7 June 2005

From land of whaling to land of wealthy

We were in Nantucket this weekend, and got back Sunday.  By coincidence, the Times ran an article on the new hyper-rich of America, and the effect they are having on places like Nantucket.

I found this one of the most interesting parts of the day’s articles:

Note how money is moving toward the disparities we saw in the early 20th century.

Anyway, as regards Nantucket, I found the clash between the old nouveau
riche and the new nouveau riche quite fascinating, and I wonder if the
process we have seen in the past will repeat itself, with the new rich
becoming classy and part of the money society, rather than crass
spenders.

Moreover, I wondered.  Just as Edith Wharton chronicled the rise
of the rich in the Gilded Age, I wonder who our chronicler of the New
Gilded Age will be.

There’s been a little discussion running in the comment section of an earlier entry on this series
The discussion has been on which constitutes the greater, more
affective marker of class: educational-type attainment or gross
wealth.  I’m going to remain cagey on the matter, as I’m enjoying
watching my friends try to figure this out.  but I have to wonder
if the lesson from the other day’s Nantucket article is that the rich
develop “class” as they settle into their money.  The old rich in
the article are not necessarily the new rich of 100 years ago.  Go
to the island, and the leading families–the Starbucks, the Coffins,
the Gardners–are mostly the descendants of some of the original 17th
century settlers.  They have been this way for hundreds of
years.  And the nouveau riche of the 19th century are not so
well-represented.  So I’m not sure that we can depend upon the new
rich developing the sense of obligation or of the privilege of
privilege.

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One Response to “From land of whaling to land of wealthy”

  1. pp Says:

    crass spenders is my vote. Living in a small town in the California wine country, it is absolutely hilarious to see the weekend crowd rolling in trying to wear, drive, or drink every dollar they have to their name…..
    I “keep it real” by putting a gun rack in my Land Rover and PBR in my cooler…
    PP