working rich guy as a rarity, your definition of "hard working rich guy" is awfully stilted: you're saying that nice people who get along with others(for instance, a good salesman,) didn't earn their money? Hehe... sure, whatever.

Second, you're making a claim that is at odds with the known facts. Yes, I know that this isn't what you hear on TV, but your average rich guy in the US is invisible. He's got a house, a family, a couple of cars, and all of it looks solidly middle class. Oh, and he both works harder than most people and saves more than almost any of them. He may(close to half) own his own business, or maybe not. In any case, almost NONE of them(taken as a percentage, of course,) were just outright given anything of huge value. You don't have to take my word for it; read that book the other guy suggested. You're wrong, the facts are clear, and that's that.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
necessary vs sufficient (none / 1) (#134)
by the dehorned unicorn on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 07:36:03 AM EST

Reading your two arguments, I think that you're arguing different points. Trhurler: you seem to be saying that hard work is (baring rare cases of luck) necessary to become wealthy. Cornelius: you seem to be saying that hard work is not sufficient to become rich.

Trhurler, I think that you might be ignoring a lot with your "luck" bit. Sure, there's some cases of a lottery, but there's also cases where someone worked a bit (but not enough to call it hard work), but were able to climb up in life primarily thru luck. Take Bill Gates as an example since he's number one. First, he was born to well off parents (tho apparently not rich ones), which is quite lucky. Second, his mom served on the board of the United Way with the president of IBM, John Opel. Without that connection there, sure Billy might have gotten some (more) money from his parents and kept running microsoft as a two man operation and grew up and maybe even he'd push it and the company might have become Borland. Or just as likely he'd make it a somewhat successful operation, get bought out and never come close to prime time success again. And Borland's nothng to laugh at: but it's not Microsoft. So it's a combination of hard work, and luck (who your parents are and how much money they have are certainly examples of luck (it's out of your contril) in my mind).

So looking at Billy Boy, you're both right. Hard work is pretty much needed to become rich. But hard work (or even a good idea) won't alone make you rich, much less super rich. Take for example the uncreative hard working factory man who can only dream of landing a unionized job. Sure, he works hard, but that's not going to help. Similarly there's people all over the world putting huge amounts of effort into trying to start their own business, and while some might manage to live comfortably, others are just essentially wasting their life (if they don't love work) as they'll never succeeed.

And now I'll just take a moment to say how pissed I am that our idea for a business idea can't even have a chance of getting a business license without getting existing city regulations changed. There's a few strip clubs and an adult store or two in the area that essentially are monopolies because no new business licences for such stores are allowed. Now here's where some luck comes in; deciding on if it might be more prudent to try and change the law gathering signatures and getting the word out, or if it would be more prudent to pick a different business decision. But continuing to examine the "luck" issue; both of us have no family connections so we won't have anyone willing to gamble part of their $500,000 savings (and yet the google guys are considered to be newly rich? Maybe newly super-rich, but they're not jumping a class barrier) in our venture.



[ Parent ]
Nah (3.00 / 2) (#141)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:36:12 PM EST

First of all, Gates is a prime example of a man who works his ass off - he still does today. That's how he is. Sure, he got lucky in certain ways, but you know what? If Microsoft had "only" been Borland, that'd still have made Gates a REALLY rich man, which was the point.

Second, you're right about one thing: it takes more than JUST hard work to become rich. The point is, there are damn few people who become rich without hard work compared to the number whose wealth DOES come from hard work.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
re: lottery of talent (none / 1) (#142)
by Battle Troll on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 08:30:45 PM EST

There's virtually no such thing. Even fluke talents have to be enormously cultivated before they'll achieve anything. The entertainment industry is pretty hard-working; stars like Britney Spears, Sarah Michelle Gellar, or Yo-Yo Ma essentially spent their entire lives in training. I read an interview with Yo-Yo Ma's sister in which she commented that her father had taught her to read the seven clefs of French solfege effortlessly by the age of seven. The subtext of that is that he invested on the order of two to five hundred hours of his spare time to make that happen for her alone, to say nothing of the time to acquire the skills himself, prepare materials, teach his other children, etc etc etc ad nauseam.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Depends (none / 1) (#143)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 03:30:41 PM EST

Music? Yes, this is generally true, although there have been a few people who've been so good so young that it is hard to imagine they were trained formally until AFTER they were already showing exceptional ability. But, in other fields it is often the case that kids are held back more by what their parents allow or believe in rather than by their abilities.

