Guilty Pleasures

In the “Mansion” section of last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the cover story described 400 feet of waterfront property in Miami listed for a modest $150 million. The two houses on the property total about 25,000 square feet. Their architectural idiosyncrasies alone could almost justify the asking price. The stories that can be told about each house seal the deal.

Or do they?

The houses–and, frankly, all their owners, past and present–represent extravagance as a way of being. “It’s marvelous to be rich,” one of the former owners, Peggy Hopkins Joyce said. One can imagine her saying it with a sweet sigh as she put another smear of patè on a cracker, diamond tennis bracelet dangling from her wrist. She was shamelessly, joyously, magnificently wealthy. She was not the sort of person who would feel guilty for wearing a floor-length mink coat, or being chauffered through the slums on her way to a gallery opening.

I’m curious: how does your generation view wealth? Do many of you aspire to be as wealthy as Adrienne Arsht or Peggy Hopkins Joyce? Do you view wealth with suspicion? See it as a mere by-product of doing the things you love? Is there such a thing as being too rich? Doesn’t it beat the heck out of being too poor?

If not, remember: the fund for the Thomas Easterling Endowed Chair for the Humanities at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science eagerly awaits your tax-deductible contribution.

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17 Responses to Guilty Pleasures

  1. Eddie Lai says:

    To begin, I personally view wealth in two ways: lazy wealth and wealth from hard work and success. Through this description of what I think is not the most specific, it is how I would put it in five seconds. Many of us obviously view wealthy people with envy from their lavish lifestyle to a seemingly carefree routine. Doing the things you love does not always make you as rich as celebrities and millionaires or even billionaires. Some may succeed while others settle and live happily. There are also people who do the things they love and, unfortunately, fail. One important thing to bring up is that some people are wealthy from being born with a silver spoon or cheating and lying while others are successful from their own hard work. To most of society, most wealthy people fit in the former group. To answer one of the last questions, I would say there is such a thing as being too rich. For example, in the Panic of 1893, JP Morgan used his wealth to single-handedly save the United States from economic collapse. This era in United States history is known as the Gilded Age where a few large companies and people owned vast amounts of wealth. Being able to save a whole country from financial collapse really puts the perspective of how rich people can be. Even today, if you took a million dollars out of Jeff Bezo’s bank account or net worth, he would not even notice at all. Overall, the issue of wealth is a complex one. Does one deserve to have vast amounts of wealth while others suffer from the opposite? It is a question to be answered on an individual basis.

  2. Jon Kiesel says:

    If I remember correctly from a Lex Fridman podcast, Elon Musk said that money is information, which I think is a pretty interesting take as there’s some truth to it.

    Anyway, I take the classical view that money, currency, property, they’re all just resources that are mostly earned from the results of the things you produce. Some people or organizations may have a justified acquisition of their wealth, like with working and receiving donations, while others have an unjustified acquisition, like stealing or some would even say by exploiting from their workers as a boss. There are many things that you can receive and many things you’ll end up giving up. Thus, in order to become more wealthy, as in have more stuff, you need to gain more than what you lose. It’s the profit incentive, and it’s built into those who are just never fully content with what they already have.

    I have no problem with people being rich, and unless they’ve got to where they are now in some unjustifiable way, I wouldn’t even touch what they have without their permission. In fact, I think it’s generally a good thing, but the only fear I have is that they go out their way and use their wealth against me, which is why I might be more akin to befriending them for my own survival. If being too rich was a thing, it would be exactly that, but I have no reason to believe that people like Bezos, Musk, or Trump (actually, I might have to think on that one), would ever use their economic power for evil, or not yet at least.

  3. Bill Arnoldus says:

    I do not currently desire to be rich. I don’t view wealth with suspicion. Wealth, material wealth that is, doesn’t come from doing what you love. There’s no such thing as being too rich. Being rich beats the heck out of being poor under the circumstances that it would the money would make the person happier and better off.

  4. Money does give you happiness. It makes the world go around. You have to be very creative if you ever leave the house without money and the intention of doing something. When I was younger, I would climb trees and play ninja, but these days it is slightly more difficult to entertain myself outside of the house without spending money. As I got older, so did the world and the price tags that came with it. While I would love to be insanely rich with no financial limits holding me back from doing anything I dream of, I know that people are struggling. It’s hard seeing people live lavishly and others not able to put food on the table. Why should someone have excess money they do not need when there are people in need? So while I am slightly spiteful of those who never lifted a finger to become prosperous, I know some worked hard for what they have. Honestly, I do not think I would even be at this school if I had the money for college, I would not work as hard as I do. People born into wealth should be grateful and unselfish, not live with a sense of entitlement they never broke a sweat for.

