This is a contribution from a friend of the blog.
If I Were A Rich Man …
“Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
“I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor.
“But it’s no great honor either!”
-Fiddler on the Roof
There is an old – and very cynical remark – that the very rich are different from the average person – they have more money. Which is true. But what isn’t encompassed in that rather sardonic bon mot is just what having vast wealth can do for you. Being wealthy offers opportunities that are, perhaps, not always understood by the poor.
If you’re a rich man, you can buy a house for cash. You do not have to worry about taking out a mortgage, let alone paying it back. If you’re a rich man, you can buy a car for cash and afford comprehensive insurance, as well as everything from the very latest gadgets to basic maintenance. You do not have to worry about taking out a loan or meeting payments. If you’re a rich man, you can afford lawyers and accountants and everything else you might need to smooth out any little problems you may encounter. NHS waiting lists? Go private and be assured of the best of care. Even being accused of a terrible crime – with a slam-dunk case against you – can be mitigated with expensive lawyers and cash shovelled around like snow.
If you’re a poor man, you do not have these options. If you want to buy a house, you have to take out a mortgage – and the bank will start talking tough if you miss a payment. If you want to buy a car, you need another loan – and you can’t afford comprehensive insurance beyond the (legally-required) third-party insurance. You have to struggle with tax and suchlike on your own and, if you are picked up by the police, you can’t afford to post bail, let alone hire a lawyer.
Indeed, in some ways, the paragraph above is optimistic. If you don’t earn enough to qualify for a loan, you have to rent – and that eats up your disposable income. A car accident, even one that wasn’t your fault, can fuck up your life … and God help you if you need medical treatment. Even in Britain, with the NHS, waiting lists are so long that you might expire before you see a hospital.
If you’re rich, you are insulated from the world. You can afford to live in a gated compound, with round-the-clock security patrols. You don’t have to worry about thugs on the street or terrorists, not when you’re secure. You can cope with almost anything just by throwing money at it. You can even weather the consequences of your own stupidity if you try.
Imagine two people – Richie Rich and Polly Poor – who get into a car accident. Both of them are unharmed – and it was a genuine accident, so neither of them are threatened with arrest – but their cars are beyond immediate repair. And they both have an important engagement in an hour.
Richie Rich calls his insurance firm. They send him a replacement car and a breakdown truck. He takes the car and drives to his engagement. By the time he gets home, the insurance firm has decided that the car is a write-off and offered to let him keep the loaner. Richie Rich decides he wants to upgrade and takes the money instead, then purchases a new car.
Polly Poor doesn’t have insurance. The remains of her car are impounded until she pays a fine, which she cannot pay. She has no way of getting to her engagement until a passing motorist takes pity on her and drives her most of the way. But by the time she gets there, she’s terribly late. Her boss gives her the sack. When she gets home, she discovers a whole series of bills she cannot even begin to pay …
Being rich, in short, offers security from the outside world. It also offers power. If you’re rich, people like Hillary Clinton will hunt you up for donations. You’ll have influence, which you can turn into power. (The song I quoted above includes a line about just that.) People like Bill Gates and Donald Trump wouldn’t have anything like the influence they do, let alone power, if they didn’t have money.
“Sir, I’m afraid you’ve gone mad with power!
“Of course I have. You ever tried going mad without power? It’s boring. No one listens to you!”
-The Simpsons Movie.
I’m sure some of you are thinking by now that I’ve turned into a raving socialist, if not a communist. Horror of Horrors! Trust me – there is a point to this.
Being rich also offers more options than are available to the poor. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that you wanted to move in a hurry. Being rich, you don’t have loans or anyone who would have to sign off on your move. You can just buy a house somewhere else and go there, hiring movers to assist with your possessions. Or, if you have to leave really quickly, you can just rent an AIRBNB for a couple of months while you hunt for a new place to live.
Why not? You have the money, don’t you?
What all this tends to mean is that the very rich are insulated from the consequences of their own decisions.
I’ve noticed, when I’ve dealt with the top 10%, that they have a certain unconscious (and sometimes very conscious) arrogance. If you happen to believe that £20’000 is small change, you’re not going to empathise with someone who doesn’t have a hope of making that in a year. The cost of living is meaningless to someone who can afford it without batting an eyelash. Saying that the poor should save seems to be good advice, for example, but it tends not to take into account the simple fact that the poor cannot save! They have to spend every penny they earn just to keep their heads above water.
And move to a better area? How?
No one in their right mind wants to live in a suburb infested with druggies, gangsters and other genuine deplorables. No half-way decent parent would want to bring up children in such shitty surroundings. But what happens if they cannot afford to leave? Going somewhere a little more upmarket might be beyond them. What happens then?
I wrote all this – in a blaze of fury – after reading an article in the Daily Mail. George Clooney is apparently planning to move back to LA from Britain after the security situation in the UK deteriorated. He fears for the safety of his wife and children. How can you blame him? If you’re a parent, your children are your first priority. If you feel that life is unsafe where you are, you need to take them elsewhere. What self-respecting father could do anything else?
What is maddening about this is the reason the security situation across Europe is deteriorating. Migrants, terrorism … and spineless governments. And Clooney was one of the very wealthy celebrities who urged Angela Merkel to throw open the doors and invite countless migrants into Germany. Clooney and his fellows had the influence to ensure that their wish to feel good about themselves outweighed any commitment to the safety and security of the German – and European – population. They pushed a narrative that preached helping refugees – and completely ignored the very real risks to national security.
But Clooney – and his fellows – are insulated from the consequences of their self-righteous stance. Clooney has impressive security. He and his family don’t have to worry about the sharp upturn in sexual assaults, murders and religious conflict in Europe. They can – and, if this article is accurate, they will – simply move away. How many others have the option to just leave?
Very few. Picking up and leaving your home isn’t easy at the best of times. Your job isn’t going to move, is it? Nor can you get a new loan if you’re having problems paying the one you already have. Even if you don’t have a loan or debts, moving to a new region might be tricky. And what stops the migrants from coming after you?
The very rich are different from you and me. It is always someone else who pays the price for their self-righteous stupidity.