"The real difference between the Rich and Others is not just that 'they have more money' . . . The truly rich are born free . . . they will never feel hungry, and their credit will never be questioned. . . .
"Why do the finest flowers of the American Dream so often turn up in asylums, divorce courts, and other gray hallways of the living doomed? What is it about being born free and rich beyond worry that makes people crazy?"
-- Hunter S. Thompson, "Bad Craziness in Palm Beach," from Songs of the Doomed
There is something about unearned privilege that is deeply corrupting. Most people who are condemned by liberals as "rich" are innocent of such vices. These are people with high annual incomes which they have earned by honest labor or, once they've achieved career success, from wisely investing their earlier earnings.
These "rich" were not born rich, and whatever privileges they have, they've earned. And, if they are wise, they'll take care to teach their children not to take for granted the advantages that the child derives from the parent's success. These advantages ought to be blessings, but many times they are not, simply because the child is overindulged or never properly chastised, and thus takes for granted fortune's smile.
Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, and it is a fact that some of the third- and fourth-generation descendants of 19th -century "robber barons" -- scions of famous families, born to comfort and privilege -- died bankrupt, unloved and alone.
Old money can corrupt, and new money can, too. Remember the IPO hot shots of the "dot-com" boom? Or recall those stories about lottery winners who wasted vast winnings and ended up broke again? What about those professional athletes -- first-round draft picks and All-Pro stars -- who reached their 40s without retaining a cent of their once-fabulous earnings?
One of my favorite songs of the '60s is Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," about a young upper-class woman who finds herself cast down among the lowlifes she once held in contempt:
Once upon a time
You dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime
In your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll,
You're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
How does it feel?
Really, what could be sadder than the spectacle of advantages wasted on ingrates who don't appreciate what they've been given until they've squandered it all and have nothing left? Such people are much worse off than someone born poor who, by sweating and scrimping, manages to claw themselves just a couple of rungs up the ladder.
These kinds of tragedies happen all the time, and in the strangest ways. And it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation of schadenfreude when you hear about someone who was once a pompously self-important snob being sentenced to federal prison. But our glee at such spectacular downfalls ought not blind us to the tragic wastefulness of these human disasters.
In every tragedy like that, there was a moment -- somewhere along the way -- when someone might have done or said something to prevent the disaster. But they ignored the problem or felt it was none of their business, and so the inevitable downfall ensued.
"I can't stand when adults demand the 'right' to act a certain way and then want to be shielded from the normal consequences of their actions. . . .
"People never cease to astonish me and Ms. McCain is no exception.
"I guess I'm just tired of people thumbing their noses at the rules and then citing those same rules as evidence they've been ill treated. Two wrongs don't make a right but it's generally unconvincing when you try to hold others to a standard you long since openly rejected."
-- Cassandra at Villainous Company, Oct. 15