Born Rich

Apropos 10 Cent’s post about people bribing their way into school, the 2001 film Born Rich is a fascinating look at some of the people who grew up in the richest families in America.

It started as a school project by Jamie Johnson, an heir to the J&J fortune and was eventually released at Sundance and shown on HBO.

It’s conveniently online, so I won’t say a lot about it except for a few takeaways I had from watching it.

  • I felt a surprising amount of sympathy for Jamie Johnson.  He talked about how hard it was to get credit for anything he did:  If he succeeded, people would say “obviously, with your family money” and if he failed, “how can you be so stupid to lose even with your family money?”  The scene where his uncle(?) sends him to a antique map dealer(!!) so that he can consider a career as a “map collector” borders on the surreal.
  • Ivanka Trump is featured.  One reason I was an early Trump supporter was seeing how amazing his 19 year old (at the time)  daughter was.
  • There were one or two characters who might be the first against the wall when the revolution comes, and nobody’s going to feel very bad about it.

Here’s the video on Youtube; there’s interesting background on Wiki, but I would read that after viewing for best effect.

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61 thoughts on “Born Rich”

  1. I have thought that in many ways it is an advantage to be born poor. It is easy to go up from there and be thankful.

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  2. After skipping around through this film I came away with the following thoughts and impressions:

    1. Some whiny rich kids complaining about their First World problems.
    2. Guilt about inherited wealth couched in terms of socialist tropes.
    3. The problems some heirs encounter is better explained by regression to the mean rather than by the secrecy surrounding their wealth, which is the filmmaker’s thesis.

    Regarding the last point, regression to the mean is not unique to wealthy families. It is seen at all levels in society: children of poorer families tend to do better than their parents while children of richer parents do worse. This lends support to the meritocracy model, which is contrary to another of the filmmaker’s ideas.

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  3. drlorentz:
    After skipping around through this film I came away with the following thoughts and impressions:

    1. Some whiny rich kids complaining about their First World problems.
    2. Guilt about inherited wealth couched in terms of socialist tropes.
    3. The problems some heirs encounter is better explained by regression to the mean rather than by the secrecy surrounding their wealth, which is the filmmaker’s thesis.

    Regarding the last point, regression to the mean is not unique to wealthy families. It is seen at all levels in society: children of poorer families tend to do better than their parents while children of richer parents do worse. This lends support to the meritocracy model, which is contrary to another of the filmmaker’s ideas.

    They say you can’t buy happiness with money but you can sure buy a lot of stupidity.  Money can get you into some terrible places. Sadly, people can be “bought” with money. You give Richard Easton a billion dollars and even I would be his “friend”. (Did I just set myself up for a joke?)

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  4. 10 Cents:
    I have thought that in many ways it is an advantage to be born poor. It is easy to go up from there and be thankful.

    I disagree. If you’re born into a fairly affluent family you can go awry (see Paris Hilton) but you can take advantage of good education and in Ivanka’s case, a damn good work/business ethic. Donald gets a lot of credit for his kids but mother Ivana was an Olympian skier and a world class businessperson. She single-handedly developed the Taj in Atlantic City and The Plaza in NYC and made great profits with both. Donald trusted her as a partner like none of the others and with all deference to the lovely Melania, I miss seeing Ivana around.

    The difference between the Hiltons and the Trumps is that the latter were hands-on parents and took care to teach their children well.

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  5. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    I have thought that in many ways it is an advantage to be born poor. It is easy to go up from there and be thankful.

    I disagree. If you’re born into a fairly affluent family you can go awry (see Paris Hilton) but you can take advantage of good education and in Ivanka’s case, a damn good work/business ethic. Donald gets a lot of credit for his kids but mother Ivana was an Olympian skier and a world class businessperson. She single-handedly developed the Taj in Atlantic City and The Plaza in NYC and made great profits with both. Donald trusted her as a partner like none of the others and with all deference to the lovely Melania, I miss seeing Ivana around.

    The difference between the Hiltons and the Trumps is that the latter were hands-on parents and took care to teach their children well.

    Are you not aware of the advantages of being born poor? One is the respect shown to almost anyone. They don’t give the impression “I am better than you are.” Rockefeller and Carnegie had nothing and worked hard.  I don’t know how one can teach hunger to someone who has never been hungry.

