The Ethics of Extravagant Wealth

IMG_5657Last week received, along with our usual delivery of the New York Times, a gigantic 336 page glossy magazine on real estate which featured postings around New York City, The Hamptons, Long Island “Gold Coast”, LA, and Florida.  Firstly, I cannot imagine what that cost to print and the hassle for the delivery team, heaving the paper plus heavy tome onto driveways everywhere.  Secondly, this kind of publication is hardly a flier about a sale at Target.  While I might casually flip through the Target ads and be inspired to busy Tide on sale, what is the likelihood of my deciding on a whim to buy a 12 million dollar mansion in Watermill or a west-side condo in NYC for a mere 6.5 mil?  Oh look dear, lets get it!  Not likely.  Which leads me to point #3: what a royal waste of paper, ink, natural resources to distribute a huge document on high end real estate to random people living in modest three bedroom homes?  What is the ecology of all of this?

But then I opened it up at random and was struck by the sheer immensity of these IMG_5658mansions, one after the other.  The Court-at-Versailles decadence of offering a 8 bedroom house with 10 bathrooms, three guest cottages, on nine landscaped acres next to the wetlands…  We are talking about the 1% of the 1% territory here.  In a world where the vast number of humans struggle to survive, to feed themselves, or even in our wealthy country, pay their basic bills– here we are invited to “just move in” to a 12 million dollar mansion with 12,000 square feet.

IMG_5660I have nothing against the rich but at some point, how rich is too rich?  Why would even Bill Gates need the mansions featured in this four color, heavy paper circular?  Does this magazine represent unethical living at its most egregious?  If we add up the huge impact on the fragile environment where many of these mansions were built (especially the newer ones on the east end of Long Island or on the Florida coast), consider the extravagance that rivals anything Marie Antoinette could have dreamed up, and the message of entitlement–well, many questions present themselves.

IMG_5659The irony is that the audience for this publication would never be picking up their Times from the driveway and using this book to find their dream mansion.  They have a staff that does that sort of thing.   So, is it to make the rest of us all feel bad?  Vicariously rich?

Why do we lack universal health care, quality public education, support for the poorest among us–and yet advertise “homes” that are really palaces?  Can a real estate magazine like this promote discussion about the ethics of entitlement, unbridled consumerism, and our lack of concern for nature?