Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Post of the Week Created with Sketch. Why We Need People Who Have ‘Too Much Money’

 

Friday night I heard the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. They were wonderful, although less warm-sounding than I remember them being under Dohnanyi and Boulez. They played the Mahler Fifth Symphony, written while the composer was music director at the Vienna Royal Opera. The VRO was financed by the Emperor. Carnegie Hall was given by Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist.

This, after four pleasant and placid hours spent enjoying Holbein and Rembrandt paintings at the Frick collection, which I visited instead of the Cloisters because I could just walk or use the subway and not have to move my car. The Frick Collection was given by Henry Clay Frick and the Cloisters, by John D. Rockefeller, both of whom were wealthy industrialists.

Is there any aspect of high culture that is not dependent on the generosity of the super-rich? I’ll trade all of leftist politics for one Beethoven string quartet or Vermeer interior.

This is true in other aspects of life, too. The hospital for which I work was founded on the bequest of a wealthy local industrialist in 1883 and remains solvent largely through the generosity of a wealthy university town. I’ll trade all of leftist politics for one life saved by a laparoscopic appendectomy.

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There are 51 comments.

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  1. cdor Member

    The Kaufman Performing Arts Center in Kansas City, courtesy of Marian and Ewing Kaufman, who also was the beloved owner of the Kansas City Royals. He made his billions in pharmaceuticals. 

    Thank you, Ewing Kaufman.

    • #1
    • October 5, 2019, at 8:05 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. Full Size Tabby Member

    People who have “too much money” have for centuries funded the arts and technological (including medical) developments. 

    People who have “too much money” usually eventually want to be surrounded by beautiful things and sounds, so they have been (and still are) patrons of the arts. The rest of us get to enjoy the beautiful things and sounds that are created with their money.

    People who have “too much money” have funded (either directly or by being early adopters) most technological developments, many of which eventually find their way to the rest of us. These technologies initially made no economic sense, but for a different reasons, people with “too much money” spent some of that money on technology development. Some relatively recent (last 150 years) examples include indoor plumbing, household electricity, central heating, telephone (and later mobile telephone), automobile (and a whole bunch of features in automobiles that started as silly luxuries and eventually became “standard”), airplane travel, personal computers.

    Many are the medical cures and medical technologies funded by a person with “too much money” because either that person himself or someone close to him suffered. The person with “too much money” spent (often a very large portion of that “too much”) to reduce his own suffering or the suffering of a person close to him, and as a result, reduced the suffering of many other people.

    If we remove all the money from those who have “too much money” we will have reduced cultural and technological resources. I have no confidence that the judgment of politicians or of government employees will be able to spend the money taken from the people and effectively make up for the decisions of people who have “too much money.” At a minimum, that there is variety among the people with “too much money,” we will have a variety of things tried, so that we have a variety of arts and technologies from which to choose which we want to enjoy or use. 

    • #2
    • October 5, 2019, at 8:45 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    Carnegie gave away his entire fortune and died nearly penniless. I plan to do the same but don’t tell my kids.

    • #3
    • October 5, 2019, at 8:46 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. Aaron Miller Member

    Around here, Moody Gardens comes to mind. 

    • #4
    • October 5, 2019, at 9:02 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  5. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Just to be argumentative, not everyone gets rid of their excess money in widely beneficial and uplifting ways. Like the guy who recently paid 50 million dollars for a mighty nice house and tore it down, so he could build a different house there. 

    But I get your point, and even the conspicuous waste of tearing down a house to build a different one does create a lot of jobs.

    • #5
    • October 5, 2019, at 9:32 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Full Size Tabby Member

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):

    Just to be argumentative, not everyone gets rid of their excess money in widely beneficial and uplifting ways. Like the guy who recently paid 50 million dollars for a mighty nice house and tore it down, so he could build a different house there.

    But I get your point, and even the conspicuous waste of tearing down a house to build a different one does create a lot of jobs.

    I agree that many people with “too much money” spend it poorly. But it’s not like the government has a universally good track record of spending the money the government takes from people. 

    • #6
    • October 5, 2019, at 9:43 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  7. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    People with too much money spend it on beautiful things, elegant inventions, the foundations of lasting institutions. 

    Governments with too much money buy people. 

