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Envying the Rich and Famous

I just read a comment by someone who expressed disgust at the opulence displayed by a Barbra Walters interview of a rich celeb who came from humble beginnings. Apparently that celeb should have given his wealth to charity. While I admire the good intentions of that comment, I also have some problems with it. My response:
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Hannah, I just re-read your comment. I’m not sure which specific wealthy persons were interviewed by Walters in the TV program you are referring to. But your disgust with their opulence got me thinking. Not having seen the show, I’m going to guess that what you mean by opulence. If I am wrong in the details, it doesn’t really affect my main point, so please follow me.

Rich celeb “X” buys large LA-area mansion. It needs work, so he hires contractor “A”, who employs Employees B, C, and D to come do the work. They knock out walls, put up sheetrock, install cabinets, apply paint, etc. Meanwhile, X also hires E, a 19-yr-old male who’s working his way through college, to handle the outside work in the garden, lawn, etc. for the estate. Finally, X hires E’s older sister F, who’s a single mom, to handle housekeeping duties.

While we judge X for spending his new-found millions to have much more house than he needs, we decide, on X’s behalf, that he should instead donate the bulk of his money to charity.

X refuses to take our advice on how he should spend his money, and the beneficiaries of his decision are A, B, C, D, and F, who are hard-working people who make normal wages and feed their families with those wages. Also benefiting is E, who will be the first college graduate his family has ever had.

I point this out not to say that materialism is a positive characteristic. But neither is short-sightedness, and certainly, neither is judgmentalism. For every yacht, chandelier, or indoor bowling alley owned by a person of wealth, there are hard-working people who are able to put bread on the table.

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