    This is another example. For many when college was more reasonable worked through school and paid their own way. Tough but in my opinion but it gave a leg up to those who went on their parents dime. They not only had the knowledge from the classroom but actual business experience. They were not at the parties and they couldn’t put off studying.

    I know there are many ways that growing up poor can hurt people just as growing up rich can. I have just found more gratitude in the former than the latter when success comes.

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  6. 10 Cents:
    I have just found more gratitude in the former than the latter when success comes.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree. BTW, I do grow weary of that tired old stereotype of :

    One is the respect shown to almost anyone. They don’t give the impression “I am better than you are.”

    Don’t make generalizations about families you know nothing about. If I ever showed disrespect to anybody, I was chastised severely. I hung out with a pretty “edgy” crew in high school and my mother entertained them as if they were June and Ward’s kids.

    A funny (yet annoying to a teen) thing happened. My friends started to come over to see my mom!

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  7. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    I have just found more gratitude in the former than the latter when success comes.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree. BTW, I do grow weary of that tired old stereotype of :

    One is the respect shown to almost anyone. They don’t give the impression “I am better than you are.”

    Don’t make generalizations about families you know nothing about. If I ever showed disrespect to anybody, I was chastised severely. I hung out with a pretty “edgy” crew in high school and my mother entertained them as if they were June and Ward’s kids.

    A funny (yet annoying to a teen) thing happened. My friends started to come over to see my mom!

    Why do you make the conversation about you and your family, Liz? I was talking about my experience with people who were raised poor. Everyone knows how some rich kids can be snobby and other rich kid can be well mannered and gracious. It is just real hard for poor kids to be snobby.

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  8. 10 Cents:
    Why do you make the conversation about you and your family, Liz?

    Because I choose to write about what I know.

    And why do you make the conversation about people that eliminate the element you obviously have had no exposure to?

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  9. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    Why do you make the conversation about you and your family, Liz?

    Because I choose to write about what I know.

    And why do you make the conversation about people that eliminate the element you obviously have had no exposure to?

    I don’t know the statistics but Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller were some of the riches people on the planet that brought people out of poverty. They grew up poor.

     

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  10. 10 Cents:
    I don’t know the statistics but Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller were some of the riches people on the planet that brought people out of poverty. They grew up poor.

    Not a relevant example because the country was ripe for picking and the industrial revolution was just beginning. It’s a far more sophisticated playing field now and incredibly competitive which is exactly what happens in a free market.

    Businesses need to adapt to the ever-changing fiscal circumstances. I had to with my retail stores. I noticed one aspect of my business (10% of inventory) was turning at 80% and it took me me two months to convert my entire stock to sports product. We nailed it, actually got some serious media attention, and extended our leases by 6 years.

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  11. 10 Cents:

    EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    Why do you make the conversation about you and your family, Liz?

    Because I choose to write about what I know.

    And why do you make the conversation about people that eliminate the element you obviously have had no exposure to?

    I don’t know the statistics but Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller were some of the riches people on the planet that brought people out of poverty. They grew up poor.

     

    The thing that fascinates me about this film and its subject is the real set of difficulties “very rich” people (especially young people) face.  Where do they find their meaning and sense of purpose when everything that money can buy is theirs for the taking?  It seems to be a genuine problem.  Somebody mentioned something about camels and needle eyes in this context IIRC.

    For those that didn’t watch, “Very rich” in this film means “when, as a teenager, you weekend in Paris, do you take private or first class?” rich.

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  12. Damocles:
    Where do they find their meaning and sense of purpose when everything that money can buy is theirs for the taking?

    Excellent question and the only people I think that could answer this is Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric plus his super impressive wife Lara. BTW, keep your eye on Lara; she is as smart as a whip and I wouldn’t rule her out running for Congress in the future.

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  13. 10 Cents:
    I have thought that in many ways it is an advantage to be born poor. It is easy to go up from there and be thankful.

    One very real advantage to me is that, if I could afford it, I would be a much worse person than I am now.

    Once I was discussing this over lunch with some coworkers.  I described, that if I had the money to buy the company, what I would have each of them doing for me.  They all agreed we were all better off with me not being immensely wealthy.