    • #7
    • October 5, 2019, at 9:54 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  8. Aaron Miller Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    People with too much money spend it on beautiful things, elegant inventions, the foundations of lasting institutions.

    Governments with too much money buy people.

    …who in turn buy government! The circle of life. 

    • #8
    • October 5, 2019, at 10:19 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Doctor Robert:

    Is there any aspect of high culture that is not dependent on the generosity of the super-rich? I’ll trade all of leftist politics for one Beethoven string quartet or Vermeer interior.

    This is true in other aspects of life, too. The hospital for which I work was founded on the bequest of a wealthy local industrialist in 1883 and remains solvent largely through the generosity of a wealthy university town. I’ll trade all of leftist politics for one life saved by a laparoscopic appendectomy.

    Amen, Doc.

    • #9
    • October 5, 2019, at 11:33 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. cdor Member

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):
    Like the guy who recently paid 50 million dollars for a mighty nice house and tore it down, so he could build a different house there

    I would hazard a guess that the guy didn’t build that new house himself. So he did spread his money around by hiring a lot of high-quality craftsmen to create his new digs.

    • #10
    • October 5, 2019, at 11:33 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Down through the ages our greatest artists have always had wealthy benefactors either during or even after their lifetime. Museums depend on the wealthy to not only build them but donate much of the art in the collections. Any money spent eventually winds up in someone else’s bank account, whether it’s a carpenter who helped build a museum or the janitors who help to keep them clean. 

    • #11
    • October 5, 2019, at 3:09 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  12. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Down through the ages our greatest artists have always had wealthy benefactors either during or even after their lifetime. Museums depend on the wealthy to not only build them but donate much of the art in the collections. Any money spent eventually winds up in someone else’s bank account, whether it’s a carpenter who helped build a museum or the janitors who help to keep them clean.

    I might add that school children on field trips and people who visit on (usually Wednesdays) do so for free. 

    • #12
    • October 5, 2019, at 3:31 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Arahant Member

    TBA (View Comment):
    I might add that school children on field trips and people who visit on (usually Wednesdays) do so for free. 

    Except, of course, that nothing is free. And it is those rich philanthropists who are really paying the freight.

    • #13
    • October 5, 2019, at 3:34 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  14. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Arahant (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    I might add that school children on field trips and people who visit on (usually Wednesdays) do so for free.

    Except, of course, that nothing is free. And it is those rich philanthropists who are really paying the freight.

    Yes indeed. And continue to pay the freight long after they are dead. 

    Which is the kind of planning that government refuses to do. 

    Makes me crazy when they want extra money for infrastructure – if you could build it with available tax monies, you can sure as hell repair it with available tax monies. 

    • #14
    • October 5, 2019, at 4:19 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    TBA (View Comment):
    if you could build it with available tax monies, you can sure as hell repair it with available tax monies. 

    Oh, but now they have to build more new things.

    • #15
    • October 5, 2019, at 4:24 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. MISTER BITCOIN Coolidge

    People with too much money usually create a product or service that millions of people buy. 

    The consumer surplus they have created for the ‘ordinary’ man is much greater than their personal fortune. 

     

    A simple example:

    The MRI would not be possible without Gordon Moore the founder of intel.

     

     

    • #16
    • October 5, 2019, at 10:23 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  17. Old Buckeye Member

    The architecture of buildings given to the people in communist countries is another indicator of what government money will buy for you. I used to think “communist bloc” could just as easily be “communist block” for their monstrously ugly structures.

    • #17
    • October 6, 2019, at 3:25 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  18. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    I agree that many people with “too much money” spend it poorly. But it’s not like the government has a universally good track record of spending the money the government takes from people.

    I think times have changed. The super rich no longer feel any obligation to contribute to the culture. When I was a medical student in Boston, the chief of Thoracic Surgery was an heir of a fortune in the east. He went to medical school and did a residency to do something worthwhile. I don’t know how many have ever read the novel, “Magnificent Obsession.” It was written by Lloyd C Douglas, a minister and author, in Ann Arbor Michigan about a rich young man who becomes a neurosurgeon at a time when neurosurgery was a really tough specialty. Not many realize that the story, aside from the religious aspect, was true.

