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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Blog | John Seery: Mo' Money: I Don't Get It | The Huffington Post

Okay, ex-Enron smart guys Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were convicted last month of fraud and conspiracy. But their criminality strikes me as but the tip of an iceberg, not legal so much as cultural. I still can't get my head around the widely reported fact that prior to Enron's downfall, Ken Lay and his wife owned 15 homes, mostly in Texas and Colorado.

(By the way, for a $30 ticket, you can now take the "Lifestyles of Houston's Rich and Infamous: The Enron Tour," a five-hour excursion through Houston's posh neighborhoods where former Enron executives once maintained their lavish mansions.) Ken and Linda Lay are reportedly still living in their 33rd floor luxury Houston condo with its hand-carved gothic interior, valued at $7.9 million in 2002. He sold his four Aspen properties in 2002 and 2003 for a total of $23.879 million. In 2002 Linda opened her store Jus' Stuff to sell off some of the family furnishings, including a bronze, life-sized Eve statue for $13,000 and a red-and-brown padded bench ornamented with angels for $5,200.

But back to those 15 houses: Why would a sentient, functional human being want fifteen houses? What do you do with fifteen houses? Did any of those houses feel like a home? Would you remember where the bathrooms are in fifteen different floor plans? Did Ken and Linda hang out with their neighbors in any or all of those houses? Did they keep fifteen duplicate sets of their favorite spices, paintings, books, china, pajamas, underwear and other toiletries in those houses, or did they furnish every one of them uniquely? What a hassle. Sorry, I just don't get it. I don't see the attraction. Mind you, I understand--I think I do--the basic human motivations that fuel our capitalist system (though the latter-day version certainly departs from Ben Franklin's frugality or Max Weber's notion of an ascetic work ethic). I understand wanting to surround yourself (and your loved ones) with comfortable and beautiful material items. I understand and appreciate luxury and even extravagance. But maintaining fifteen residential homes (not just as property investments) seems beyond the pale--and I don't think you have to be a commie pinko to be baffled by such perverse behavior. At what point did Ken and Linda decide that they needed to jump from, say, five to ten homes? And what was the trigger that prompted them to cross the threshold from fourteen to fifteen? What were they feeling? Were they happy at that point, finally, or was number sixteen in the offing? Did acquiring each house seem like a new triumph, or did the sense of accomplishment wear thin around the eight or nine mark? Did they exult in their plentitude--for instance, did they see themselves as somehow closer to God with each new purchase, members of the elect? (Ken's father was a Baptist minister.) Or were they simply dog-eat-dog, top-of-the-heap, out-of-control consumerists--people who had just lost perspective, caught up in a never-ending whirlwind of acquisition?
read the rest......

The Blog | John Seery: Mo' Money: I Don't Get It | The Huffington Post


Anonymous Pop said...

great blog

6/20/2006 7:50 PM  

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