America Today: Class

Question: Is the class system dead?


David Patrick Columbia: Well it does appear now that money is the only arbiter in the class system. But the class system is – let’s call it the hierarchy – always exists. And you see that in any social group. If you’re an American, you see that in school. You see that in high school. You see that in college. And you see that in the office. So it’s just there. And basically what it is, is there are personalities that dominate over other personalities.


Question: What is the difference between old money and new?


David Patrick Columbia: The people who we’ve always regarded as old wealth now regard themselves as not having very much money at all. I hear people say, “Well she doesn’t have that much money. She only has $30 million.” Or, “She only has $50 million.” Or, “He only has $40 million.” A woman I know told me she felt she’s very middle class because she only had $10 million.

I didn’t ask her how much she had, but she was telling me about how she was so astounded and awed by the wealth around her that she realized that she was middle class. And I said, “Actually you’re just deluded because I think of one million as a lot.” I don’t have anything near that myself. It’s kind of all “funny money” time. And so the people who have the old wealth who were once considered very wealthy are just, in terms of numbers, not as wealthy anymore. But their point of view about wealth is often very, very different from the people who have new wealth who have acquired it very quickly.


Conducted on: October 29, 2007


The difference between old money and new.

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