Showing posts with label respectability is on sale. You just have to know how to buy it. The place to start is London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label respectability is on sale. You just have to know how to buy it. The place to start is London. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 March 2011

leader of an oil-rich bit of the Middle East, say, or a tycoon from a grungy bit of the former Communist world. You wish your family could shop, invest, socialise and study in the richest and nicest parts of the world (and flee there if needs be). But you don’t deserve it and won’t earn it: you will not stop torture, allow criticism, obey the law, or keep your fingers out of the public purse.

Luckily, respectability is on sale. You just have to know how to buy it. The place to start is London. Among its advantages are strict libel laws, which mean nosy journalists risk long, costly legal battles. And helpful banks, law firms, accountants and public relations people abound.

Laws on money-laundering have irritating requirements about scrutiny of new customers. This used to be merely an exercise in ticking boxes, but has got a bit tougher. Still, a well-connected and unscrupulous banker will be your best friend, for a fee. You cut him in on some lucrative transactions with your country or company. In return he will pilot you through the first stages, arming you with a lawyer (to scare rivals and critics) and an accountant (to keep your books opaque but legal).


Next comes a virtuous circle of socialising and do-gooding. Start with the cash-strapped upper reaches of the cultural world: a big art gallery, an opera house, or something to do with young musicians. Donations there will get you known and liked. Or try funding a prize at UNESCO or some other international do-gooding outfit. Support causes involving war veterans or sick children. Sponsoring sport works too. But don’t overdo it—the public is wiser than the glitterati, and will soon scent a crude attempt to buy popularity.

Send your children to posh English schools. Shower hospitality on their friends: they will be important one day. But invite the parents too: they are influential now. A discreet payment will tempt hard-up celebrities to come to your parties. Minor royals are an even bigger draw: British for choice, but continental will do. Even sensible people go weak at the knees at the thought of meeting a princeling, however charmless or dim-witted.

Many such titled folk like a lavish lifestyle but cannot earn or afford it. So offer a deal: you pay for their helicopters, hookers and hangers-on. In return, they bring you into their social circuit, and shower stardust on yours. You will need patience: the parties are dull and the guests vapid and greedy. Building your reputation as a charming and generous host may take a couple of years. But once people have met you socially they will find it hard to see you as a murderous monster or thieving thug. Useful props in this game are yachts, private jets, racehorses, ski chalets and mansions.

Armed with social and cultural clout, you can approach money-hungry academia and think-tanks. A good combination is a Washington, DC, think-tank and a London-based university (Oxford and Cambridge, being richer, are also choosier about whom they take money from). The package deal should involve a centre (perhaps with a professorial chair) and a suitable title: it should include words like global, sustainable, strategic and ethical.

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