I found myself having dinner with five other men one night last week. Five of us had gray or white hair. One had long, oily blonde hair that curled over his collar. His expensive but too-large clothes reeked of cigarette smoke. He offered up a bottle of Napa red by VGS that was indeed very good. As he passed the bottle, he mentioned his wine cellar held over 1,400 bottles. Of course! Then, he told us his primary home had “five hundred and some” acres for his 26 horses. With that annoying combination of exhaustion and boredom, he droned on about his last trip to Europe. Dessert barely got there in time to escape with some sanity.
He reminded me of that insightful quote of F. Scott Fitzgerald near the end of The Great Gatsby — “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Some people argue that a higher estate tax would be good for those second-generation people who get ruined by money. There are plenty of reasons for a higher estate tax, but this is not one of them. I have known many other members of the “Lucky Sperm Club” who are very fine people.
Vast wealth does not necessarily produce tasteless boors. I have known many vastly wealthy people, including a few billionaires. They are no different than the regular population. Most are good-natured, decent people, with just a few tasteless boors. However, I am curious if there is a gene or personality defect that makes a person susceptible to boorish behavior. You know, just add money and that particular gene become dominant? It is too easy to merely blame it on bad parenting. I suspect such boorish behavior just masks a deep insecurity, and we should have sympathy for them . . . which I find difficult to do?
In hindsight, I just wish I could have kicked his backside and at least washed his hair . . .