16 May, 2006

Not eccentric enough.

There's a lot of talk about "eccentric billionaires". In fact, "eccentric" is almost a standard modifier for the word "billionaire", so that one takes it for granted that if you're a billionaire, you must, indeed, be eccentric. I think this is rubbish, however. Billionaires are boring!

The last truly eccentric billionaire we had was Howard Hughes, who was not so much "eccentric" as "completely insane". These days there are, according to Forbes, 793 billionaires, worth a total of $2.6 trillion. This is a lot of money, you'll note. What are we getting in return? Bupkis!

In ages past, egocentric eccentrics used their vast coffers to build ridiculous monuments to themselves which have served as some of the finest examples of architecture and sculpture in human history. And, after their deaths, they were frequently appropriated for the public good. Royalty is probably the prime example of this (e.g. the Louvre, Versailles, Buckingham Palace, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City, the Great Pyramid).

But our modern billionaires have given us nothing. Gormless glass buildings we can work in, maybe. Mansions for themselves off where we can't find them (not built to last, of course). Not a one has used their wealth to enrich the lives of their fellow citizens in some absurd, fabulous way. Who is paving the sidewalks with marble? Building kites the size of a house and flying them over the city harbor? Hiring an acting troop to dress up as gnomes and skulk around in alleys? Why isn't there a giant glass fish half-buried in the middle of the Charles River? Et cetera.

Boring, I tell you.


While the Gettys have stodgy tastes, their museum and their restoration project on Prague Castle are ok.

Now tell me: if that wasn't a glass fish I found in the Charles, what was it? 

Posted by hedgedog

what about all the billionaires trying to figure out how to build a commuter train to the moon? i guess a bridge or a powered walkway would be eccentric. or a ski lift. lunar shredder weekend pass: $59,999,999.95. uranium visa/mc accepted. 

Posted by hibiscus

Didn't Bill Gates give money to build that horrible monstrosity on the MIT campus? 

Posted by DearDarlingDidi

Yes, but these are all things driven by practicality or good civic sense. Not eccentricity. Although that commuter train to the moon definitely sounds about right... 

Posted by saurabh

i would like to say that the uranium  credit card is exclusively available to people whose personal power exceeds that of a country with an active nuclear weapons program. 

Posted by hibiscus

Oh, you want impractical and lacking in civic sense? How about Paris Hilton? Oh wait, she isn't a billionaire, is she. Still, that gigantic thing I thought was a glass fish -- it might have been her ego.

Anyway, you're right. Time for some eccentric billionaires. I think you'd make a good one. Should we have a bake sale? 

Posted by hedgedog

In a billionaire, I do not require eccentric -- doing good, a la George Soros is sufficient. 

Posted by judevac

Wait, does Kim Jong Il count as an eccentric billionaire, or are leaving despots out of this?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?