Hightower Report

The super rich literally live in their own world

Attention class: Today's word is "fractal inequality."

Okay, that's a phrase, not a word, and a very wonky one. It means "uneven inequality," but the unevenness refers not to the relatively poor, but to the relatively super rich – the one percenters versus the one-tenth and one one-hundredth of one percenters. The one percent average an income of about a million bucks a year, while the one one-hundredth clique tops $30 million.

Wow, how do you even spend 30 Big Ones a year? Your penthouse, Lamborghini, dinner every night at Le Petite Fortune, etc., still leaves some $20 million for you to play with. Luckily, The New York Times has answered this question for us commoners in a recent article headlined: "It's a Buyer's Market for Private Islands."

It seems that there are bargains to be had on old castles in the Irish countryside, so many super rich Americans are buying a piece of the old sod for themselves. Parisian townhouses and wine country chateaus are always in vogue, so why not have one? Or two?

But the big action for American swells is in the Caribbean, where a five-bedroom villa on St. Barts, for example, can sop up $14 million of your spare cash. The article tells us, however, that the latest trend is not simply to buy a fabulous house overlooking the pink-sand beaches of some resort island – but to buy your very own Caribbean island. What cachet! One popular possibility is the Exuma Cays, a cluster of 360 islands in the Bahamas. For instance, here's one 47-acre island with a 3,000-foot airstrip and seven white-sand beaches that can be had for just over $15 million.

As an online dealer in private islands notes, buying one is not about the beauty of the place, but about the majestic image it bestows on the buyer. "They want to be steward of their own little piece of the world," he marveled.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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