The Mega Rich and the Rest of Us

The enormous mansions on acres of property still ignite my memory.

Growing up, one of the things my family would do for fun on the week-end was to drive around super wealthy neighborhoods and look at the houses sitting on acres of land. It was a blast! My imagination would go crazy trying to picture what it would be like to live in those homes.

It never occurred to me, or anyone in my family, that the people who lived in those houses owed us anything. Nor did it occur to us that we would be more prosperous if rich people were less rich.

And thank goodness!

Mind you, no one in my family was a conservative. But even among Democrats in those days, class warfare was not on the agenda the way it is now. At least I don't think it was.

Flash forward several years.

As a young still-liberal adult, I recall visiting with a neighbor who worked from home. We both lived in the same apartment complex comprised of 2-bedroom apartments. I remember a conversation that has stayed with me to this day.

As my neighbor and I discussed our quest to change the world (a common topic back then), she started going on about wealthy people and their greed; pointing out that they had too much money, consumed too much, and should share more. A while later, our conversation got down to more concrete issues and she started complaining about lack of space in her apartment and how, if she had one or two more bedrooms, it would be so much nicer. She could spread out more. Instead of sharing an office with her boyfriend, she could have one for herself.  

A thought flashed through my mind but I didn't speak it or even allow myself to ponder it. But it was there. Isn't that the same drive wealthy people have? For better or for worse, we tend to want more. It's all relative. For someone with a moderate income, they want to have a bigger apartment. For a wealthy person, they want several large homes. Different stuff. Same human urge.

No one has captured this notion as perfectly as Milton Friedman.

Flash forward several years.

I'm newly minted conservative. Maybe I was one at heart so many years ago and just didn't know it.

Anyway, I still think back to those mansions. And they still ignite my imagination. And now, as then, I hold no grudge against the people who live in them. They do not diminish my life. In fact, I am forever grateful that I live in a country where people can attain that level of economic success. I mean, really, how amazing is that?