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  14. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    I don’t know the statistics but Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller were some of the riches people on the planet that brought people out of poverty. They grew up poor.

    Not a relevant example because the country was ripe for picking and the industrial revolution was just beginning. It’s a far more sophisticated playing field now and incredibly competitive which is exactly what happens in a free market.

    Businesses need to adapt to the ever-changing fiscal circumstances. I had to with my retail stores. I noticed one aspect of my business (10% of inventory) was turning at 80% and it took me me two months to convert my entire stock to sports product. We nailed it, actually got some serious media attention, and extended our leases by 6 years.

    How does talking about your business have anything to do with people who have grown up poor and become rich? Sam Walton’s or Ray Kroc’s life would be relevant but I am missing the connection. Their experiences were not that long ago.

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  15. Damocles:

    10 Cents:
    I have thought that in many ways it is an advantage to be born poor. It is easy to go up from there and be thankful.

    One very real advantage to me is that, if I could afford it, I would be a much worse person than I am now.

    Once I was discussing this over lunch with some coworkers.  I described, that if I had the money to buy the company, what I would have each of them doing for me.  They all agreed we were all better off with me not being immensely wealthy.

    I will believe you but I can’t imagine you being any worse. 😉

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  16. 10 Cents:
    How does talking about your business have anything to do with people who have grown up poor and become rich?

    Why wouldn’t it? I was poor because my wealthy parents had no intention of subsidizing me.

    I think you and I should avoid the topic of money in the future. You resent it and I respect it.

    Deal?

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  17. Damocles: [Admin10: I edit this so the proper person could be given credit for the quote.]
    Once I was discussing this over lunch with some coworkers.  I described, that if I had the money to buy the company, what I would have each of them doing for me.  They all agreed we were all better off with me not being immensely wealthy.

    You’ve obviously never been rich and now you’ve raised my ire. People who generate wealth work their ass off and I resent any other point of view.

    As Lee Iacocca said:  There are no free lunches.

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  18. EThompson:
    Not a relevant example because the country was ripe for picking and the industrial revolution was just beginning. It’s a far more sophisticated playing field now and incredibly competitive which is exactly what happens in a free market.

    Attributed to Hawthorne:

    Families are always rising and falling in America.

    All human societies experience regression to the mean. Children of poor parents end up better off; the opposite is true of children of rich parents. It happened in the past and it continues today. The difference between the races is subject of a different discussion.

    Original source for the graph. Ignore the headline.

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  19. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    How does talking about your business have anything to do with people who have grown up poor and become rich?

    Why wouldn’t it? I was poor because my wealthy parents had no intention of subsidizing me.

    I think you and I should avoid the topic of money in the future. You resent it and I respect it.

    Deal?

    I don’t resent money.  It is true that I don’t respect money. It is a tool. I don’t respect my computer, my car, or most things. I know money’s usefulness but also know how it can be destructive. Most things are dual use.

    How does one avoid the topic of money?

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  20. drlorentz:
    Attributed to Hawthorne: Families are always rising and falling in America.

    Hawthorne lived in the mid 19th century so with all due respect I don’t get why you brought him into the conversation.

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  21. EThompson:

    drlorentz:
    Attributed to Hawthorne: Families are always rising and falling in America.

    Hawthorne lived in the mid 19th century so with all due respect I don’t get why you brought him into the conversation.

    I brought him into the conversation because the quote is in evidence today (see the graph). The data clearly show support the thesis. With all due respect, if you don’t understand the graph, ask for an explanation instead of simply quoting the least important part of the comment.

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  22. 10 Cents:
    How does one avoid the topic of money?

    I think we don’t need to avoid the money topic, but instead should consider the following four points:

    1. Each of us has many things to say which are interesting and informative.
    2. Each of us has many things to say about himself.
    3. Almost never do (1) and (2) intersect.
    4. Unless your name is James Lileks or Dave Berry
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  23. Damocles:

    EThompson:
    now you’ve raised my ire.

    Would you mind discussing your ire somewhere else?

    Who are you to make this comment? You go make your ridiculous statements elsewhere.

    Try Ricochet. They’d love you.

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