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Reflections


The Unease of comfort

by Ralph R. Reiland,
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University
 

Delving into the apparent social anxiety of being rich and the personal angst connected to being at the upper levels of income and wealth in the pyramid of inequality in the United States, “Rich People’s Secrets” was the cover story recently in the Sunday Review section in The New York Times.

“Over lunch in a downtown restaurant, a New Yorker in her late 30s, told me about two decisions she and her husband were considering,” wrote Rachel Sherman, an associate professor of sociology at the New School and the author of Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.

“They were thinking about where to buy a second home and whether their young children should go to a private school,” explained Sherman. “Then she made a confession: She took the price tags off her clothes so that her nanny would not see them. ‘I take the label off our six-dollar bread,’ she said.”

A six-dollar loaf of bread, it seems, might not be extravagant enough to get overly repentant about, especially compared to the $497,525 sticker price on a Rolls-Royce Phantom (plus the add-ons to the base price to cover any selections chosen from the myriad of factory customization options), or, higher up, the $38.5 million for the 12,900 square feet penthouse at One Wall Street, or for wrist prestige, the $485,350 Rolex GMT Master II with white gold and diamonds (or the $410,000 for same GMT Rolex model, “preowned with papers”), or, for relaxing breaks, the summer place on Meadow Lane in Southampton on the market for $150 million (or 562 million Saudi riyals) featuring a 20,000 sq. ft. main residence with an indoor pool, 16 bedrooms, 21 full baths, 9 partial baths, all on 14 private oceanfront acres with an accompanying Bayfront lot, three on-property walkways to the beach, and, if the surf isn’t exactly picture perfect and the right temperature, an outdoor pool with a pool house and two golf greens with adjoining golf houses, plus a tennis court with a tennis house. That’s real bread, nothing like a six-dollar loaf of seeded rye.

Still, even all of the above extravagant spending is minor-league compared to the outlays in the world of super-yachts.

The world’s most expensive yacht, the 100-foot History Supreme yacht, was purchased for $4.5 billion dollars by an anonymous Malaysian businessman. The hefty price was due in large part to the 220,000 pounds of gold and platinum used in the assembly the yacht, with a moderate layer of solid gold enhancing the entirety of the boat from the full base of the vessel and anchors to the staircases, dining area, decks, and rails.


The master suite of the History Supreme features a bedroom wall made from meteorite rock, a statue made from Tyrannosaurus Rex bones, and a 24-carat gold panoramic wall aquarium. Among the glut of diamonds scattered throughout the yacht is an iPhone wrapped in 500 diamonds and a liquor bottle featuring a rare diamond valued at $45 million.

Worth $3 billion less than the History Supreme, the Eclipse, built in Hamburg, is the second most expensive yacht in the world and owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Measuring 536 feet, it features a 70 member crew, 24 well-appointed guest cabins, two swimming pools, a disco hall, two helicopter pads, three launch boats, a submarine, bulletproof windows, armor plating, an anti-paparazzi laser shield, intruder detection systems, and a first-rate missile defense system.


“On $50,000 a year you can’t even keep clean,” said Ogden L. Mills, American businessman, politician, lawyer, United States Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Herbert Hoover, and horse breeder ( Mills, with his sister, owned Wheatley Stable, a horse racing and breeding enterprise that owned and bred Seabiscuit as well as Bold Runner, whose offspring included Secretariat).


What might help with the covetous and/or begrudging household help is a few nice pictures scattered about, on a lamp table or perhaps on one of the walls. A good color photo of Marilyn Monroe is always nice, with this quote " “Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.” Marilyn Monroe. And less glamourous but still pleasing, a nice framed picture of a chubby and happy Buddha, with this quote: “He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.” Buddha.


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Ralph R. Reiland is Associate Professor Emeritus of Economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and a columnist with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
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Ralph R. Reiland
Email: rrreiland@aol.com


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