  5. James says:

    Wealth is of little importance when compared to moral and goals. I feel like in some ways we’ve looked more at wealth for materialism, but wealth no longer defines status. I know the names of everyday people more than I know millionaires names (with the exception of a few movie stars and musicians)

  6. Arika Gardner says:

    Some people have a mainstream view of wealth. Some people view wealth as having the flashiest of jewelry, clothing, cars, houses, and other materialistic things. Instead of using their money to help those without much of it, mainstream wealth is selfish, entitled, and full of greed. Using money for your personal gain and satisfaction, while in turn not working hard for it. Wealth is defined as an abundance of valuable possessions or money. I believe wealth is a great thing, aside from money. You can be wealthy in happiness, faith, love, and family. Money is just a physical asset that is required of us to receive to exchange for necessities and pleasantries. You can pretty much do anything you please with enough money. I have no desire to be the richest or poorest. I aspire to live a modest life, with a well enough amount of valuable possessions, including money. I don’t view wealth in suspicion, but the people who have obtained that wealth. Wealth can be a bad thing in the wrong person’s hand. As previously stated, people can do anything with the right amount of funds such as bribery, which is one of the most common and unethical things. Too much money can be terrible as much as it is good. While I do aspire to have enough money to do what I please, I don’t aspire to be at the top percent of people who have an insane amount of income, like Peggy Hopkins Joyce.

  7. Hong Zheng says:

    Our generation view wealth as the final destination. Just as how the people in the past viewed gold as a source of happiness, the same ideology still exist today. Money is coorelated to happiness. Yes, I aspire to be as wealthy as either Adrienne Arsht or Peggy Hopkins Joyce. Why would I not when that’s all I have heard since becoming a teenager. “Get a good job. Make money! Support family”. I view wealthy in both ways. Positively, through tedious years of work and determination, and the more negative side of being born with wealth. I agree that once you bypass a certain milestone, excessive wealth might not further increase happiness, but I would much rather die in my two billion-dollar yacht than to die in a tent outside walmart.

  8. Vishnu Gadepalli says:

    I don’t think it’s specific to any generation, but to me, everyone has the desire to be rich to some extent. It gives ones a means to an end, whether that be pursuing a project, improving one’s quality of life, helping others, or to simply acquire wealth for any personal reason. Wealth is the gateway in reaching higher statuses in society. Personally, I do not want to be as rich as the listed above because at a point, wealth turns into fame and that is not something that I am particularly looking for. I definitely view wealth with suspicion because it can be obtained through a myriad of different ways, some not being the most moral ways. On the other hand, someone can become rich by a genuine accomplishment, and are deserving of the fruits of their labor. “Richness” is subjective because what may seem rich to me, may not to others or vice versa. It is a slippery slope to claim that someone is “too rich” or “too wealthy” just because they have money; because as stated earlier, it could have been obtained legitimately and it serves as the physical manifestation of one’s work. At the end of the day, it would be cool to have a bit of extra wealth because it allows for social mobility and improves the quality of life.

  9. Cali Orman says:

    I think most of our generation views wealth as a good thing, something that you start working towards building early in life. I personally do not aspire to be as wealthy as Peggy Hopkins Joyce. I want to have a career doing something that makes me happy and finically stable and if doing so results in wealth so be it. I do not think that you can be too rich as long as you are responsible with your wealth. And yes being rich beats being poor.

  10. Adi Patel says:

    I view wealth as a sort of catalyst in life. It solves many problems in life and makes many aspects less stressful. For example, not having to worry about putting food on the table for your family or having the money to fulfill your love for traveling are a few ways that money helps out. Many obstacles are overcome. However, I think that being too rich can turn into an issue. In a similar way that most lottery winners usually go bankrupt shortly after spending all of their newfound wealth, having too much money can make people spend compulsively and forget about the important things. They may spend time doing lavish things with their wealth and less time into the things they did before such as spend time with their family. That is just what I predict would happen as it is a hard urge to overcome for many.

