Saturday, October 07, 2006

$100,000,000 Ego Houses

The "Veblen Effect" is when people pay way more than they have to for something to show how rich they are. Among the mega-egos with big bank accounts, there is always a competition to have the Most Expensive of Them All. This is not at all the same thing as having the Best of Them All.

When we think of mega-egos with money, one name may leap instantly to mind. Right. Donald Trump has led the way in building a nine-figure house, just to beat all the other guys. His 80,000 square foot monstrosity in Palm Beach has a "price" of $125,000,000, which is a makeover of a quaint little cottage that he bought for a mere $41,000.000.

And what would one call such a theater of intimidation? Maison de l'Amitie.

The punchline, though, is that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, who has even more ego and less sense of propriety than Trump, already has a $135,000,000 house is Aspen.


Walrus said...

Kind of makes you think of Isaiah 5:8, doesn't it? Not quite the same thing, but the spirit is similar.

"Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land."

SPorcupine said...

Here's what worries me about megahouses: how do you stay deeply connected to your children?

Classic middle class homes give you a chance to trip over them, hear them in the next room, walk past each other a dozen times a day and add a little conversation. Even in mini-mansions far smaller than Trump's silliness, I think that gets hard.

I love looking at floor plans for houses, but the fancy ones worry me. I keep noticing how far a child's cry or cough has to be from Mama's ears at night. I don't see how you raise small children at all in those houses: I guess you get someone else to do it, or you think teaching them "independendence" at three or four years old is a good idea. I also notice how teenagers are physically closer to their cars at 2 a.m. than to their parents.

85,000 square feet is silliness, but even 5,000 square feet looks to me like it already spreads a family too thin.

Gruntled said...

Richard Conniff, in A Natural History of the Rich, suggests that 5000 square feet is about the maximum house size that a family can live in.

nospringchick said...

There's a wonderful area for sociological exploration here. In my rapidly-growing community, people with substantial land around their homes or with houses in the $200,000 + range, are genuinely appalled by developments in their general neck of the woods in which homes are close together (let's say two or three to an acre), or are maybe $100,000 houses. They seem to feel that any proximity to these habitations will lower their own property values or maybe their social standing or inherent worth as human beings. There is now a landscaping ordinance which requires tall hedges or fences between multi-family dwellings and single-family dwellings. This is in a part of the country where people weren't embarrassed by shacks with no running water or electricity. Now they're embarrassed by rental units or duplexes or by the kinds of perfectly nice homes that young families can buy (and that are probably far more expensive and spacious than the ones they themselves grew up in)
I've had people explain to me earnestly that they aren't "opposed to progress" and that they know the county has to grow (Why? Nobody's sure of that one) and I always slip in that I live in an apartment so I don't really have a dog in the fight.

Gruntled said...

I agree. The McMansion/dysfunction correlation is indeed a social measure ready to be created.

Edith OSB said...

Here in northern Minnesota, we are having a boom in condominiums - in a city where there is a huge need for affordable housing and no obvious market for these upscale homes. It turns out that these are VACATION condos (starting around $200,000) so that wealthy midwesterners can zip up I-35 to spend the weekend fishing, skiing or watching the leaves turn color.

I'm glad for the boost to the local economy.

I'm sorry for the previously public or accesible spots that have been snapped up - the best views in the city.

Maybe the condos are more reasonable in size so they'll at least have some real family time when they're in them.

Daniel A. said...

Vanity and ostentation have been with us since the beginning of time. (Pyramids, Castles, Newport Mansions, etc.) I agree that people should restrain excessive displays of wealth that go waaaay beyond any conceivable human need but I don't see anything that could be done about it. Any attempt to use government to stop this would be worse than the initial problem.

Gruntled said...

Shame and incredulity work, to some extent, and avoid the problems of government censorship.

Stuart Gordon said...

I saw a story on the Today show this morning about families eating out each week an average of four times. Those interviewed said it was just as cheap as buying groceries, plus there wasn't so much time spent cooking and cleaning up. They could have "together time."

It reminded me of the designer kitchens that are de rigeur in today's McMansions, kitchens that barely get used.

I fear that the life is sucked out of such homes, that such essential domestic functions as cooking and eating and cleaning together are the fiber of families. When we stop cooking and cleaning together, are we a family?

Gruntled said...

I thought the best part of Ron Dreher's Crunchy Cons was the part about food, especially the family-building pleasure of getting good food and making it together.