Depicting Money and Wealth
In Depiction Part 5
we started to look at Depicting Dynastic Wealth with an eye toward the Romance form of how to marry a millionaire, billionaire, Prince, King, Duke -- how to marry above your "station." How to marry into the 1%.
The previous parts of the Depiction Series are:
This type of novel depicting the uber-wealthy from the inside is difficult for a writer to create because most writers aren't wealthy.
Like musicians, actors, and other performing artists, writers are generally work-a-day schmucks, more like Cinderella than like the Prince.
Those who hit it lucky often live like suddenly discovered movie stars, or suddenly popular athletes on a winning streak, and adopt a lavish lifestyle that eventually bankrupts them. Those who work for a living (other than Investment Bankers) usually have no reason or means to learn Wealth Management.
It is difficult to portray real wealth, from the inside, to portray a Character who was raised to wealth and privilege. From the outside they all seem stuck up, and that makes them plausible to your reader and easy to portray.
We ended off Depiction Part 5 with the observation that a shift of point of view produces strange inversions.
In Historical Times, Kings ran the government and made the decisions. Today voters run the government and make the decisions, then hire working-stiffs to carry out those decisions, bestowing such titles as Prime Minister or President. But voters (working stiffs) are King now, and now Kings don't run the government, voters do. It is a point of view shift.
However, while the people we elect either are wealthy, magically become wealthy while in office, or are from dynastic wealth, the voters in general are not.
We are hiring people to manage trillions of dollars while we have no clue what the world looks like from the point of view of a Billionaire, or what skills it takes to manage trillions.
The voters are looking at the wealthy from the outside and seeing aloof or stuck-up people. Is that true insight or just a perspective?
If you are interested in writing a Science Fiction Romance with a theme centered on Dynasty, you could find some interesting material studying the family backgrounds of dynasties where transmission worked, and where it failed.
But before you dive into that research, think about what you know about our world, today.
What does it take to learn Wealth Management? What does it take to learn the difference between money and capital?
RICH DAD - POOR DAD is a key work by Robert Kiyosaki that's been around for years, yet still holds a truth that is the core of depicting the ultra-wealthy, or the scion of the uber-wealthy.
We learn our initial attitudes from our parents, most especially our attitudes toward possessions, toward power over others ("Come here this instant or you're grounded for a week!"), and toward money and wealth, ("No you may not have an advance on your allowance.") from our parents. After that, in college, peers and teachers toss in some adjustments, and eventually with our own paychecks, we see what works and what doesn't.
Most people never figure out why the behaviors that work are effective -- or why they can't control a budget or a diet.
Self-control, self-discipline, self-governance can't be transmitted from parent to child with words.
It's a do-as-I-do situation.
Parents have to "model" budgeting, saving, investing, and all the fact-gathering and decision-making processes that go into wise behavior in order to transmit these behaviors.
The children of Aristocrats who grew up to manage inherited wealth well (rather than drinking and gambling it away) were trained from pre-verbal years to view privelege as a responsibility.
The successful ones absorbed by osmosis the assumption that power must never be used for personal gain, particularly not for the "gain" of soothing one's own emotions.
We are now seeing some new Fantasy Romances, and Science Fiction Romances, that depict the well-raised (well-mothered) scion of a rich, or nobel family who has internalized this attitude.
Here is a must-read novel from RoC by Juliet Marillier titled DREAMER'S POOL. It contains a magic-using "Wise Woman" (herbal healer), a Prince, an Arranged Marriage fraught with real Romance, and mistaken identity all rolled into a fast reading tale of wealth and privelege properly stewarded.
Why are these novels of historical Aristocracy such successes in today's market where everyone knows Aristocracy was an utter disaster of a governing process, where the bloody French Revolution taught us so much, where women would never let their parents choose their husbands, and where being a Billionaire is prima facie evidence of skullduggery?
Why do we think Cindarella got a better deal than her step-sisters?
Why do we dream of being rescued into a life of wine and privelege when in real life we throw rotten tomatoes at the limos of the 1%?
Perhaps it is because we are convinced that, given wealth enough to wield real Power, we would do it right. Consider the biographies of winners of the Lottery twenty years later. Very often, they lose everything within 5 years. Could that be because they were not raised by wealthy-powerful parents and don't know the difference between money and wealth that we discussed in Depction Part 5?
