I hate to quote so extensively, but I can’t resist the closing passage of this piece from Dalrymple’s Hilarious Pessimist blog:
[I]t doesn’t worry me that there are people in the world who are richer than I by a much larger multiple than that by which I am richer than an unemployed person in Hartlepool. When I arrived in Zurich I wandered among the antique shops and antiquarian booksellers and it didn’t worry me at all that I shall never be able to buy the type of things they contained and that I would very much like to possess. I was more mortified by the fact that I saw nothing of recent manufacture to equal the quality of the old: in other words, the rich were not doing their job properly in patronising the arts or stimulating the production of objects that would be valued in a hundred or five hundred years’ time, except possibly as historical curiosities.
It seems to me that the very rich have a moral duty to exhibit good taste and it is my impression that, these days, they rarely do so, at least with regard what is new (the hardest test of good taste). Good taste is not only a matter of having an eye, but of self-discipline. It requires cultivation, not merely conspicuous… expenditure.