Monday, 13 May 2019


The front page of the Sunday Times this weekend predicted a ‘catastrophic’ emigration of the rich taking trillions away with them if “Corbygeddon” happened (the paper also published their 2019 “Rich List”).  There are reasons why I’m sceptical about the benefits of Jeremy as Prime Minister but I don’t necessarily see slightly increasing taxation on the rich as a major disbenefit.  They really have a bit of a cheek. They already find ample ways of avoiding tax so they can go away and live in the Cayman  Islands, Guernsey, Monaco or wherever. We shan’t miss them nor, surely, will their departure trumpet the end of the “enterprise economy” as some darkly warn.

Do I envy these rich? Not one whit. Not when two of the richest people I know are both living with clinical depression and are desperately unhappy, beyond doctors’ ability to revive their spirits. Even more horrific is the story of the Rausing family, founders of Tetra Pak, some of whom came to Britain to avoid the high levels of taxation in Sweden (see what happens “Rich-List?).  Eva died  through a drug overdose and her husband Hans Kristian Rausing's drug addiction was such that he lived with his dead wife for two months in their Eaton Square house before telling anyone. The Rausings for many years topped the Rich List.

I looked at this Rich List today and saw we hadn’t made it – again. But we’d made something else. A reasonable level of comfort, contentment,  living close to those we love, with a huge entourage of brilliantly talented, kind and charming friends. On the “Happiness Index” we’d be ahead of most rich paranoiacs.

As Daniel Kahneman observed in his seminal book on thinking, “Thinking Fast and Slow”,  human beings are more traumatised by loss aversion than almost anything else. So if you’re rich you spend most of your life terrified someone will take it away. You’ve stopped going to church because people keep talking about getting through the eyes of needles. So you’re leaving for Belize clutching your cash (by the way I love the way that Belize rhymes with sleaze).

Rich seems to mean lonely – stories of Phil Green’s decline and misery from mega-billions to mere hundreds of millions and the opprobrium that’s gone with this decline make me wonder why he doesn’t give it all away and be seen as a nice guy for a change.

Talking of nice guys we saw a French group from Lyon, at the Brighton Festival called the ‘Ensemble Correspondances’ singing music from the court of Louis XII.  It was utterly, mind-soothingly perfect. Not a movement, note or nuance out of place. We talked to them afterwards.  An entourage of 15 musicians and singers, young, cool and beautiful. I spoke in extravagant, erratic French. They smiled and replied in perfect, nuanced, cultured English.

It occurred to me. Can we get more of them over here and more of the filthy rich over … wherever?

No comments: