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Two particularly direct statements are:

“The rich man’s ‘duty/ such as it is, is not to society but to his art, and his art is making money.” Michael Lewis, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, July 1995

“Money’s just a way of keeping score. It’s the game that matters.” H.

L. Hunt, cited in Jaher (1980), p. 215

A closely related idea is suggested by the work of Robert Frank (1985), who has argued that an intrinsic component of human nature is a tendency to judge oneself by comparison with others. If for some wealthy people wealth is the metric of comparison, the utility function should contain not the absolute level of their wealth but some function of the relationship of their wealth to that of others. Bakshi and Chen (1996), Cole, Mailath, and Postlewaite (1992), and Zou (1994) have also argued that wealth matters because it is an index of social status. For practical purposes of analysis of household-level data, however, either of these ideas is virtually indistinguishable from the proposition that wealth enters the utility function directly, and both ideas should produce essentially identical results in a model of saving (although they might have different implications for optimal tax policy; see the discussion below and the paper by Frank in this volume).

It is also possible that wealthy people continue accumulating because greater wealth yields some other benefit that is more difficult to measure, such as power. In particular, the view that wealth brings power is commonplace among both the wealthy themselves and observers of the wealthy. (The idea that power is desirable appears to be taken for granted.)

“The ultimate gift of colossal wealth, at least for the founders of the richest families, was power.” Jaher (1980), p. 215