Book Corner 2020.56

by Justin Farrell

I usually go through life feeling very wealthy. I also generally think that I live in a beautiful place. It was hard to hold onto either of those feelings reading this book about billionaires in Wyoming.

This is a sociological study undertaken by a Yale professor in Teton County, Wyoming, the most economically disparate county in the nation. He speaks with the rich – the very, very rich – and, through interpreters via a social services organization, the poor as well.

It’s repetitive, and he uses his favorite quotes and figures of speech over & over. “Razor-thin margins,” “buzz-kill”, etc. For a sociological report, it’s a very good read; but you can tell he’s not a professional author, which in a way is a good thing.

Here are the takeaways:

– Ultra-wealthy people use nature to increase their wealth (conservation i.e. NIMBYism) and prestige (the county is home to over a hundred non-profits). They procure easements, protect their property from nearby development, and get brownie points among each other for starting foundations.

– Ultra-wealthy persons want very much for us all to think of them as “just folks.” They dress down, and think of themselves as being chummy with the non-wealthy people in the community. I kept thinking of Stephen Colbert putting his arm around some unfortunate token, pointing at him with a big grin on his face. “Look, here’s my Poor friend!”

– Through communing with nature, right outside their multi-million dollar homes, and hobnobbing with the lowly plebes, rich people attempt to achieve personal self-transformation.

– Their philanthropy is geared towards conservation and the arts. Helping out the poor of the community is kind of a “buzz kill” and doesn’t get many of their dollars.

And then, doing all the grunt work to keep their kids fed, cars maintained, ski lifts operating, etc. is, surprise surprise, an underclass of Mexican immigrants. These guys really don’t have much to say, good or bad, about their rich overlords – except that they are decidedly NOT pals. It’s fine that they’re wealthy. They probably worked hard and deserved it. Those of the working class are just trying to get by and it’s all fine.

That is my impression by & large of how the interviews with the poor went down, though he does dig up people who express anger and wish to work for more systemic change.

Meanwhile, back in my modest, definitely sub-million-dollar home, living my middle class life in the overcrowded east, I achieve a certain humble self-transformation of my own… (  )

Did you stay home today?  Trash, library pickup, all outdoors

What local business or charity did you support?   TBD

What’s for dinner? TBD

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