  11. Claire Ellison says:

    I view wealth either as an object of hard work, or something attained from luck. I aspire to attain enough wealth to live life in comfort and experience the world. I do also view a large sum of wealth with suspicion. To attain crazy amounts of wealth being a politician raises concern to if they attained it ethically. I believe most people do not attain money as a by-product of the thing they love to do. I do not believe most people would stay in the same profession if they did not need money. There is such a thing as being to rich in my opinion. There is a point where the pluses of increasing wealth reaches a limit and the money becomes not spendable, at least with good purpose. In most scenarios I believe being wealthy beats being poor, unless the wealth drives you into becoming a person void of emotion.

  12. Dyllon Martin says:

    Personally speaking, wealth in this generation comes with many faults. Wealth isn’t only categorized by money or financial standards, but family and class. Many wealthy people today have been born into it. Their lives have been filled with extravagant and luxurious items and moments. For me, wealth isn’t a big seller, I came from a middle-class family, and aspire to do better than my parents. On the contrary, money is a big part of life in this generation. Without money, a lot of things are not viewed. In today’s world, either you have money or you don’t and your social status depends on that. Another note to this is that money can be made in two ways. through hard work or luck.

  13. Gordon Welch says:

    While I personally believe that someone can become too wealthy, I think the majority of our current generation wants to be wealthy. You can see people our age with clothes branded by companies that make clothes for, “rich people.” The same can be said about people with a brand new $1500 phone even though their then $300 phone did the job just as well. I don’t want to become rich, all though being upper middle class would be nice. Wealth can be earned, but it is often handed down through a rich father.

  14. Christina Zhang says:

    I have no desire to be rich; but unfortunately, because I live in a capitalist society, I know that the only way I can find material comfort in life is by being wealthy enough to do so; and the only way to achieve this wealth other than inheritance is to work! So I desire to work a job that I enjoy that will grant me enough comfort to go on vacations, buy Starbucks, and not have to worry about mortgage payments. Of course, I am aware that I say this from a place of preexisting comfort and privilege, because if I were to look at this question through of veil of ignorance my desires could be completely different.

    And I say that I desire to be comfortable rather than “rich” because I believe that accumulating extravagant wealth in America can only be done at the expense of others. I don’t see massively rich people as inherently wrong or bad, but I do question the mode through which the wealth was amassed.

  15. Carolena Graham says:

    Based on my definition of being “rich” I would love to have the feeling but um perfectly fine with being wealthy. I want to be financially stable to the point where if I want something, I will be able to have it. To be completely honest, I kind of like the feeling of having to budget and save money. I enjoy giving myself restrictions. It gives my life purpose. This becomes easy when you’re already broke. If I was rich, I don’t think I would have self-control.

    Let’s say that one day I do become rich. In order to keep me from going crazy, I will ration my money and donate a significant amount. I can’t take my money with me when I die so why not. There are too many people who have entirely too much money. There are several organizations in which they can donate to that would do some good to the world. An organization such as the Children’s Advocacy Center of Mississippi is having to close facilities because of the lack of funding. This organization works with felon cases of child abuse and neglect. They give these children opportunities for justice and allow training for all different types of people to help children and identify these cases. They have served over 10,424 children in 2021 alone. This is an important organization and those “big money grip” people need to donate to them.

  16. Nicholas Popescu says:

    I believe our generation is less ‘money-centric’ and contributes a greater focus on less capitalistic aspects of life and success. However, inflation will continue to rise, and the housing market isn’t showing any signs of forgiveness. I strive for a job that allows me to live comfortably, even completing mundane tasks. Additionally, Less popular careers such as a job in the arts are simply unfeasible. With that being said, wealth inequality has long plagued the US, and the polar differences between the few top rich are far too pronounced.

  17. Aaron+Sharp says:

    When thinking about my future career, for me at least, money is an afterthought. Money is just something to pay the bills and if you have extra, you can buy some fun things. I would much prefer a job I enjoy that pays just enough to pay the bills than be a tax person, hate every second of my job, but make a ton of money. Money is nice, and despite the common quote, it can buy happiness, but sometimes doing something for less money comes with more happiness to begin with. Also most wealthy people are snobs and think its mostly skill while 90% of them either come from rich families, or got lucky, so rich people sort of suck.

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