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Mark Zuckerburg and the Trend of First-Generation Wealth

Written By Jeff Edwards

Posted December 2, 2015

Despite the fact that one of the richest men on the planet has pledged to give away 99% of his daughter’s inheritance in Facebook stock to a charitable foundation he will create, I think the newly born Max will be just fine in the future.

Max, short for Maxima, was born to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan this week, and the world seems elated.

The first major news story surrounding this birth was the fact that billionaire Mark Zuckerberg planned to take two months of paternity leave.

As a man who took paternity leave from a generous company for all three of his children, I say kudos to young Zuck.

You won’t regret it, and enjoy it — dirty diapers and all.

But then again, I lived paycheck to paycheck, and if work was what was needed to feed any of my children, then in my best Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs impression, off to work I would go.

First-Generation Wealth

In the age of Bernie Sanders and an entitled generation of college students protesting in the streets for free college tuition, it is remarkable to consider the difference we often see in first-generation wealth and that of the children it raises.

Some of the most generous men on the planet, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffett and now Zuckerberg, have made 11-figure pledges (yes, 11… that’s tens of billions) to donate the bulk of their personal wealth.

Yet it is remarkable to consider that in the grand scheme of global wealth, these men were privy to nothing but first-generation wealth that they themselves earned.

It is hard to imagine a man or woman who amassed billions out of a relatively insignificant starting amount completely forgetting where they came from.

As much as they are a testament to what you can do with a little grit and genius, they are also a testament to the free-market belief that you do with your money as you please.

And these individuals, whose personal net worth rivals and surpasses that of many nation states, chose to give it away without the compulsory arm of the government telling them to do so.

The Conundrum of Second-Generation Wealth

Once again, despite the generous pledges of their parents, the children of first-generation wealth will be just fine.

Yet there are many who have opted to hold onto their wealth, and they ought not to be shamed.

They have decided that the wealth for which they worked in the first generation is the right and privilege of their families.

We all work so that our children will have better lives than ourselves — this is nearly universal, regardless of economic status.

But there is a curious occurrence when second-generation wealth feels entitled to the money that mommy and daddy earned on their behalf, even more than those who earned it feel entitled to it themselves.

While wealthy people of the second, third, and fourth generation are often generous with the total dollar amounts they give, the percentage of their wealth is often drastically lower.

Am I the only one who has a hard time imagining Paris Hilton giving away 99% of her wealth?

She certainly has no free-market obligation to do so, but the inescapable fact that the second generation often treats its inherited wealth much differently than the parents who earned it is undeniable.

Mark Zuckerberg is a first-generation billionaire making a free-market and private contribution of his own choosing without government interference.

His child will grow up with less because he saw it appropriate, not the government.

But 99% given away from one of the richest men on the planet’s estate still leaves a lot of meat on the bone for young Maxima Zuckerberg.

On a grander scale, it also proves that when the wealthiest 0.1% are confident their dollars will be spent well — i.e. not by the government — they are not as reluctant to part with them as many of the modern protestors of our day would lead us to believe.