Does Tomb Envy Make Sense?

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The New York Times reports that Chinese officials have been trying to appease public anger at the elaborate tombs of the nation's new rich. There are a lot of them. On the other hand -- and I can say this as a long-time cemetery tourist -- the bigger the mausoleum, the more democratic the message. How many people envy Leona Helmsley? The best comment on the whole matter might be an old joke about the schnorrer who is shown the elaborate Rothschild tomb in Paris's Père-Lachaise and exclaims, "These people know how to live!"


 


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Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

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