"Grifting grifters, all the way down"

Two articles about aspirational kleptocracy!

Exhibit A: This Epstein article is horrifying, and buried at the end is the best part:

I Called Everyone in Jeffrey Epstein's Little Black Book:

After Epstein's arrest in 2019, a media narrative coalesced around the question of his strange place in the global elite: Epstein the master salesman, a man who had skillfully conned his way into the world's most powerful circles, fooling everyone in the process. But after my travels through the book, after hearing more of the petty gossip and childish drama of the people who rule our world, I realized this was obviously incorrect. Built into the premise of Epstein the mastermind scammer is the notion that some kind of legitimate path to a legitimate global aristocracy exists. To call Epstein a grifter is to assume he circumvented some genuine meritocratic world order, where the "real" virtuosos dutifully climb the "real" ranks into the oligarchy, powered by nothing but their native talents.

The truth is that the elite world that Epstein ascended into, the one I tapped into by way of the black book, is populated with hordes of loathsome, boring, untalented people living their bumbling, idiotic lives while just so happening to wield some share of the preposterous global bounty that he and the rest were after. For all the mystery surrounding Epstein's fortune, its existence is hardly more inscrutable than the wealth of any of his other billionaire peers. He earned it the same way they all did, which is to say precisely not at all.

This wasn't some masterful hack into the global aristocracy. It's what everyone does. It's what the whole thing is. There is no scam here. It's grifters grifting grifters all the way down.

Exhibit B: This article about the economics of VIP parties at bottle-service clubs:

There's an invisible system behind every £100,000 bar tab and its currency is pretty women:

If you were to ask most people what makes men spend thousands of dollars on alcohol in a single night, the answer would probably seem simple. Rich people like showing off and don't care about losing money. But even among the very rich there are taboos around gratuitous spending. The people I interviewed who frequented such bars, and spent these large sums, often used the same words to describe the rituals of nightclub extravagance: "ridiculous", "stupid", "waste" and "crazy". For the alchemy by which money is turned into status -- to persuade people to break these taboos, in other words -- there had to be the right audience. And that's why the models had to be there. [...]

Most of the women I spoke to seemed to think that following promoters around would be valuable in the longer term, though this value was hard to measure. One benefit was cultural capital. Getting access to the kind of circles where you might find a serious investor, for example, is almost impossible if you don't display the right markers of education and upbringing. Young women who weren't born into the elite appreciated the fact that, by hanging out in VIP areas, they were able to hear what books or news stories rich people were talking about, and recognise high-end brands, food and wines. Learning the codes of elite consumer culture, they reckoned, was important, even if they were vague on how it might be of practical use. "I can't imagine that it wouldn't be," said one. [...]

Ironically, the promoters' position in the VIP ecosystem was closer to that of the young women they managed than anyone else, though few seemed to realise it. Like the women, most promoters dreamed about joining the club of the super-rich that they hovered around, but they were ultimately excluded from the money and status. They could only pretend to belong.

Dre was convinced that his connections with the elite would eventually earn him a big business deal. Every night out with him, every lunch, brought news of one of these almost-clinched projects: the limousine company, the film production, the TV show, and, of course, his music career, which was always just about to take off. One month he claimed he was raising capital for a tech firm because of his access to so many billionaires and investors. The next he was in discussions about a Serbian telecoms deal. But these never came to anything. Clients were happy to call him when they wanted to go out, but that didn't mean they took him seriously as a business partner.

Each layer of the hierarchy waits for crumbs to fall from the layer just above, believing in their heart that mere proximity will allow them to ascend.

Grifting grifters, all the way down.

Beg for scraps or you will starve.

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2 Responses:

  1. George Dorn says:

    For those interested in viewing the entirety of the Economist article, note that you can bypass the paywall just by disabling javascript (globally or just for economist.com). Laziest paywall ever.

  2. Dude says:

    As I used to tell right-leaning friends & acquaintances (before I dropped such toxic people from my life for my own sanity): "Trickle-down economics" have NEVER existed. A dragon doesn't hoard all their gold just to let starving villagers take it away, no matter how little of it the villagers ask for.

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