Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
RICH-I-STAN n. 1. a new country located in the heart of America, populated entirely by millionaires, most of whom acquired their wealth during the new Gilded Age of the past twenty years. 2. a country with a population larger than Belgium and Denmark; typical citizens include “spud king” J. R. Simplot; hair stylist Sydell Miller, the new star of Palm Beach; and assorted oddball entrepreneurs. 3. A country that with a little luck and pluck, you, too, could be a citizen of.
The rich have always been different from you and me, but Robert Frank’s revealing and funny journey through “Richistan” entertainingly shows that they are truly another breed.
and free-market policies. Yet the Third Wave has far surpassed the previous two waves. Half of America’s total wealth has been created over the past 10 years. Rockefeller’s $1 billion would be worth $14 billion today—less than the net worth of each of the five offspring of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. The Third Wave also stands out globally. For the first time ever, the United States in 2004 surpassed Europe in the population of millionaires. In 2005, the United States cranked out 227,000 new
vests. But I got him to wear better quality. At least now his vests are cashmere cable-knits.” Hilary also tried to get Pete to change his increasingly risky investments—with less success. By the late 1990s, Safeguard was investing in dozens of tech start-ups that had “rights offerings,” allowing Safeguard shareholders to buy shares at a discount before the companies went public. One of the early rights offerings was in 1998 for Internet Capital Group, which Safeguard helped launch with a $15
Hamptons, Aspen Peak and Gulfshore Life, which have better party photos and page after page of new boldface names. Greenwich, Connecticut—once a quiet, blue-blood bedroom community for Manhattan lawyers and doctors— has become a hedge-fund playground filled with flashy billionaires. Local housing prices have skyrocketed, mainly from hedge-fund buyers. Quiet cafés that used to host the ladies-who-lunch crowd have been overshadowed by designer food palaces like L’Escale, which serves crispy duck
Outback Steakhouse founder Tim Gannon, and the other launched by a Texas developer. Social standing remains hugely important, especially to the ambitious, young second wives who now dominate the party scene. There are now three publications covering Palm Beach society—Palm Beach Society, the Palm Beach Daily News and Palm Beach Today—as publicity and flattering party photos have become powerful tools for social elevation. Palm Beachers wait anxiously every Wednesday and Sunday morning for the
inequalities.’” Yet the stories of Jared Polis and Tim Gill offer another, more hopeful sign for the effect of wealth on politics.