As I have mentioned I have peripheral dealings with rich people and/or their employees on occasion, and Ryu asked me to write something about them. I can’t say I know the most about the rich, but I know more than the typical person, so maybe my observations will provide some enlightenment.
For rich people it’s all about the money. Getting it and spending it, getting it and spending it. In more primitive societies power is money, but in America money is power- on top of being money, of course. Having money makes you an important person, and rich people like that. They get their asses kissed all the time, and they like that.
On my religion blog I wrote about hedonism versus epicureanism for the elite, and I concluded that the elite was more epicurean than hedonistic. The elite is in general upper middle-class or upper-upper middle class rather than rich, so I think this mostly holds true, but the rich are fairly hedonistic.
The trouble with this is that the rich tend to suffer the problem of hedonic limit, which is that there is a limit to how much a human being can experience pleasure, and furthermore that people become adapted to pleasure, and what was once novel and enjoyable becomes simply routine. New pleasures must be found, but at high levels they are hard to come by.
Another problem rich people have is that people only want money from them. I was talking to an exotic care salesman once about this. I said, no problem, just hang out with other rich people. He said that doesn’t work because other rich people want money too, they want you to invest in their business. This isn’t all bad either- rich people help other rich people make even more money. If you have been in the rich suburbs around New York you may have notices all the country clubs and private gold courses. More than anything I think these places provide private, discreet places to talk about insider trading and other dirty deals that of course never happen in America, a country of laws and not men. On the other hand, even if you are rich and looking to get richer, I think sometimes you want to just play golf and not talk about some scheme to cheat the rubes out of the dimes in their cookie jars.
Money being power, rich people tend to have very big heads. The money, they are convinced, makes them special, and special people don’t have to pay for things. So rich people on top of their other vices are often incredibly cheap, and expect to pay less for things, not more.
One idea of mainstream conservatism is that the rich, like hereditary landowners in old England, are a stabilizing force in society. Inasmuch as people with a lot of stuff don’t want radical social change that will cause them to lose it that may be true, but capitalism has always been a disruptive force, and always a politically progressive one. This was relatively more true in the Victorian era, relatively less true in the New Deal era when capitalists felt threatened by mass chaos, and much more relatively true now, when fortunes are mostly made on financial transactions and short-term bust-outs than by holding large tangible assets the mob can burn or steal.
Politically rich people are liberal to progressive. Every rich person I heard express an opinion on the matter hated George W. Bush, and every rich person I have heard express an opinion on the matter likes Obama.
Morally rich people range from libertines to perverts. They have sex with whoever they want, and use whatever drugs they want. The primary limitations on personal behavior in a Protestant society are supposed to be personal conscience helped by social reputation, and conscience does not trouble the rich. The upper classes have over the last 100 years or so redefined their vices as virtue, so reputation doesn’t have any control over them either. They aren’t all, or entirely, sociopathic, although many are completely or to an extent, they just rationalize whatever they want to do as right, and no one contradicts them.
These people are the primary enemies of decent human society today. Rich children used to be communist revolutionaries, and they were the worst enemy for some time, but that fad faded with the 1970’s.
I believe people have the right to private property, as much as they can accumulate, but not at the cost of destroying society.