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Dynasty Trusts Good For Economy and Democracy
A well-designed and well-managed dynastic trust is an engine of economic growth and stability, protects beneficiaries from the vagaries and tyranny of corporate and government managers, and enables the freedom of critical thought and honest conduct that is the essence of a republic. .
Dynasty trusts can take many forms, but a common feature is that trust assets are accumulated and used for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries free of estate taxes and free of generation-skipping transfer taxes for several generations, or in perpetuity.
In an article published in the New York Times in July, 2010, Boston College Law Professor Ray D. Madoff warned that the increased use of so-called lineage trusts would create an American oligarchy. Americans prefer meritocracy to oligarchy, Madoff wrote, and he then proceeded to repeat some of the usual jargon-laden arguments against trusts without considering their social benefits.
If Prof. If Madoff is to imply that the United States today is a meritocracy, a meritocracy must be a system that rewards its members based on their ability to extract wealth from the economy, regardless of the social, moral, and economic costs of their activities. . It seems that today’s meritocrats, experts, are adept at chasing recognition, superiority and money, but poor at doing meritorious work. Public school teachers’ salaries are generally based on the number of college credits they have accumulated, not on teaching performance. The dependence of professional politicians on donations and perks is well documented. The subordination of journalism and scholarship to prevailing popular opinion and professional opinion is an admitted, unfortunate fact. For example, legislators, government regulators and private sector employees involved in deepwater oil drilling and the failed investment banking industry achieved professional success and were well paid, but suffered huge losses. After September 2001, politicians, academics, clergy, and journalists failed to critically analyze US government policies and actions regarding the Patriot Act, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the secret rendition of kidnapped prisoners, and the war against Islamic militants. However, they were paid well for their satisfaction and involvement. For decades, politicians, scholars, and journalists have shamelessly failed to openly debate the practical considerations of U.S. support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East (eg, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) and the Zionist Israeli regime (eg,). History shows that, instead of speaking, writing and working for the public interest, conventional wisdom pundits and stooges commit crimes (the native Arabs who were deported from Palestine in 1948, their homes destroyed and their lands seized) may have been the real cause of the aggression against America. Myths that America is under attack because of the American way of life and Western ideals of freedom. Accordingly, the actions and boycotts of a failed class of corporate-funded politicians and intellectuals undermine America’s national security and the personal safety and liberties of its citizens. However, corporate and government paymasters regularly reward the incompetent behavior mentioned here with large wages and thus maintain the compliance and conformity of meritocrats. The dynamic of parasitic, subservient, mercenary behavior rewarded with economic success may represent social Darwinism, but it takes merit out of meritocracy.
The expansion of dynastic trusts enables an increasing number of citizens to act ethically and responsibly because they will have an independent source of material support. One can only imagine how many honest and intelligent people fail to act according to their conscience, or worse, act contrary to their values, because they fear retaliation from an employer or wealthy sponsor. Most people today have to earn a living, that is, they are not financially independent, and the more educated and specialized they are, the fewer job options they have. For example, a climate researcher working in a government agency has very limited options to work in their field. If he is fired by his bureaucratic superiors for publishing a politically objectionable report, he will soon be assembling shopping carts in the local supermarket parking lot and unable to support his family. The same is true, to a greater or lesser extent, of engineers, teachers, journalists, and employees or anyone who depends on public or private will for their subsistence.
Sure, there is a lot of good, honest work going on in society, but very little is actually done to challenge the vested interests of the selfish and the profiteers.
One could argue that many people who genuinely challenge self-serving myths and corrupt practices are directly or indirectly supported by independent sources of wealth. For example, independent journalists and writers who succeed in exposing lies and corruption are often the benefactors of a few, enlightened wealthy individuals and their charities. They earn sponsorship through their merit, and are arguably meritocrats. However, their financial support comes not from taxes or popular business interests, but from privately accumulated and privately controlled wealth. In other words, a lineage trust can itself be an independent source of funds to support important social work that a traditional foundation would never receive.
Consider how much more lively and truthful our public discourse would be, and how much more efficient and responsible our governments would be, if people could speak and act without fear of being fired from their jobs and losing their livelihood. More lineage trusts mean more people are at least somewhat insulated against the pure rent laws of economic Darwinism. Of course, dynasty trusts are no guarantee of ethical, truthful and responsible behavior. On the other hand, under current conditions corporate wealth and populist myths influence personal and professional decisions and make inefficient and corrupt social behavior inevitable.
Many of the so-called Founding Fathers of the American Republic inherited wealth and were certainly aristocrats. Aristocracy literally means rule by the best, not rule by the few (oligarchy) or rule by the mean and corrupt. The expansion of lineage trusts may actually create a privileged class, that is, a class of privileged individuals who do not participate in an economy subject to increasingly centralized, rentier, and profit-maximizing decision-making. Lies and myths are to blame. As a practical matter, hard work and ingenuity alone are rarely enough to guarantee the livelihood of an individual and his family. The physical existence of workers at all levels of society is increasingly subject to the arbitrary will of a manager who thus exercises an inordinate amount of power over the workers’ actions. However, the beneficiary of a dynasty trust is able to resist the wishes of the manager (or client or political lobbyist or commercial sponsor or spin doctor) because he is not completely financially dependent on him.
Variations of dynasty trusts include a life insurance policy. Because the insurance company lobby is so influential in national and state legislatures, life insurance is exempt from income and estate taxes in an irrevocable life insurance dynasty trust. Therefore, combining a life insurance policy owned by an irrevocable life insurance dynasty trust allows for tax-free growth of assets, payment of insurance proceeds to an estate tax-free trust, and increased financial sovereignty for generations.
The argument of a recent NY Times article seems to be that it would be better for society as a whole if the custodians of the property were forced to preserve it and extend it indefinitely rather than preserve it within two generations. A common complaint among economists is that publicly held corporations focus on quarterly or annual financial results, rather than long-term business growth. Close and family businesses, on the other hand, are valued (at least in theory) for their ability to make business decisions that enhance long-term business viability. As a practical matter, however, unless a private business is held in trust, it is usually lost, either because of division among heirs or because estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes force its sale. A dynasty trust provides a vehicle for wealth accumulation and protection in an increasingly centrally-managed economy controlled by large corporations, government (national and local) monopolies, and popular myths. Although inheritance taxes are not paid by a dynasty trust, a trust-owned business must pay income tax on trading and investment income. There is no free tax ride for trust-owned enterprises. Trust, however, provides the long-term stability and continuity needed to build a business culture based on integrity, service, quality and tradition.
Critics of dynasty trusts raise some valid concerns. One is that a person who absolutely does not need a particular job for his survival is prone to insubordination in the workplace. A related concern is that beneficiaries of dynasty trusts will stop contributing to society because they no longer need work to survive. An additional concern mentioned above is that dynastic trusts can create an elite of privileged classes that use unfair advantage to rule over the less privileged. The hard facts of reality completely overshadow or negate these concerns, which will be addressed in detail in a future article. However, let’s end this article with the view that a slave-ridden society without economic sovereignty is a greater threat to republics than the risk of an economically privileged elite. A common benefit of lineage trusts to all societies is the economic freedom of trust beneficiaries from the tyranny of increasingly centralized economic control and manipulated public opinion, a freedom that enables free speech and honest, virtuous behavior in a morally corrupt body politic.
Copyright 2010 – Thomas Swenson
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