Commodus Americanus, by The Zman

The U.S. government (I don’t say “our government” anymore) is filled with people who have only had jobs in politics, law, academia, media, and lobbying. They’ve never held a real job and have never had to deal with the routine concerns of middle-class life. From The Zman at thezman.com:

There is an old expression, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”, that has haunted powerful people since forever. A variation on this is “The first generation makes it. The second generation maintains it and the third generation blows it”. While not an iron law of the universe, it is an observation that has held up over time. Whether it is business empires or political empires, the work of the great man somehow turns into a curse that plagues the lives of his descendents.

The funny thing about this bit of reality is that it is well known and many very smart people have tried to come up with a solution, but the problem remains. In the business world, expert planners work with business owners to help them mitigate this disaster, but only about 10% of family business make it to the grandchildren. The trust system was designed with this in mind. The grandchildren will never amount to much, but at least they will have an allowance to sustain them.

It is fair to say that popular forms of government were invented to address the problem of private rule going sour by the third generation. Caesar Augustus was the great founder of the empire. Tiberius Caesar Augustus was solid, but he suffered from the predictable maladies of every second generation ruler. Caligula is arguably Rome’s most famous lunatic. Of course, we have Claudius, an interregnum of sorts, before we get to Nero, who was literally the end of the line.

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