In any case, the real question isn't what you're capable of at the age of seven or eight. Most people who really apply themselves can achieve a professional level of ability in something they enjoy after a few years - BUT, the thing that you have to remember is that this is only if they have a certain capability in the beginning. A nascent programmer, for instance, quickly either realizes this is something he has a knack for and starts getting better, or finds programming to be the most frustrating thing he has ever attempted. There's not much middle ground. Yes, some of the latter group do become professionals, but that's unfortunate; they suck rocks, and piss off everyone around them.

What separates me from the very best pool players is not that they've played since the age of three. Most pros started in their teen years. The difference is, most of them became so obsessed that they spent eight hours or more a day every single day for years playing, practicing, and so on - and they became obsessed like that because when they did that, they saw results. When I try something like that(even for more than a couple of hours at a time,) I lose focus because of frustration and it isn't any fun at all. There's a difference in fundamental talent there. I think most activities are like that. I do not think I'd be any good at writing fiction, because it just isn't something I'm well suited to - this despite the fact that my language skills are unquestionably better than those of your average university English professor or professional writer. Other examples are available, but I think these should be enough - the idea that anyone can do anything as well as anyone else if only he applies himself is nonsense.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
But what social strata are they coming from? (none / 1) (#123)
by ShadowNode on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 10:29:16 PM EST

Moving from the upper-middle class to the upper class isn't that big of a deal. How many people are moving from the bottom to the top in one generation? Not all that many, I'd wager.

[ Parent ]
So, they do in in two (none / 0) (#125)
by Cro Magnon on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 10:25:25 AM EST

Maybe the grandparents worked in the coal mines, the parents worked in the office, and you OWN the office.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
you should read (3.00 / 2) (#128)
by IndianaTroll on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 07:29:20 PM EST

The Millionaire Next Door

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=Xz6VAQAAE0&am p;isbn=1567315682&itm=2

It actually turns out with real statics and research that most millionaires (~90%) are first generation small-business owners.  The hispanic guy who starts a janitorial company, spends like he's still makeing $15,000/year mopping floors, employs 20-40 folks and makes an assload of cash with 2 vans, 20 buckets, some bleach and a bunch of mexicans.

Seriously.

Some other factoids from the book:

  •  Millionaires have, on average, cheaper cars per-pound than other folks.   That means they buy the heaviest cars for the cheapest prices.  Think the dodge dart and the fort maverick, here.  Lincolns, Mercuries, etc.
  •  Millionaires have, on average, less successful kids and money becomes a big problem when generational issues arrive.
  •  Millionaires generally have fewer square feet per $ of income than other folks.  They live in smaller houses (percentage-wise) than they could afford.
The book was done by a couple of university statisticians, and I think is more trustworthy than either trhurler or the dude who wrote this article.  It's still a sliding scale, and since it was statisticians who wrote the book, I'd bet they can lie with the stats better than anyone.  You make your own judgement.

Your personal experiences don't mean diddly in a nation of 300 million people. jubal3
[ Parent ]
unsurprising real estate tidbit (none / 0) (#135)
by the dehorned unicorn on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 08:22:03 AM EST

Millionaires generally have fewer square feet per $ of income than other folks. They live in smaller houses (percentage-wise) than they could afford.

I don't think that it's semantically as true that they live in cheaper estates than they could afford, as the statement that the lower classes are forced to spend more just for lodging than they should have to afford.

If my girlfriend somehow managed to get a mortgage to buy the home we currently live in (we got lucky; she inherited it (and just enough money to cover legal expenses to get the squater living in it to move out)), at 5% over 30 years (unrealistically low) that would be 34% of her take home pay. This is for a little townhouse. Sure, it's only about 15% more than what we're paying for food, but once you factor in the heating bills in winter (trying to stay as close as possibly to only necessities), that would be 2/3 of one's money disappearing just to exist. When one adds in a bit of electricity, new clothes from time to time, and either a cheap car or a bus pass ... we'd really have to make drastic uncomfortable changes to our lives if we needed to scrape up rent or mortgage payments. And we're likely lower middle class.

