Some Burners say some rich people are using their wealth to create exclusive camps that completely miss the point of Burning Man. Burning Man isn't just a huge party in the desert—although it might look like that. It's an intentional community that strives for radical inclusion, participation, decommodification and self-reliance among other principles.
Instead of embracing these principles, stories abound of wealthy Burners who pay others to set up luxury camps that can cost up to $25,000 per person. There's even an entire economy where so-called "sherpas" are paid and given access to take care of everything for wealthy Burners. Burning Man sherpa Tyler Hanson described one of these camps to the New York Times:
Lavish R.V.s are driven in and connected together to create a private forted area, ensuring that no outsiders can get in. The rich are flown in on private planes, then picked up at the Burning Man airport, driven to their camp and served like kings and queens for a week. (Their meals are prepared by teams of chefs, which can include sushi, lobster boils and steak tartare — yes, in the middle of 110-degree heat.)
The problem isn't with rich people. It's with rich people who are choosing not to abide by Burning Man's culture and principles.
People have always thought Burning Man has been ruined—if not by rich people than by someone or something else. Burning Man volunteer Benjamin Wachs, who writes under the name Caveat Magister, rounds up the several times Burning Man was ruined in this post.
In 1990, Burning Man was now a public spectacle. Hundreds of people who heard about it through media accounts crowded around Baker Beach, trying to see something outside of commerce get lit on fire. People who had been there the year before were disgusted by all the new, uninitiated, wanna-be, Burners. Local residents ruined Burning Man.
In 1992, the first sound camp (then a “rave camp”) appeared at Burning Man, introducing amplified music to what was not yet Black Rock City. Music, as everybody knows, is not art, so those kids and their damn music ruined Burning Man.
In 1993, some Burning Man attendees became concerned that uncool people might show up, and in particular wanted to keep “fat frat boys” away. Though none were ever sighted, the very idea that they might come incited a small panic. Fat frat boys (in absentia) ruined Burning Man.
The point is people have always feared that Burning Man has lost its magic due to some kind of incident. That hasn't happened. The 10 principles are things that Burners strive towards. They're not hard and fast rules. Burning Man is something that you learn and experience over time. It doesn't immediately click the first time, the second or even the third.