    The neurosurgeon was named Edgar A Kahn and the story of his philanthropy is all true.

    https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Neurosurgeon-M-D-Edgar-Kahn/dp/0398023255

    This little book tells the story of the first resident in Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Hospital. Edgar Kahn was the son of a wealthy architect and was encouraged by his father to follow him in his profession. Instead, Kahn chose medicine and, ultimately, neurosurgery a new surgical specialty fraught with depressing results and long hours. He became the chief of the Neurosurgery service, served in World War II and inspired many younger men over the years.

    That’s from my review of the book on Amazon.

    Eddie Kahn was a towering figure in neurosurgery. It is a delight to read his journal. His modesty is apparent. Nowhere does he mention that his father, a titanic architectural genius, designed the U of M University Hospital in which Eddie practiced, now replaced, and other surviving iconic buildings on the campus including Angell Hall the center of the main campus. I was privileged to be a medical student whom he trained.

    That’s another from one of his students.

    The Neurosurgical Society honored him a few years ago.

    I don’t think we see his like anymore. Instead we have tech billionaires trying to control the government.

    • #18
    • October 6, 2019, at 12:08 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  19. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Here is another example of the degradation of civic virtue in the rich.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/active-interest-insurance-tycoon-spied-on-women-who-caught-his-eye-11570117310?mod=e2fb&fbclid=IwAR34L-N4fLXi2jcgPIpEk6fYxSpNsGnJfA1V6JyfWLsEcSqfeWufKnWnZeo

    Federal investigators were closing in on Greg Lindberg. FBI agents confronted the North Carolina insurance tycoon last year as they probed whether he tried to bribe a state regulator. In March, officials obtained a sealed warrant for his arrest. His attorneys were negotiating his surrender.

    Mr. Lindberg also had something else on his mind—the comings and goings of a number of women he was dating, interested in dating or, in at least one case, cultivating as an egg donor for his future offspring.

    Mr. Lindberg paid for dozens of surveillance operatives to tail the women up to 24 hours a day, taking surreptitious photos and sometimes putting GPS trackers on their vehicles, according to former security staffers and copies of internal reports produced by these operatives that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    “Information of Concern: Romantic Encounter,” read one such report just days after the arrest warrant was issued. Lindberg operatives had followed a Los Angeles woman as she met a man at a bar, then to his house, where she left “in the early morning hours.”

    One Lindberg agent spied on a different woman by secretly enrolling in a school she attended, while his staff kept tabs on yet another by renting an apartment across the hall from hers, according to the reports and former staffers.

    Nice.

    • #19
    • October 6, 2019, at 2:06 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Mark Camp Member

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):
    But I get your point, and even the conspicuous waste of tearing down a house to build a different one does create a lot of jobs.

    The Broken Windows Fallacy strikes again!

    (I know you were probably being facetious, but the Fallacy exposed by Bastiat does live on today, stronger than ever, in the form of the “Let’s Stimulate the Economy to Create Jobs!” cult.)

    • #20
    • October 6, 2019, at 3:00 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert Post author

    George Richardson was chief of Gynecology at Mass General Hospital when I spoke there in 1991.

    He came from a very wealthy family, but like Dr Kahn, chose to live an exceedingly productive life rather than cavort in the Caribbean.

    He had a brother named Elliott. Some of you may remember him.

    Some of you may remember too that the gentry of Britain was more than decimated by World War One. Too many sons of privilege chose to fight and die for their country rather than to enjoy their wealth in safety.

    The Wealthy need not be the foes of the Middle and Lower classes. 

    • #21
    • October 6, 2019, at 3:13 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  22. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    Too many sons of privilege chose to fight and die for their country rather than to enjoy their wealth in safety.

    Eliot Richardson was one. He, I believe landed on D Day on Utah Beach. Sadly, the NY Times spends half his obituary on his role with Nixon that I believe was his greatest mistake. It was an error of snobbery. Nixon, like Trump, was “not the right sort”

    • #22
    • October 6, 2019, at 3:22 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. I Walton Member

    Depends on a lot of stuff. I’m in France right now. They’ve been around longer than us, are more homogeneous, and beauty, broadly defined is obviously very important. I’m impressed by the beauty most everywhere, even ordinary things. But most museums, and organized displays, are controlled from above with outrageous taxes top down taste, control and funding. Some rich pay for things, but now it’s mostly the government. The really beautiful things predate the modern state that funds their displays. Our system is very different but moving towards their top down government controlled system. Our successful rich funded most of our best museums. They weren’t old wealth, they were new rich who made their fortunes themselves, and spent their own wealth to create these things. The French are probably better at this top down than anyone. Their elite run things, fund things mostly through the government (which, unlike here, is staffed by their elite) and most French seem to go along, after all there really is a lot of beauty everywhere. But government in charge of top down just won’t work for us, and in the long run it probably won’t work for them either. 

