More Than Money
Issue #9

Money and Children

Table of Contents

“Reinvest in the Common Wealth”

A decade after giving away his entire inheritance, Chuck Collins (the great-grandson of meatpacker Oscar Mayer) continues to speak to the social and economic vision that guided his actions.

The choice to pass on substantial wealth to one's children is a vote for individual security over collective security. It essentially says, "I do not believe my child will flourish in our society without special privileges"-in education, recreation, health care, safe neighborhoods, clean environments, etc.

Each time we choose individual security, we generally withdraw support for collective security. Car commuters do not have to be concerned about the quality of train service. People who live in gated communities often resent having to pay twice for security, municipal services, and open space--once privately, and then again through taxes.

It is hard to sustain a sense of commonwealth--"common wealth"--especially when those of us with the most resources have opted for individualized solutions. And the more we do, the more we feel justified in withdrawing because the services for the majority have crumbled further and further, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At what point does the inheritance system undermine the security of the next generation? I would argue that we are at that point. There has been a dramatic shift in the ownership of wealth in the U.S.: increasingly our society is economically polarized; our economy and the functions of government are more and more benefiting a narrow group of people at the top, at the expense of the vast majority. Is this the world we want our children to inherit?

Now is the time for people with substantial wealth to take action: to step out of the inheritance system, to help change government priorities and to rebuild the commonwealth. .

-- From a paper by C. Collins. For more information, contact Chuck at: Share the Wealth, 37 Temple Place Boston, MA 02111.

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