There is nothing wrong with enjoying your wife and family nor giving to charity, especially on the scale of the Gates'.
Not only is there "nothing wrong" with such things, they should be encouraged, no?
Those things and the "good life" are not mutually excusive though.
True enough. I suppose one can do both. I guess it comes down to the fact that when some folks do worthwhile things with their money, their "lack of style" doesn't really matter to them -- apparently they matter only to those with far less money and power who obssess with length of lapels.
What exactly is Mr. Gates accomplishing by taking the family to the public pool? Showing that he is one with the common man? Possibly endangering his very well known family by exposing them to some loony
Has it occurred to you that, just maybe, Gates took his kids to a public pool, not to "show... he is one with the common man," but to give his children some semblance of the "normal" life? Play with other normal kids around, and not be cloistered like royalty? (I agree, however, that Gates needs to balance this with the security for his kids, to be sure.)
I attended a university with the children of enormously wealthy people, and knew some personally. As a general observation (of course, there were individuals who did not fit the stereotype), most of the European scions dressed the part, drove luxury cars (one German kid bought a house, a Ferrari, a Porsche and an SUV the first year at the university) and sneered at their American peers (wonder why they were attending school in the U.S.?).
On the other hand, I knew quite a few American heirs and heiresses who wore Land's End or Gap clothes, drove Subaru's, drank bad beer and socialized with "normal" kids, not out of some demonstration of fealty to the common man, but because they enjoyed being something other than walking demonstrations of the so-called "good life."
They hung out with students who were interesting, athletic or highly intelligent, but not nearly as rich as they were while most "euros" hung out with each other or with those desperate American kids who went to obscene lengths to fit in with the latter, going so far as to imitate foreign accents.
Yes, the Asian wealthy spend a lot on themselves in term of what would commonly be thought of as fine goods.
I've seen very few super rich Europeans who dress "poorly," but I certainly have seen quite a few Asian super rich who dress very modestly. That goes for Asian-Americans too.
I had a friend working in private banking services, who had a new ethnic Chinese client come in for the first time. The guy was dressed like a common grocer. Turned out he owned three high rise buildings in Manhattan and had princely sums to invest. This is not something I see commonly in Europe.