In his Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx set forth his famous dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  In the land where everything else is upside down, it should be no surprise that Palm Beachers can obtain free discount prescription card. And from the county no less!

This, however, points up to an interesting phenomenon: one reason the rich get richer is because they control their spending relative to their income.  Marx, himself no proletarian, is a case in point.  Part of Marxist theory is that the surplus value of the poor would be exploited to the point where their income would never match their needs.  But Marx himself spent just about every penny he could get his hands on (including everything Engels sent him from Manchester) and ended up having to hock the family silver, turning himself into what one commentator called a “perpetually bankrupt duchy.”  Little wonder Marx saw outgo surpass income so easily.

Living in Palm Beach, I saw fortunes squandered literally to negative net worth.  But I also saw things such as I describe in The Event of the Season.  There’s a lesson in that, but in a culture where conspicuous consumption–once only the pastime of tasteless nouveaux riches–is now de rigeur, it’s hard to keep things on an even keel.