Recently, a review of a Hugh Nibley book led to a discussion about “the wealthy” or “the rich.” The discussion completely failed to discuss the various types of the relatively rich in our society.

wealthyFirst is the group referred to in class/social strata studies as “the hidden” (or, the group I would refer to as “the caretakers”). They have inherited wealth and what they basically do is continue to be wealthy. They are what Fussel would refer to as the “out of sight” though Payne’s work is less snarky and more accurate when she calls them “the hidden.”

A member of the caretaker class will have favorite advisers, at least two staffed homes and is on the board of at least two charities. The key aspect is that they have inherited wealth and know how to preserve that status and pass it along.

Second are those who have captured the work of others, in ways that can be quite benign (such as a law partner with many reporting associates) or not (such as one group that has managed to capture another professional group and strip most of the income from them). I’ve met a number of those making six to nine million dollars a year.

Third are those who have, through luck and skill, become very successful professionals without capture. I meet orthopedic surgeons making two to three million dollars a year because of their skill and their relationship to specific hospitals (the same surgeon in England makes about 110,000 euros a year, which I know from dealing with a recruiter). I’ve known a number of attorneys, architects, etc. who have done this. People make up to eight figures a year this way. Sometimes more.

Fourth are business types, the heroes of the book “The Millionaire Next Door” — people who put in long hours and build something — a McDonald’s Franchise, a cleaning company. They basically do not spend much and roll over everything into their business.

Fifth are the classic robber baron and the heroes of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (and yes, Adam Smith said amazingly harsh things about this group compared to Marx who seemed to dote on them). Find a seam and exploit it. The justice department fights with them all the time. Promoters fit in this group as well.

Now, these groups are different. A caretaker will know the hidden rules of Jr. League. Someone who is engaged in capture is more likely to want people to bill for 2400 hours of work a year knowing that the ABA studies established rather clearly that after 2000 hours net productivity drops off (so that 2400 hours billed means about the same work as 1800 hours billed). A professional who has become successful without capture will often be working for the fun of it. The millionaire next door is probably going to be perceived as somewhat of a grind.

The exploiters (some of whom do very positive things) are constant in their focus.

But to talk about “the wealthy” is to really talk about five different groups that are often extremely different in approach, attitudes and goals.

That doesn’t even get us into a discussion of the professional class (where it does not cross the borderline into “the rich”) and others.

What do you think of when you think of “the rich?” How do you feel knowing that regardless of your circumstances, 95% of the world’s population would probably gladly change places with you? How would you change if you suddenly became a member of one of those groups?

Where do you think each group fits in when you think of approaching Zion?