An aerial view on Linwood during the July 1967 Rebellion in Detroit., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
July 6, 2011, 12:18 PM ET
Why the Rich Fear Violence in the Streets
Wall Street Journal Blog
By Robert Frank
Last year, I was at a billionaire’s home in California and I asked him to describe his biggest worry. He pointed to a 19th century painting on the wall, which depicted a female beggar receiving alms from a wealthy gentleman and giving her patron a flower in return.
“That’s what I worry about,” he said. “But instead of flowers, she’s got guns. Violence in the streets, aimed at the wealthy. That’s what I worry about.”
It turns out he wasn’t alone. A new survey from Insite Security and IBOPE Zogby International of those with liquid assets of $1 million or more found that 94% of respondents are concerned about the global unrest around the world today.
Fully 90% of respondents have a negative view of the current global economic climate and 41% say they have little or no faith that the U.S. will be able to right itself in this fiscal climate.
More than a third said security concerns have negatively affected business or investment plans.
“The survey found a seismic shift in the attitudes of the wealthy and how they are living their lives, the way they travel and how they are running their businesses,” said Christopher Falkenberg, President of Insite Security.
Of course, Insite has an interest in getting the paranoid rich to beef up their security. Still, the numbers are backed up by other trends seen throughout the world of wealth today: the rich keeping a lower profile, hiring $230,000 guard dogs, and arming their yachts, planes and cars with military-style security features.
Granted, America isn’t a country conducive to class wars in the streets (even a mention by the President of rolling back the private-jet tax breaks sparked denunciations of class warfare).
But at a time when most of the country is mired in unemployment, weak housing prices and a stack of bills from the bailouts, the rich have reason to fear public resentment. And some fear even worse.
Do you think there is a risk of violence in the streets against the wealthy either here or abroad?