“No fair! Bobby got more!” Anyone with siblings remembers that whine.
It didn’t matter what Bobby did to get more. The point was that Bobby should not get more of anything for any reason.
Fast forward 50 years. Here in Aspen, some people are angry that “Bobby got more” because he owns a downtown penthouse with a hot tub on the roof.
But in their fog of envy and rage, they’ve forgotten about the different choices that Bobby and his siblings made over the past half-century.
Bobby studied hard in school in a difficult major. He took risks. He worked 70-hour weeks with little vacation time. He endured a 40-minute commute into the city and then returned in a 40-minute commute back to his house in a dreary suburb after dark when the kids had already gone to sleep.
He laid awake at night trying to figure out such things as what was wrong with his patient who was vomiting blood when Bobby finally left the hospital late that evening, or how to outguess the Goldman Sachs guy with an IQ of 142 at the next trading desk as to the effect of a drought in Iowa on the price of winter wheat.
For all that, Bobby’s siblings like to think he’s an evil person. Maybe they’re right, and maybe not. What’s indisputable is that he’s also a rich person, and that’s how he became one.
Meanwhile, Bobby’s siblings chose college majors that were fun, and they didn’t obsess over their grades. They avoided risks. They lived balanced lives in beautiful places without working too hard. They often saw their friends and family (well, except their brother Bobby).
Bobby’s choices produced some bad and some good: a divorce, estranged children, premature health problems, satisfaction that he’d done important things in his career and lots of money.
The choices made by Bobby’s siblings also produced some good and some bad: happy marriages, close children, good health, frustration that their careers had gone nowhere and less money.
Ah, yes, the money. Bobby’s siblings boast that their lack of money is not a flaw but a virtue. They contend, a little too smugly, that the reason they don’t have money is because they don’t care about it. Unlike a certain brother, they’re not greedy.
But even as they moralize that they don’t care about their own money, they do care about Bobby’s money. It eats them up that Bobby got more.
They assure us it’s not the money itself that they crave. That would be shallow and greedy, like Bobby. It’s the skis, wide-screen TV’s and, of course, the hot tubs.
Their envy is not abated by the fact that the Bobbys of the world pay far more than their proportionate share of society’s expenses. In fact, the top 1 percent of American earners pay nearly half of federal income taxes and make 30 percent of charitable donations. Locally in Aspen, Bobby pays for welfare in the form of taxpayer-subsidized housing that puts roofs over the heads of those who despise him (albeit roofs without hot tubs, so far).
Nor is their envy mollified by the fact that it was the Bobbys who invented the iPhone, discovered the polio vaccine and put a man on the moon.
None of that matters to them. If Bobby has more money than they do, they pretend to reason that it must be because Bobby took their money.
Now they’ve come to get their money back.
They have the numbers to do it. Mediocrity being commonplace almost by definition, these mediocre siblings of Bobby far outnumber him. They have the votes to take away from Bobby the money that he earned and give it to themselves, ostensibly for the purpose of combating greed.
Perhaps they should consider whether this plan for the ordinary majority to tyrannize the extraordinary minority can succeed over the long run. History suggests that Bobby will become fed up with the enmity of the envious. Eventually, he will gather up what remains of his money, ingenuity and hard work, and he’ll just go away.
When he does, those who hate him the most will miss his money the most.
If we expect to keep Bobby around here for kicking, and expect to keep his money around here for spending, then the envious who are driving him and his money away must accept a fact of life: you make choices. You can choose a lifestyle or you can choose achievement. You seldom can choose both.
Here at the grown-up table, you don’t get to have your lifestyle cake and eat other people’s money, too. At least not forever.
So if you want to get what Bobby gets, do what Bobby does. Bobby is your brother, not your sugar daddy.
(Published Oct 25, 2015 in the Aspen Times at http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/18735652-113/memo-to-the-class-warfare-whiners-grow-up)