As de Tocqueville noted in his book Democracy in America, the only form of recognized virtue in the USA is wealth. The more you have, the more virtuous you are presumed to be. This is why the USA is the only nation on Earth in which books with titles like Why God Wants You To Be Rich are catalogued in the non-fiction section instead of firmly alongside works of parody.

The problem is that being rich tends to make a person very, very boring.

Here’s why:

Most of us have to struggle with real life, which is often unfair and unkind. We have to solve practical problems in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We have car payments and medical bills to meet, we have relationship issues, and we’re always constrained in the choices we can make. We have to use our brains constantly in order to try to keep everything going.

Rich people can simply pay for their problems to disappear. There’s always a lawyer or a fixer or a concierge on call who, for enough cash, can solve whatever crisis or mere inconvenience the rich person may be facing. Thus their brains atrophy. They also have no meaningful personal relationships because pretty much everyone in their lives including their spouse is in it for the money.

Rich people become very tedious. Lacking anything substantial with which to occupy themselves they drift from enthusiasm to enthusiasm like absent-minded butterflies, never stopping long enough to acquire meaningful knowledge or to make any adequate contribution. Often they obsess about petty things like replacing the chef at the yacht club or agonizing over which one of thirty-seven pairs of diamond ear-rings to wear at the charity gala.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether one inherits wealth or acquires it later in life. I’ve known members of the lucky sperm club and I’ve known people who achieved fortunes thanks to stock option plans. In all cases, once the money is there, the brain rapidly goes into idle mode.

There are a few exceptions, of course, but they are rare indeed. Most rich people sink into lives of pointless self-indulgence, their minds atrophy, and they become little more than empty shells around which luxury items accrete thanks to the gravitational power of money. They spend their days comparing themselves to other rich people, sometimes gaining a minuscule frisson of pleasure when they have more toys and often suffering minuscule pangs of doubt when their toys are less impressive than someone else’s. They contribute nothing to the world and no one will mourn them when they are gone. Even their lawyers and fixers and concierges will forget them instantly, for there will always be other rich people to pay for their services and their transient loyalty.

Far from being “the elite,” rich people are merely soap-bubbles briefly floating on the sea of life before vanishing unremembered while the great waves of existence roll on beneath them forever.

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