Thursday, June 20, 2013

Aristocats


America has no aristocracy in the hereditary sense of the word. This is something which de Tocqueville acknowledged way back in the l8th Century when he wrote Democracy in America. Another Frenchman Bernard-Henri Levy updated de Tocqueville several years back recording his travels around the country in The Atlantic to mark the bicentennial of de Tocqueville’s journey. In America being upper class is simply a matter of having money and, as de Tocqueville noted, in America today’s rich can easily be tomorrow’s paupers. The passage from riches to rags is a sad story that never ceases to provide fodder for the tabloids. Realizing that their status lies on shaky ground, the American upper class is characterized less by noblesse oblige than apologia pro vita sua. Perhaps due to the insecurity associated with their status and how merit orientated American society tends to be, America’s rich rarely pull rank and are constantly trying to affirm their kinship with their fellow man. The American upper class are friends with the doormen of the high rises in which they live while a Paraguayan who still holds Stroessner in high esteem, or a member of the Spanish elite with fascist leanings, who still looks back fondly on Franco, will likely treat the servants like servants. Nowhere is this more evidenced than in Manhattan where you have wealthy people of all nationalities, real aristocrats otherwise known as Eurotrash, the distaff of whom won’t be seen in public without their Carolina Herrera outfits, living with self-made rags to riches types in luxurious Park Avenue co-ops. Warren Buffet epitomizes the best qualities of the American upper class. He still lives unpretentiously in the Omaha house he purchased over fifty years ago. And he sports an ethic based on the pragmatic notions of The Intelligent Investor. Benjamin Graham's famed tome, with its emphasis on value, provides the no nonsense framework for his investment philosophy.

1 comment:

  1. jylle benson-gaussJune 20, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    America has a de facto aristocracy which is hard at work solidifying its status: financial advantages provide educational advantages and access to a 'good ol' boys' network that ensures that even the most bumbling, obtuse heirs will enjoy the privileges to which they were born.
    We would be better served as a nation if all candidates for public office, at some point in their lives, worked for minimum wage for three months and were required to live on those wages. The 'I understand your pain' spoken condescendingly from the heights of those like Romney doesn't connect with the majority of people who are trying to figure out how to keep their cars running so they can get to their underemployment and keep a roof over their heads. The fatal flaw in a democracy (or any system) is when the cogs disengage and part of the machine spins to its own purpose independently of the structure of the whole.

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