By now everyone knows about the Koch brothers' efforts to spend a fair chunk of their millions on defeating President Obama and reshaping American politics in the image of their oil extraction-friendly version of libertarianism. But Bill Koch, the other billionaire Koch brother, has a different plan for his money. A large-scale, private recreation of an old West town:
There's a new town in Colorado. It has about 50 buildings, including a saloon, a church, a jail, a firehouse, a livery and a train station. Soon, it will have a mansion on a hill so the town's founder can look down on his creation. But don't expect to move here — or even to visit.
This town is billionaire Bill Koch's fascination with the Old West rendered in bricks and mortar. It sits on a 420-acre meadow on his Bear Ranch below the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County. It's an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse. Its full-size buildings come with polished brass and carved-mahogany details and are fronted with board sidewalks and underpinned by a water-treatment system. A locked gate with guards screens who comes and goes.
Koch's project manager has told county officials that the enclave in the middle of the 6,400-acre Bear Ranch won't ever be open to the public. It is simply for Koch's amusement and for that of his family and friends — and historians. It is the ultimate repository for his huge collection of Western memorabilia.
This sort of thing is why progressive taxation is important. As people get richer and richer, it gets harder and harder to think of cost-effective ways of spending the marginal dollar on amusing yourself. When you take from the rich and give to the poor, you end up generating a lot of extra welfare as people who don't have very much can have their lives greatly improved at relatively low cost. Billionaires need to either plot schemes for world domination or else build replica towns at vast expense.
Here are some of the craziest things rich people do with their money:
Build Emergency Rooms In Homes
Some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/concierge-medicine_n_1353155.html" target="_hplink">super-rich households bypass</a> the long waiting room lines at hospitals by constructing emergency rooms -- costing over $1 million -- in their own homes.
Buy Submarine To Visit Ocean's Deepest Part
No place is off-limits to the super-rich. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/submarines-super-rich_n_1365014.html" target="_hplink">Billionaire film director James Cameron bought</a> a single-person submarine to venture seven miles below sea level to the deepest part in the ocean.
Receive Psychological Wealth Counseling
Some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/wealth-counseling-banks-super-rich_n_1417351.html" target="_hplink">super-rich bank clients pay for therapists</a> to help them deal with the psychological issues associated with having lots of money.
Get Doomsday-Safe Underground Luxury Condo
Super-rich buyers plan to survive the world's end in luxury condos<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/super-rich-doomsday-shelter_n_1417895.html" target="_hplink"> built in a Cold War-era missile</a> shaft below a Kansas prairie.
Purchase Ballistic Shield Briefcases
The super-rich spend on ways to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/super-rich-protection_n_1556322.html" target="_hplink">protect themselves and their stuff. China's Leison Global </a>made a briefcase that turns into a ballistic shield. It's meant to safeguard rich businessmen and women.
Install ATM Machine In Kitchen
The super-rich enjoy having money at their finger tips. NBA star DeShawn Stevenson didn't like the idea of having to find an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/deshawn-stevenson-atm-in-kitchen_n_1558565.html?ref=money" target="_hplink">ATM machine to withdraw cash</a>, so he put one in his kitchen.
Buy Humongous Private Planes
Rich people seem to hate lines, including the long security ques at airports. Like many wealthy people who have their own private jet, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/alisher-usmanov-russian-facebook-airbus-a340_n_1574425.html?1339002993" target="_hplink">Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov also bought</a> one. But his is an AirBus A340, the largest one in Russia and quite possibly the whole of Europe.
Throw Paper Planes Made Out Of Money
The super-rich can throw away money -- quite literally. Pavel Durov, the millionaire owner of the popular Russian social networking site VKontakte, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/pavel-durov-russian-millionaire-throws-money-paper-planes_n_1557404.html" target="_hplink">tossed 5,000 ruble notes folded</a> into paper planes out of his office window onto a crowd in St. Petersburg.