Dateline: Belgrade, Serbia
King Solomon once warned, “an inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.”
While the “hate the rich” class in countries such as the United States has used the alleged evils of wealth inheritance as a means to confiscate more money from the people through taxes, studies show that in most cases, 90% of a family’s hard-earned wealth is lost by the third generation.
In one case study, an inheriting family blew through a mega-million dollar fortune built over fifty years in just twenty-four months.
As for family businesses, only 3% of them continue to generate profits once passed on to the third generation.
The same is true of lottery winners. Have you ever noticed how a large number of those who win huge jackpots squander the money in just a matter of years.
“Afflicted” by money for no rational reason for the first time in their life, lottery winners often buy magnificent mansions, fleets of fast Italian cars, and other trappings of the good life.
I’m certainly not a minimalist, and I’m not discouraging enjoying one’s success.
But herein lies a trend that not only applies to ingrate heirs and gas station lottery players, but sovereign nations as well.
I call it “the Paris Hilton Effect”: the idea that, over time, wealthy nations lose sight of what created their great wealth and move in the wrong direction.
History is littered with examples of this; the ones we talk about here on an ongoing basis.
Egypt was among the richest civilizations in the ancient world… until the government got aggressive with its own citizens and caused the empire to collapse.
Ancient Rome thrived for years as a free country… and then the place turned into an evil empire run by dictators who imposed taxes on everyone they possibly could.
After Rome fell to pieces, modern-day Turkey – Constantinople, to be exact – was one of the most powerful empires on earth. Even after its run came to an end, the Ottoman Empire once again brought great power to the region. Yet where is Turkey now?
In modern times, countries like Myanmar were at one point among the richest in their region… until some new government came in and ruined it all.
And today, the United States, the United Kingdom, and parts of western Europe suffer from the same “Paris Hilton Effect”.
While the United States never had an empire in the same way the British did (unless you count Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and hundreds of military bases on other countries’ sovereign lands), it is undoubtedly one of the best success stories of a modern age.
Two hundred years ago, a bunch of still-crooked politicians figured out that leaving people alone, not taxing income, and not interfering in commerce was the only way to build a hugely successful country that would stand the test of time.
However, over time, politicians who were born under the wealth that system produced failed to realize what produced their great wealth.
These politicians became nationalistic, claiming “the American way of life” is “the best way of life”, and wrapping themselves in the flag.
They started wars around the world, figuring “we’re so rich, it doesn’t matter how much money we waste.” And they decided that a lack of regulations and taxes couldn’t be so good after all.
It often takes bad governments longer to totally wipe out a country’s economy than the two or three generations it takes spendthrift heirs to wipe out a family legacy. Although there are plenty of case studies of it being done.
However, the United States truly is the best modern day example of the affluenza phenomenon. You may have heard of “affluenza” in recent criminal trials, where adult men and children alike have been convicted of violent crimes but not sent to prison for fear that they couldn’t tolerate the conditions.
In essence, the Land of the Free is the “Paris Hilton of countries”.
Countries on the decline have one thing in common with entitled heiresses: they don’t seem to care about anything.
If you were to tell Paris Hilton (yeah, I know, “who?”) that her profligate spending is going to bankrupt her, she’d roll her eyes and tell you how much superior she is.
In the same way, telling the United States government that it is the world’s next lottery winner to become insolvent is a losing cause.
Rich countries – or those that believe they are rich – never believe they will be the next country to fall. There seems to be a process similar to the six stages of grief countries go through:
1. Understanding what generates wealth
2. Actually generating wealth
3. Claiming superiority for having wealth
4. Abandoning the principles that built the wealth
5. Denying their decline
Right now, countries like the United States are between steps five and six. Thanks to an excellent propaganda campaign, most of the citizens living under Paris Hilton regimes also deny that their country is on the decline.
Groups like the Tea Party constantly complain that things are coming apart… but that one more election will solve everything. They claim that if only they can stop Hillary Clinton, all can be well. Then the cycle repeats.
Like heiresses going bankrupt, it’s hard to put the brakes on sovereign insolvency. The Land of the Free is already further in debt than bankrupt celebrities like Mike Tyson ever were.
Yet, just like the heiress or celebrity who can’t just believe their black card would be declined, governments will never admit that their swaying from the principles of wealth have buried them.
It’s interesting to see how wealthy countries built by large foreign worker populations are often better at maintaining an even head about their wealth.
Singapore has been its own country for about fifty years and has become the wealthiest nation per capita on earth in that time. But it isn’t using that as an excuse to run up massive deficit. In fact, Singapore has no net debt.
Singapore also has workers from around the world and doesn’t tell people what language they should speak. It’s among the freest economies on earth. And it is not falling victim to the Paris Hilton Effect.
If you are living in a bankrupt country that acts like a spoiled heiress, you should understand what happens when your government’s black card gets shut off and charges get declined.
In recent years, we’ve seen this happen in Argentina, Cyprus, and now Ukraine. It even happened in Puerto Rico. It isn’t pretty.
In the United States, I suspect the fall from grace will hurt much more. After all, the pedestal is so much higher.
Are you preparing for when your government runs out of money for $5,000 purses and booze-soaked Vegas parties? Or will you be there to suffer when the credit card is finally declined?