The Rich are convenient scapegoats. They can take the fall for most anything—an economic collapse, a housing downturn, a slow recovery, destruction of the environment. To many of us, The Rich have more of a large-scale influence than a corporeal presence, and we don’t trust in that which we cannot see.
Making Money From The Rich
James B. Stewart of the Wall Street Journal writes of his newest investing strategy: making money from The Rich. His argument is that the current economy favors companies that cater to the country’s wealthiest citizens. He expects that tax cuts will be extended for everyone, that a healthy September for the stock market will fill out portfolios, and that due to the fear of a double-dip recession, shares of luxury goods companies such as Tiffany will continue to cost less than the wares they sell in their stores. As proof of his idea’s wisdom, we’re told that Stewart has been using this strategy throughout the recession, “to good effect.”
Distance Makes Contempt Grow Stronger
It’s not so much Stewart’s strategy that strikes a sour note with us—investing in luxury goods companies won’t hurt anyone. It’s the fact that his article is yet another instance of distancing ourselves from the indulgent, unsympathetic Rich. Stewart himself even writes of the hypocrisy in our treatment of the wealthy:
The rich also have come under fire for not spending enough and stimulating the economy. This is an abrupt change from even a year ago, when they were being attacked for spending that made everyone else feel bad.
Make Up Your Mind
We understand that that idea of someone out there who isn’t struggling to make rent or suspended between jobs inspires envy and frustration. We know how easy it is to mock people who can buy art and fine wine when we’re raiding our retirement funds to put our kids through college. But our perspective is decidedly unsteady—are The Rich villains or saviors? How can we vilify them by scoffing at their extravagant gifts and luxurious homes when we also look to them for help?
A Person Is A Person
As unsavory as it can be, America is a consumerist and capitalist economy. Some people will always have more than others, and it’s unfair and unproductive of us to disdain their lifestyles while simultaneously placing massive amounts of social responsibility on their shoulders. We’re no saints—we’re not above frustration or envy. But we’re also aware that the rich (and that’s a deliberate lack of capitalization) are people, too. They’re just as capable of selfish indulgence and mind-blowing generosity as the rest of us, and if we can’t figure out what we expect from them, we’ll take the next best approach: live and let live.
Tell us in the comments: Are the country’s richest citizens responsible for the rest of us? Do they owe us anything at all?