Man! What a Spread!
Years ago, a friend from college told me his home had had a fire. Hot coals tumbled out of the fire-place and set the rug on fire. Before anyone noticed it, two stuffed chairs caught fire, too, and they had a time putting it out. Soot from the fire, rather than the fire itself, caused most of the damage. The coals from the fire also burned holes in the wooden floor. I saw the aftermath and realized that his family had had a close call. My friend said his family ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out what to do.
My friend asked me and some other guys if we would like to come over and help clean up. He said his parents trusted us more than people they didn't know personally. We ended up polishing about fifty pieces of silver—plates, a coffee-and-tea service, and heaps of knives, forks, and spoons. I had a time just handling all this stuff—piled on the dining-room table, which creaked under the weight of so much silver. Regular workmen from a local firm wipes the soot from the ceiling and walls.
Cleaning all that silver came back to me during my trip to Germany, while I was reading the morning newspapers. Wealth gets such a bad rap in today's egalitarian culture, especially "idle" wealth, that just sits there looking pretty and doesn't contribute anything to the betterment of mankind. Instead, of course, you exclaim to yourself, "Man! What a spread!" And it's not even food.
Later, my friend's parents died, and he and his siblings had to sort out the who-gets-what questions. They all turned greedy as hell and have never spoken to each other since. In this story, you see an ugly side of the human-species; but even more important, you realize how much human-kind craves the tangible proofs of wealth. As my friend said, "We didn't fight about the stocks, bonds, and real estate—only the silver and jewelry."
In a nation intent on soaking the rich, where the articles of wealth "belong to the People," let them enjoy fighting over it. Maybe the impracticality of ownership "by the people" will impel the leaders to act, and "the People" will own the wealth on paper only, like stocks, bonds, and real estate. History has determined that much of it will end up in the homes of government officials. Few can resist the temptation of owning time-proven articles of wealth.
The title "Sonnenköniglich," from the Frankfurter Allgemeine article, refers to the "Sun-King" of France, Louis XIV who built magnificent homes for himself, furnished them grandly, and it nearly bankrupted the nation--while the poor citizens went hungry. Nowadays, people line up outside to see the beautifully-furnished rooms—and inwardly lust over them.
The article states that an Arab Sheik purchased the Hôtel Lambert—essentially a private palace—for $65 million, then spent $100 million fixing it up. Now he wants to sell it and all the furnishings.
Just one antique chest will cost about $1.5 million. So far, 1100 people have signed up to attend the auction. Another thousand or so will attend on-line. The professionals in the business expect the auction to yield $50 million, just for the furnishings. Egalitarians will no doubt react negatively to the crass materialism. How much the egalitarians would like to own all that stuff themselves remains to be seen.