Pique'n yer interest 

The talented caste

In Canada and the U.S. we have something called inheritance taxes, which can run as high as 50 per cent of the value of an estate. While this tax is a frequent target of politicians (who usually claim to be acting on behalf of farming families that want to hand properties down while actually representing the interests of wealthy donors), it's also the most democratic tax we have. If the underlying promise of democracy and capitalism is that anybody can became rich, famous and powerful with enough hard work then it makes no sense to allow money, fame and power to concentrate in a handful of hands in perpetuity. What would be the point of doing anything if you knew the whole system was rigged against you from birth?

And yet, despite our best intentions, it remains rigged.

There are ways that wealthy families get around inheritance taxes, like setting up trust funds or endowing charities or foundations that their children and children's children will draw huge salaries from until the money at last runs out. Putting assets in a spouse's or child's name at the time of purchase is another way to keep it in the family, or various long-term investments that pay taxable dividends but don't get taxed themselves until you cash out.

But these days the most common method of passing down wealth is to bring your children into the family business. You're not expressly giving your children anything this way, or so the logic goes, you're merely paying them a simple, albeit massive, salary for services rendered.

It's still greasy. Ivanka Trump is no idiot, but it's safe to say that being The Donald's daughter helped her get a job managing the Trump real estate empire. The Donald himself got a leg up from his father, Fred Trump, who made millions buying up apartment blocks in New York.

Corporate nepotism is not usually tolerated by shareholders or boards of directors, but it's out there at Bechtel, Hearst Corp., Motorola, Comcast, Schwab, etc. Sometimes it's worked for the benefit of the company and sometimes not, but it has always seemed deeply wrong to me - or are we to believe that business acumen is a genetic trait passed down like height and male pattern baldness?

Political nepotism is a little rarer, but it exists. In the U.S. we saw the son of the 41 st president become the 43 rd president a little over eight years ago, and I think most people would agree it was a disaster. We also had the wife of the 42 nd president try to land the top job, and while I do believe that Hillary Clinton was qualified it still seemed a little wrong after the father-son presidencies. Are we expected to believe that political leadership is genetic AND possibly sexually transmitted?

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