... what the money of rich cranks does is ensure that bad ideas never go away — indeed, they can gain strength even as they fail in practice again and again.
Money is a great way to decouple actions from consequences. The more of it you have, the less you feel the pain of anything stupid you do — until, of course, the day comes when no amount of money can buy breathable air.
I once had a discussion with someone who believed, in all seriousness, that the coming virtualization of everything would make the excesses of the rich go away. If you can simulate for yourself having ten cars or three houses, then you don't have as much of a need for the real thing, right?
I suspect he didn't understand that most of why people want such things is not because they want the thing in itself: it's so they can use the fact they have it as a way to separate them from others. If someone gets an epic mount in World of Warcraft, we don't tend to think of them as being a world apart from us in the same way as someone who has five cars in his driveway, four of which are just for show.
(I also don't believe for a second we'll ever really get to a state where that kind of real-world stuff is also "virtual" and therefore ubiquitous ... but that's another story.)