9.19.2006

I see Paris, I see France...

Yesterday, I publicly disagreed with the Dean of our college.

For a bit of background: Our dean sponsors a PhD luncheon every year for all the PhD students in our college. I’ve never been one to turn down free food and it does give me a chance to ask our dean direct questions about our college and academia at large. I have to give him kudos for that. One of the topics brought up during the luncheon was the goals for the college. Obviously, this was important to the Dean as he spent the next 30 minutes talking about them. During the discussion about donations came the following exchange:

Dean: “Donors often give large sums of money to schools once they pass away”
Another Student: “Especially if they don’t like their kids”
Dean: “Actually the opposite, if do like their kids. We know what happens to kids that are left large sums of money. How many of you want a Paris Hilton running around?”
Silence for a few seconds.
Then slowly, with a sly smile, I raised my hand.

Now as you can imagine, everyone bust up laughing at that point with a few comments about how I was married…and that my wife was pregnant. The dean tried to clarify that he didn’t mean running around like that. However, no one bothered to ask why I raised my hand. They all assumed it was for eye candy (or more). The fact is they were all wrong. I would rather have 10,000 Paris Hilton’s running around in this world than have a Dean suggest that money corrupts. He was basically saying that the more money you give to your children, the worse the consequences. By implication, it’s morally wrong to let your children inherit your wealth when you die. Bullshit!

At best, the Dean’s remark was a half-truth. Giving someone unearned wealth can potentially lead to irresponsibility. However, irresponsibility is not caused by the wealth. The wealth just allows the irresponsibility to become more visible to the public. Raising your children to be rational, productive, and financially savvy will provide the best foundation for success in life. With this foundation in place, inheritance merely supplements their potential for success. It provides them with a springboard to more opportunities. The key is not whether or not a child receives inheritance, but whether or not they behave morally and take responsibility for themselves. This is the cause of the Paris Hiltons of the world. Not large amounts of money. The Dean's statement is just plain wrong.

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