Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Wealth Destroys

I know that not every person who inherits great wealth ends up this way -- but this August 12, 2013 Rolling Stone article about the heirs to the Doris Duke estate is a sobering reminder that great wealth often breeds great destruction:
The kids reached for their seat belts, too late, as the Tahoe hit a bump, tipped toward the cliff – "God take my soul! Forgive me all my sins!" Georgia cried out – and then veered left and slammed into a tree. The exploding air bags felt like a punch, the windshield like cement. The twins struggled free of the car. Dazed, they began limping back up the mountainside, their stepmother staggering close behind.

As they crested the hill, their house finally came into view: a 10,000-square-foot log-and-stone cabin of preposterous proportions, filled with expensive antiques, valuable artwork and, stashed behind the steel door of a walk-in vault, sacks of gold Krugerrands, bars of silver and gold, jewelry, and millions of dollars' worth of collectible firearms. This wasn't some no-name clan of backwoods hillbillies, Georgia and Patterson Inman were among the wealthiest kids in America: When they turn 21, the family claims, the twins will inherit a trust fund worth $1 billion. They and their father were the last living heirs to the vast Industrial Age fortune of the Duke family, tobacco tycoons who once controlled the American cigarette market, established Duke University and, through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, continue to give away hundreds of millions of dollars.

The twins' father, Walker Inman, 57, lumbered from the mansion, his tattooed sleeves visible under a black T-shirt, drinking his morning rum, bellowing, "What the fuck did you do to my children?" Morbidly obese after a lifetime of debauchery and heroin addiction, he looked past his keening kids to glare at his fifth wife. "Honey," Walker rumbled, "we're going for a ride." He grabbed Daralee, hopped into his red Dodge truck and took off in a spray of gravel toward the wreckage down the mountain – then promptly lost control of the vehicle, which rolled onto the driver's side and skidded to a stop.
It appears that being fabulously rich meant that a long history of child abuse, drug abuse, and firearms and explosives violations that would have put people like you or me in prison, were simply overlooked by the criminal justice system.

1 comment:

  1. If a certain person were still alive I would be hard-pressed to avoid sending her a copy of this article with the words about the Duke family heirs being highlighted. She believed (and it is a common failing, look at most of the celebrity media publications) that being wealthy conferred status on you not only in buying things, but in taste and moral authority as well. I had a completely different life and upbringing, so I knew that money only gave you the ability to fully express the depth and breadth of one's stupidity and moral deficits.