30 October 2009
I’ve been reading about Bernie Madoff. This has made me wonder why people who have a lot of money always seem to want more. I want more money. I think £10 million would suffice. But then, I suppose, I would, indeed, want more. I probably couldn’t afford a decent yacht, for example. So, say, I have £100 million. I think that would be enough. But, reading about Madoff, I see that there is no limit to the amount of money people want. This is obviously competitive. With £100 million on hand, you will almost certainly find yourself surrounded by people who have more. More would buy you a bigger yacht, perhaps one with an attached submarine. This is pathetic, of course, but, at this level, I don’t think the possessions are anything more than signals. The real point is the pursuit of the abstraction of numbers on a bank statement. This is also pathetic. There used to be a joke about rich people phoning their money every morning. This feels psychologically accurate, the abstraction of money has become more real than what it buys. One of the reasons for the values in the art market – and, indeed, the amount of art – is the intuition of some rich people that there’s something a bit thin about the money abstraction. They could read poetry, but that’s a dangerous step too far away from money as it costs nothing, or a bit if you actually buy the books. So they buy art which is a dream team – it offers non-monetary values and it is very expensive. Anyway, that said, I still don’t really know why people with a lot of money always want more.