The proposition that the marginal utility of consumption approaches zero as the level of consumption rises is also lent credence by statements of wealthy people themselves. Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and other fabulously wealthy people refer to their “surplus” wealth, and of determining when one has “enough” wealth. H.L. Hunt, then the richest man in the world, once said that “for practical purposes, someone who has $200,000 a year is as well off as I am.” Similar statements (appropriately adjusted for inflation) have been attributed to William Henry Vanderbilt and John Jacob Astor, two 19th century plutocrats.
One of the appealing features of the idea that rich people eventually reach nearsatiation in their consumption of nondurables is that this means one need not assume a towering and obsessive greed lies behind their continuing accumulation. If ‘greed’ is defined as a desire to possess wealth for its own sake, even a modest amount of greed will suffice, so long as greed does not diminish with wealth as fast as the marginal utility diminishes with consumption. Or, to put the idea more concretely, if ownership of extra houses, yachts, artwork, or, for that matter, corporations has even a modest intrinsic appeal, eventually that appeal is likely to exceed waning lure of an extra dollar of nondurable consumption. Of course, this is merely another way of saying that ownership of these kinds of wealth yields utility directly, as the basic Capitalist Spirit model assumes.
Of course, towering and obsessive greed cannot always be ruled out.
“The point is that you can’t be too greedy” Donald Trump (1988), in Trump: The Art of the Deal, ch. 2.
“Greed is good.” Ivan Boesky, in an address to business school students, University of California at Berkeley, 1987.
“The one with the most toys when he dies, wins.” Anonymous