Friday, June 13, 2014

What is worse than horseshit?

"Did you watch the horse race?" asked my neighbor a couple of days ago.

He was referring to the madness over the triple crown in horse-racing, fully knowing that I don't care about such races.  Yet, he asked me that because he knows I am a news junkie.  Of course, I was aware that the triple-crown didn't happen.

"One of the owners is from Bakersfield" he added.  We are both neighbors here in Oregon after his initial three decades there and my much fewer years in that part of California.

"Did you know that despite the horse not winning the Triple Crown, there are people ready to pay ten million dollars for it?"

I hadn't known that.  As in it will be as high as $10 million.

"That much for breeding?" I was genuinely shocked at the amount.  "The world is really screwed up.  They spend gazillions on things like this, and you ask the same people to spare ten dollars to feed the homeless and they yell at you!"

"You got that right" he chimed in agreement.

We differ on a whole range of topics, profound and silly.  But, we agree, always, on the highly misplaced priorities that we humans seem to have.  Our favorite of all is the screwed up priority on college sports.

The highly messed up priorities show up everywhere, especially when hysteresis is the word.  When the working class anywhere and everywhere seems to be getting screwed.

For Peter Singer, the case of millions being spent to acquire a work of art is the context of messed up priorities, in which he writes:
In a more ethical world, to spend tens of millions of dollars on works of art would be status-lowering, not status-enhancing. Such behavior would lead people to ask: “In a world in which more than six million children die each year because they lack safe drinking water or mosquito nets, or because they have not been immunized against measles, couldn’t you find something better to do with your money?”
The rich are all too eager to spend 41 million dollars for a "small image of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol," or $10 million dollars on a horse for its sperm.  The madness is that we hoi polloi are all the more excited and in awe about such wasteful expenditures when, instead, those big spenders should be considered for what they are: worse than horseshit!  Shame on us pathetic beings who worship the rich and the famous and serve those gods of horseshit.


Ramesh said...

I don't think we should go in that direction. For us it appears a $ 10m investment in a horse seems excessive. For an adivasi from Latur our investment of Rs 1 million in a car will equally look excessive. We shouldn't cast a value judgement on any expenditure as long as the wealth is made by fair means and it is a free transaction between the buyer and the seller. If you examine the history of California Chrome and their owners, I am delighted that they are receiving $ 10m.

The issue of poverty and misery will not be solved by restricting the rich. There is adequate capital for poverty alleviation (as China has shown). What is needed is governance, management and action. Mostly governments have to do this, but occasionally private citizens can do brilliantly as well. St Gates, anybody ??

By the way, surely one of the nicest of lives must be that of a stud in the racing farms. Enjoying free range, all the food and exercise you want and the only job is to have sex ......

Sriram Khé said...

Gates can be all saintly because the gazillions that he has are numbers that 99.999999999999% of the population cannot even begin to understand what that amount means. I am glad the Gates couple are doing what they are doing, but I want to be careful about how high a pedestal I place them upon.

"Not solved by restricting rich" promotes a certain value more than other some other values. Which means that the discussion is essentially about, well, which value is better and why. “In a world in which more than six million children die each year because they lack safe drinking water or mosquito nets, or because they have not been immunized against measles" we are willing to sit back and say that is acceptable even when gazillions are being spent on horses' sperm and art pieces? Seriously? Horse sperm is more valuable than saving a couple of children from an early death because the parents didn't have money for malaria nets? A human is worth that much lesser than a horse's sperm? I will like you to explain why a horse's sperm is more valuable in this context.

But, yes, walking this path will lead the discussion to that absurdity of communism. A slippery slope here, of course. But, still, I would like you to defend why money spent on a racehorse's sperm is better than spending that money on malaria nets. Or even better--on anti-malarial drug research.