I sometimes wasn’t so sure about Mechanic’s insistence that we need to extend any special empathy to ultra-rich people, who seem more than capable of taking care of themselves. But as this readable book progressed, I appreciated his attempt to pull off a delicate balancing act: serving up the digestible morality tale of people spoiling themselves truly rotten before he digs into the fibrous, sociological knot of the system as a whole ... At times the parade of opulence is so garish that I started feeling numb ... I sometimes sensed that Mechanic, despite his generous talk about the need for 'empathizing with the pain of fortunate people,' felt what some of his readers might: the stirrings of class rage. One thing that makes it hard for a reader to do much empathizing is that Mechanic ended up talking to only a handful of these 'fortunate people.' It wasn’t for lack of trying ... Mechanic offers such a fluent survey of the vast literature on historical inequality—indicating that he’s not only read that literature but understood its implications—that I was surprised by his upbeat ending, when he suggests that transformative change could happen if only more rich people had a change of heart ... Considering that the sumptuous lifestyles he has described...it’s unclear how this is going to work.
As Mechanic demonstrates throughout this eye-opening book, once the contentment with one’s finances ends, the addiction to 'extrinsic' goals—e.g., buying mansions, cars, and other luxury goods—leaves less time for the 'intrinsic' pursuits that give us real grounding. The author is a personable guide to this gilded world ... Though the text is often a gleeful sendup of the absurd eccentricities of the superrich, the author also spotlights a few billionaires who find genuine spiritual contentment in giving their wealth away ... A scathing but fair indictment of how the mindless worship of wealth makes us all poorer.
... a unique look at the 'social, psychological, and societal complications that come with great affluence and the reality that so few possess it' ... Mechanic’s nuanced perspective on wealth accumulation offers fresh insights, though he spends more time chronicling success stories than analyzing the structural forces that rig the economy in favor of the affluent. Still, this is an intriguing look at the boons and burdens of wealth.