It’s well-known that The Free Agent is catholic in her affections and radical in her opinions, so in celebration of the end of the Awful Aughts decade, she offers her Top Ten Reasons to Love Rich People:
10) They’re recession-proof. The New Yorker reports that someone in this world ordered an $87,000 custom-made purse last year. Like seed corn packed in the Conestoga, that kind of money will re-sow the fallow field, which is one reason we don’t have to restart civilization from the Stone Age even after catastrophic setbacks like the current one.
9) They can afford to fail. As anyone who has ever gone skydiving knows, failure is an important teacher, but you can’t jump without a backup parachute.
8) They walk among us. Unlike Medieval times, we don’t need to swim a moat to get to a rich person. According to The Millionaire Next Door, 80% of the 7.8 millionaires in the United States are self-made. Other typical traits of modern millionaires, they drive a full-size American car, stay married to their first spouse, and don’t give their children luxuries other than education.
7) They drive innovation. Rich people bankroll experimental medical procedures, space tourism, and identical twin girlfriends. Eventually, whatever they like trickles down to us. The Free Agent drooled with envy when her father bought an early Sony Betamax, but by 1986, fifty percent of U.S. homes had video recorders. With current technology, the supply of identical twin girlfriends is finite, but you get the idea.
6) Wealth is power, so the rich are a counterbalance to political power. There was a time when if a monarch couldn’t steal or marry enough money, he had to borrow it from rich people, on their terms. Truly rich people never have to put up with all the hassles government devises—they can vote with their diamond-encrusted feet if nothing else—so as long as you’ve got a healthy allotment of rich people around, absolute power is never absolute.
5) Philanthropy. The Free Agent loves libraries, museums, theaters, Tchaikovsky, hospitals, universities, and foundling homes. If you do as well, thank the rich people who endowed them.
4) Without accumulated wealth, enterprises can’t grow big enough to take advantage of specialization. One theory says the income difference between cities and other areas is all accounted for by the value of specialization. In 2010, the average Manhattanite earned $2,404, compared to the national average of $889. The Free Agent doesn’t know if this theory is true, but she can confirm there is at least one gentleman in Gotham who earns his living as a “lifestyle consultant”.
3) Paupers don’t employ anyone. From the time the first particularly successful hunter asked his neighbor to skin his mastodon in exchange for a shank, most of us, including The Free Agent, have been riding on the coattails of our betters.
2) “The rich are getting richer” is the situation to be desired because it is an indicator of justice. (If the rich are getting poorer, that means there is nothing useful for money to do, which is a bad sign for all of us.) Back at Hippy Week, The Free Agent used to ask this hypothetical question, “If you gave ten people ten thousand dollars and came back in ten years, would you expect them all to have equal amounts of money?” In a just society, what each person has will be a logical consequence of what he or she did with the money. A cohort calls this reasoning “Don’t Love the Playah, Love the Game”.
1) Finally, The Free Agent’s number one reason you should love rich people: YOU ARE RICH! You are richer than at least five billion other earthlings. By the FA’s reckoning, you are richer than anyone born before 1800 because you have access to things even the Tsars of Russia didn’t have: flush toilets, antibiotics, the Internet, nutritious food, deodorant, dentistry, insecticide, air conditioning, air travel, 75-year life expectancy, and the unprecedented freedom to change any aspect of your life you desire. We are inexplicably, unexpectedly wealthy, with little effort on our part and a lot on the part of rich people throughout the ages who wanted merely to get richer, and a legal system that recognizes property. Happy New Year, fellow fat cats!