In-depth look at the Financial Times' weekly guide to ostentatious status goods for tasteless one-percenters

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The change from “A Guide to Good Living” to “How to Spend It” is a somptom of the disease.

I suppose the disease is “affluenza,” or “late-stage capitalism.”


I wonder if we will ever get a counter culture among the filthy rich where some choose to just buy cheap, simple stuff to show they are so rich they don’t have to prove it to anyone? I know Bill Gates used to play on low stakes tables in casinos, because it was all low stakes to him anyway.


This already exists. The book “The Millionaire Next Door” and Warren Buffet’s house and car are two well known examples. (Buffet’s private plane not so much.) But the folks who live that way are kinda by definition not all that interesting to report on. So you hear about the ones splashing money around.


When you have that much money very talented and slick salepeople suddenly come out of the woodwork to sell you goods and services and experiences the existence of which is almost unknown to most people on the planet. You may think you know about expensive cars or wristwatches or yachts or foods but if you were to suddenly suddenly come into $30-million+ you’d quickly be schooled by those salespeople on how little you actually know.

On the other hand…

Old money in the U.S. has been doing that for a long time. The guy in ratty clothes carting his own generic-brand groceries out of a New England supermarket to his battered 1980s-vintage Volvo may very well be the heir to a fortune that goes back to colonial times.

It’s part signalling and part of the phenomenon described as prelude to the famous Sam Vimes Boots Theory of Economic Injustice (via Terry Pratchett):

The very very rich could afford to be poor. Sybil Ramkin lived in the kind of poverty that was only available to the very rich, a poverty approached from the other side. Women who were merely well-off saved up and bought dresses made of silk edged with lace and pearls, but Lady Ramkin was so rich she could afford to stomp around the place in rubber boots and a tweed skirt that had belonged to her mother. She was so rich she could afford to live on biscuits and cheese sandwiches.

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.


Jeeze…and all this time I thought my jar of Grey Poupon mustard was a status symbol. I haz a sad.


The Samuel Vimes theory of socioeconomics is prefaced by a passage describing how the rich live by spending less, how well-made durable clothes and other goods often lasted more than a generation. One could tell how rich some people were by how old their clothes were, how long they had lasted. Paul Fussell’s book on class and status has a lot to say on that. I think that’s where I saw an anecdote about the Kennedys and the Bouviers meeting up, the Kennedys dressed up and the old money Bouviers dressed down: they didn’t have anything to prove and they knew it.


There is a bit of irony in posting an article complaining about a publication suggesting how to spend money … under an article for the BoingBoing Store.


I can’t remember where I read it but I recently saw a quote along the lines of

When a man fills his apartment with newspapers or a woman collects dozens of cats we see it as a symptom of mental illness and call them “hoarders.” But when a person obsessively hoards more material wealth than they could ever hope to spend or enjoy then we call them geniuses and put their faces on the covers of glossy magazines.


I gotta say, @doctorow, you pulled me right in with the thread title. Not sure why, but it totally worked!

A more rigorous analysis:


How to spend money. Yeesh. That’s pretty on the face. The idolization of the rich is sickening, I don’t think people truly comprehend how outside the realm of normal this wealth is.

Joe makes $150k a year, a good number of Americans think he’s “well off.” He buys a nice $500k house. Wow. He’s $500k in on a mortgage, $100k in debt to a student loan and $50k in his 401k. On and on it goes. His net worth is negative $550k.

Jeff Bezos has $150 billion in the bank. He buys a $500k house for shits and giggles because comparative to Joe’s income, that house costs Jeff 50 cents. He burns it to the ground to cook some marshmallows and moves on with his day.

Maybe it’s time to burn the rich? What cool shit did you all snatch up on Prime Day!!!


Not all super rich people are ostentatious about their wealth. Steve Ballmer famously daily drove ordinary Ford and Lincoln sedans. Bill Gates likes his fast cars and pushed to get import laws changed so he could import the Porsche of his dreams but he lives in a very understated mansion that you can barely see unless you know what you’re looking for. He’s also famously giving away most of his fortune. I’ve seen various titans of Silicon Valley driving shitboxes and wearing t-shirts and ripped cutoffs on the regular.


Like many 13- or 14-year olds, in the 1980s, I was Ferrari- and Lambroghini-obsessed. I always liked the reports in Car & Driver or Road & Track on this or that and often read those magazines in Tower Books when I was waiting for my brothers in Tower Records. I always remember that The Robb Report – which is exactly this sort of publication – was wrapped in cellophane so I couldn’t even look at the report on whatever super-car they had on the cover (A Vector W2 or whatnot). Always hated that sort of gatekeeping.


It’s fairly visible from the water

Comfortable FTW! :joy:


None, I avoid Amazon like the plague.


Two things I honestly never understood the appeal of in the 1980s (and still don’t):

  • Robin Leach’s TV show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”
  • Donald Trump

Well glossy magazines exist to sell stuff. Selling stuff with high profit margins to 1%ers trying to pretend that they are .01%ers is a definite market niche.


Re: The cover

“Hmm… that is a nice boat…”


It’s mostly underground and even the part you can see (and if you’re on the 520 bridge you need to know what you’re looking for) doesn’t scream “omg so wealthy” it looks more like a typical NW waterside resort.