Now picture rent/mortgage payments for someone anywhere in lower class. If my last roommate tried to buy a mortgage for our house, he'd be spending about 70% of his take home pay. Or, if he found a 70,000 house (which is going to be a lot smaller than this house), he'd "only" be paying 40% of his income, which is greater than the 34% my girlfriend would pay for this house. How do the poor survive? In groups. His rent was 40% of his take home pay, but after I moved in; bam down to 20%. But again, that's just for rent, not to own. And after I did move out, he was right back up to paying 40% of his take home income to live in a non-great part of town (where all the neighbors speak pidgin English at best, and a car horn is a perfectly acceptable door bell. But it wasn't a bad section of town, I never felt unsafe and there didn't seem to be a suplus of sirens (then again, that could have just meant the police/ambulances didn't care (or weren't notified))).

So if one is rich and isn't spending 40%-70% of one's wealth on housing, that doesn't come as a shock. It's even less of a shock when you see that it's not a smaller percentage of wealth spent on housing, but rather just square footage. Firstly, they're likely getting a more ostentatious house in a better area, so they're paying a lot more per square foot. Secondly, if one went for straight square footage, someone who makes a million (before taxes) would have to live in a 39,200 square foot house in order to have the same square foot per dollar made ratio. That's no longer a house ;) . But ignoring square footage, I'd wager that the richer one becomes the less of a percentage of their wealth is spent on their personal estate(s)/rent.

The bit about going for the cheap heavy cars is something I never thought about tho.



[ Parent ]
So what? (none / 1) (#130)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 08:42:31 PM EST

First of all, it isn't necessarily true; you assert that it might be true, but it might be true that other star systems are actually a simulation for our benefit too; do you believe that?

Second, it is quite clear that it doesn't matter. My grandparents started out dirt poor, and worked their way into the middle class; my parents started there and worked their way to fairly substantial prosperity and savings(but they're not rich.) I expect that if nothing too horrible happens, I'll probably end up wealthy after a fair life's work, and my insanely hardworking younger brother is going to be RICH, BEEYOTCH.

The reason I mention all that is quite simple: why is any of it a bad thing? Would you rather live in Europe, where if you aren't rich to start with and don't become famous, you, your kids, your kids kids, and so on basically have no chance of ever being rich unless you/they move to the US? I mean, that's just stupid.

My point remains: the US is the place where hard work CAN be rewarded. Other "first world" nations just tax you more for busting your ass, and you end up not much better off than if you'd halfheartedly pursued a "career" in street sweeping.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
common misconseption (none / 1) (#132)
by Begbie on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 06:03:51 PM EST

What you say may have been true 30 years ago, however it is not as true today. Recent studies on class mobility (which I cannot currently find a link for) have shown that Britain and the United States are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to class mobility. Canada, New Zealand & Ireland ranked among the best. I'm not saying that it does not happen in the United States any more, but it certantly is not as common as in the past.

I'll try to find that link.

[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 1) (#139)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:17:01 PM EST

Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland? Weren't we talking about first world countries?:)

Hehe. Seriously though, if you measure "class mobility" by the number of people who go from so poor they can't pay attention to "has own domicile," then yes, several other nations beat us. But, almost NOBODY there rises above what in the US would be the midrange of the middle class. The US may have drastically fewer people moving from "I recycle: my home is an appliance box" to "I am comfortable," but there are two things to remember about that: first of all, we don't have that many people(as a percentage, anyway,) living in abject poverty compared to a lot of places(the percentage in Ireland, for instance, of people who NEVER IN THEIR WHOLE LIVES own anything mroe substantial than a beater automobile...) and second, the really interesting statistic about class mobility is not "can a homeless man get a roof and a job without having to humiliate himself," but rather "can anyone who isn't already independently wealthy become so with any reasonable chance of success?" I'm not talking accidents or luck, but rather intentional efforts.

By that measure, the three biggest factors are the rule of law(all first world countries, by definition, are ok on this point,) freedom and enforcement of contracts(on this one, most are pretty good, but the US is marginally better,) and private property freedoms(the US wins by far, even if you don't include a comparison of tax rates, which fall under this heading.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
A tax on wealth or attacks on wealth. -nt (none / 0) (#137)
by Baldrson on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 04:17:54 AM EST


-------- Empty the Cities --------


Wealth in America | 148 comments (81 topical, 67 editorial, 2 hidden)
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