Twenty-five years have altered the executive way of life noticeably; in 1930 the average businessman had been buffeted by the economic storms but he had not yet been battered by the income tax. The executive still led a life ornamented by expensive adjuncts that other men could not begin to afford, a life attended by a formality that other men did not have time for. In Boston, which set the highest tone if not the fastest pace, the archetype of the high-salaried executive of 1930 arrived at his office in his chauffeur-driven Pierce-Arrow, uncompromisingly attired in dark suit and detachable stiff collar. For weekend lounging white flannels were de rigueur.Forbes also says that the grand parties of the past were no more, shrunken to small, country club affairs where the food may be burgers and hot dogs. And consider the executive yacht:
The executive’s home today is likely to be unpretentious and relatively small–perhaps seven rooms and two and a half baths. (Servants are hard to come by and many a vice president’s wife gets along with part-time help. So many have done so for so long, in fact, that they no longer complain much about it.) The executive who feels, as apparently Robert R. Young does, that to be completely happy he needs a forty-room “cottage” in Newport and a thirty-one-room oceanside villa in Palm Beach is a rare bird these days. The fact that Young paid only $38,000 for his Newport place, Fairholme, which cost Philadelphia banker John R. Drexel nearly a quarter of a million dollars to build in 1905, demonstrates the decline in the market for such outsize mansions.
The large yacht has also foundered in the sea of progressive taxation. In 1930, Fred Fisher (Bodies), Walter Briggs, and Alfred P. Sloan cruised around in vessels 235 feet long; J. P. Morgan had just built his fourth Corsair (343 feet). Today, seventy-five feet is considered a lot of yacht. . . . The specifications of the boat that interests the great majority of seagoing executives today are “forty feet, four people, $40,000.” In this tidy vessel the businessman of 1955 is quite happily sea-borne.Today, of course, we have gone back to the world of Mega-Yachts, Mega-Mansions, absurd salaries and even more absurd stock options.
Why did we let it happen?