[FoRK] The Corporation...

J.Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Sun Aug 8 10:15:28 PDT 2004

On Aug 7, 2004, at 4:37 PM, Owen Byrne wrote:
> Specifically in the US, its probably the vast difference in wealth 
> between the top and the bottom - essentially a recreation of the
> European "nobility" but lacking the constraints on the behaviour of 
> the nobility that has evolved over thousands of years in Europe.

Only in Europe, or at least in some of the major countries in Europe 
(e.g. France) where the major corporate hierarchies, which are in bed 
with the government far beyond anything we have in the US, are 
literally the old nobility.

Obviously you never bothered to actually find out what the churn rate 
on wealth is in the US.  Multi-generational wealthy families are 
sufficiently rare that many of the exceptions are well-known.  Usually, 
its pauper-to-king by one individual, and no more than three 
generations from king-to-pauper for the family.  Often far less than 
that.  "A fool and his money are soon parted" is as true today as it 
has always been.

My family tree has been very wealthy for at least five generations, 
possibly longer.  But there has never been any inheritance or transfer 
of wealth within the family; every time someone dies, a charity, 
non-profit, or some organization gets very lucky.  In fact, there 
generally aren't any allowances at all ("get a job") and when you turn 
18 you are on your own financially, even for college.  And I've known a 
number of other people who were in families like this, it is not that 
unusual.  If you are poor, you are probably in this position anyway 
(except that then you can get financial aid for school).

To an ill-educated outside observer, it looks like my family is "old 
wealth" -- this pseudo-nobility you are fixated on.  But every single 
person built their fortune by bootstrapping from nothing more than a 
work ethic, intelligence, motivation, and arguably a genetic 
predisposition for financial success.  I'm the oldest of my generation, 
and it is already apparent that my generation is producing yet another 
bumper crop of wealthy or soon to be wealthy people, and most haven't 
left their 20s yet.  No inheritance required.

As an aside, I've often suspected that there is a basic truth about the 
kind of environment that produces financially successful people buried 
here somewhere.  Even most middle-class parents spoil their children 
with unnecessary financial support, and I would argue that being 
genuinely poor during those formative 18-25 years probably creates good 
habits that serve very well later.

j. andrew rogers

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