26.8.08

A FRIVOLOUS VERSION OF VEBLEN? The Wall Street Journal's Robert Frank (not to be confused with Cornell's economist, who on occasion researches similar topics) has a weblog called The Wealth Report. He has also written a book, Richistan, whose subtitle, A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, promises more than it delivers. (So often it is with writers who think the plural of "anecdote" is "data" and that two observations a "trend" makes. Sorry, Book Review No. 37 is going to be cliched, but I'm really not in the mood for profound criticism tonight. Apparently the modest life styles of millionaires, as documented in The Millionaire Next Door, are modest because a million doesn't buy what it used to. Or so a quick visit to the gated communities and private resorts and yacht showrooms suggests. It takes a billion to get into Richistan, and that billion often comes from a business startup that the owner sells to a corporation for a large sum of money. That dynamic has been recognized in business journalism at least since "Adam Smith's" Supermoney, albeit the acquiring corporation is no longer a conglomerate, the source of the supermoney in those days, at least as long as the accountants could perpetuate the rising pattern of earnings right up to bankruptcy day. (I'm borrowing shamelessly from Supermoney for that passage.) That, however, is not the focus of Richistan. It's where the money goes: to gaudy yachts and trophy houses to house trophy wives who have to be appeased. Not a pretty picture, but in all likelihood, a small sample.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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