Charlie Stross goes on a tear with "A cultural thought experiment," looking at what the wealth of the 1 percent means, what it can't buy them, and how it might be viewed from a future society.
The diminishing marginal utility law dictates that the more money we have, the less utility we get from any additional incremental gain. And this bites the top 1% very hard indeed.
Examine the world around us from the point of view of someone with a net income of $5M/year ...
Food is essentially free; you can afford to spend $1000 per meal, three meals a day, in the most expensive restaurants in London or Tokyo or Manhattan, and not make a dent in your income. (Oddly, even the hyper-rich don't typically spend $1000 on lunch every day: a more realistic expectation might be to dine out expensively twice a week, for $100K/year, and have the best of everything in-house the rest of the time, with a live-in chef, for another $100K/year.)
Clothing is essentially free; want a different $5000 suit for every day of the week? That's going to set you back only $35K! Spouse wants a dozen designer evening gowns a year? That's still going to be on the low side of $200K.
Housing is essentially free; $1000/day will rent you a penthouse suite in a five star hotel in Manhattan, while your mortgageable income will let you buy a palace in the $5-20M range. (There are places where you may need to spend more than $20M to buy a house; but not many of them.)
You don't have to do housework, interior decorating, cooking, driving, DIY home improvements, flight booking, or shopping (unless you want to). People can be hired to do any of the above for rates ranging from $15K to $100K per year, depending on the complexity of the job. And you earn $100K per week.
(Image: Wanted Poster at Holburn Station (London, UK), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from takomabibelot's photostream)
Colombia wants to produce Novartis’s leukemia drug imatinib under a compulsory license, something it is allowed to do under its trade agreement with the USA, to bring the price down from $15,161/year (double the annual average income) to prices like those charged in India ($803/year).
In Millionaire Migration and the Taxation of the Elite: Evidence from Administrative Data, Stanford sociologist Cristobal Young builds on his substantial research on “millionaire migration,” to show that only a small minority of millionaires move when local taxes go up — far too few to represent a net loss to the tax coffers.
Inequality in Children’s Contexts, USC Sociologist Ann Owens’s paper in American Sociological Review (Scihub mirror), investigates the factors that contribute most to the unequal lives of wealthy and poor American children, and concludes that the single most significant factor is the neighborhood that the children’s parents live in.
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