    Elite works, government pretending to be elite, doesn’t. 

    • #23
    • October 6, 2019, at 3:40 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  24. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I Walton (View Comment):
    The French are probably better at this top down than anyone.

    I agree about culture but their economy is a disaster.

    • #24
    • October 6, 2019, at 4:36 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Arahant Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):
    Edgar Kahn was the son of a wealthy architect and was encouraged by his father to follow him in his profession.

    Hmmmn, if it’s that architect I suspect, I have worked in one of his buildings.

    • #25
    • October 6, 2019, at 5:54 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):
    I think times have changed. The super rich no longer feel any obligation to contribute to the culture.

    Eh, I don’t know about that. We have several here in the Detroit area who are still supporting the culture in various ways. One wealthy couple who made their money in real estate development have a warehouse within walking distance of where I am sitting that is filled with part of their art collection, pieces they have bought over the years. Another part of their collection is in their home. They tour people through both buildings. They also support the Detroit Symphony, Cranbrook Art Museum, the DIA, and other cultural institutions.

    As an aside, in Detroit, what might be called a diner elsewhere is called a coney island. They tend to serve cheap diner food: hot dogs (and coney dogs, of course), hamburgers, spaghetti, gyros, etc. There is a coney island restaurant less than three blocks from here. We have run into this wealthy couple there more than once. So, we’re hobnobbing with the millionaires and billionaires down at the coney island.

    • #26
    • October 6, 2019, at 7:29 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. James Lileks Contributor

    Really? Are you serious? I can’t even.

    Wealthy people, who have stolen thiir money, recycle their ill-gotten profits into “cultural” buildings that perpetuate the centering of “culture” around a narrow definition that exclude non-Europeans and women. By reducing the concert experience to the dead canon of the select white composers, it promotes the supremicist narrative that elevates “proficiency” and “excellence” as superior values, since – surprise! – someone has to participate in the pedagogical-industrial complex to “perform” these works.

    Listening to a concert is simply a self-reinforcing exercise in justifying one’s privilege. It’s an extra level of insult when they play Mahler, whose Jewishness is problematic to say the least these days, and whose Christianist elements in the first symphony do violence to those who experienced the colonialist message implicit in the fourth movement’s unapologetic quotation of Handel’s “He Shall Reign” motif. 

    Do better.

    • #27
    • October 6, 2019, at 10:03 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  28. Arahant Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Do better.

    Last concert I went to, the featured composer was a Seventeenth Century woman, Leonore Duarte.

    • #28
    • October 6, 2019, at 10:12 PM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Samuel Block Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Really? Are you serious? I can’t even.

    Wealthy people, who have stolen thiir money, recycle their ill-gotten profits into “cultural” buildings that perpetuate the centering of “culture” around a narrow definition that exclude non-Europeans and women. By reducing the concert experience to the dead canon of the select white composers, it promotes the supremicist narrative that elevates “proficiency” and “excellence” as superior values, since – surprise! – someone has to participate in the pedagogical-industrial complex to “perform” these works.

    Listening to a concert is simply a self-reinforcing exercise in justifying one’s privilege. It’s an extra level of insult when they play Mahler, whose Jewishness is problematic to say the least these days, and whose Christianist elements in the first symphony do violence to those who experienced the colonialist message implicit in the fourth movement’s unapologetic quotation of Handel’s “He Shall Reign” motif.

    Do better.

    • #29
    • October 6, 2019, at 10:22 PM PST
    • 1 like
  30. James Lileks Contributor

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Do better.

     I expected that level of juvenile reaction. Why not use an alt-right Pepe meme and be honestly Nazi about it? Does the Daily Stormer auto-play Wagner when you visit? Blocked and reported

    • #30
    • October 6, 2019, at 10:56 PM PST
    • 4 likes
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