The poor -- or merchant/craftsman/artisan middle income folks -- look at Real Wealth from the outside and see it as easy to live that way.
When such a 1%'ers life is lived by a person who was raised to it by a woman who was raised to raise boys to wield power without bullying, that 1%er's life looks easy -- from the outside.
In fact, that "looks easy" effect is the definition of "Mastery." When a master of a craft does it - it looks easy. It looks as if anyone could do it without schooling or training or practice.
Have you ever watched a master glassblower? Then tried it yourself?
Massive wealth is fragile and must be handled delicately -- and it is very dangerous if it shatters.
History, and historical fiction, is littered with tales of the ne'er-do-well playboy, scion of a Titled Family, who fritters away his inherited fortune, goes into monstrous debt, and either finds his Soul Mate or ends badly in a duel.
Great fiction is composed of the juxtaposition of improbables.
SAVE THE CAT! calls that story type the "Fish Out Of Water." A person who is out of his element, coping with the resultant conflicts. A Lottery-Winner is a fish out of water if he/she wasn't already a 1%-er raised by 1%-ers.
A mermaid on land is story material.
A human in space is story material.
An Aristocrat without principles living in the gutter is story material.
A gutter rat with principles living in a Palace is story material.
A cop who does a great job as a cop is not story material, unless the story is based on the conflict between the Master Cop and Master Criminal -- and that's not a fish-out-of-water story.
A cop who gets sucked into the vortex of some Bad Cops (maybe drug running or taking mob money to look the other way), is story material, and potential hero or villain.
An Orthodox Jewish Master Detective from Los Angeles who retires to be a small town patrol cop, but busts an international art theft ring and runs afowl of a Federal government plot involving the library collection of the most respected Rabbi of modern times -- THAT is story material.
Faye Kellerman has been writing a post-Romance series (22 books and counting) called the Decker/Lazarus novels. The 2014 entry is exactly the fish-out-of-water novel I just described. It's titled Murder 101.
MURDER 101 gets its title from being set in a college town, where the veteran Detective has taken on a protege.
The Dynastic Transmission of his professional skills (which are a power-management skill set, just like being a King or a Billionaire) is evident in the one family-dinner scene set in a restaurant where his kids and children-in-law gather, where an engagement is announced, and the protege who comes from a rich but dysfunctional family sees a functional working-stiff family functioning.
Decker's kids are cops, or work in allied fields using similar skill sets. They all manage Power well. The dominant factor in that values transmission success is Rina, Decker's wife, but his daughter by his first marriage is a successful cop, too. She gets it from Decker, though she was raised by her mother.
As I noted in my Amazon review of MURDER 101, the portrayal of the young protege is "off" just a bit. He goes around with Decker, and Decker gets him to look up information online using the boy's iPad. OK, fine, a small town police department would not issue high end equipment, but the iPad is the boy's own hardware. The boy keeps asking people they are questioning the logon code for their wi-fi networks -- NOBODY WOULD DO THAT.
Furthermore, they are in New York, where Verizon has LTE coverage, and no way on earth would a trust-fund-kid like this one ever fail to connect his iPad to Verizon's LTE (or something faster). It's cheap and much more secure than strange wi-fi networks. No way would a trust-fund-kid who is RICH fail to upgrade his iPad to wi-fi capable. That is a FAIL on the author's part in "depicting dynastic wealth" (trust-fund-kids qualify as dynastic wealth portrayals.)
I call the Lazarus/Decker novels post-Romance because the first novel in the series, RITUAL BATH, is the actual romance -- where Decker and Rina Lazarus first meet. After a while, they get married, have kids, raise kids, have crises, get invaded by the bad-guys who Decker is chasing, defend themselves well, and get through it all to retirement.
Meanwhile, in other novels, they also deal with Decker's parents (who adopted him) - with a boy they adopt whose father is a mobster handling Power in a different way - and with Rina's very Orthodox family.
In MURDER 101 we see the Power-handling-skill-set being passed on to another kid who is bound for Harvard Law School and inheriting a serious fortune. We see the step-by-step progress Decker's tutelage makes on this kid who has lost his way -- and we can infer the effect Decker's teaching will have on how the kid manages the extreme power the inheritance will bring.
In Jim Butcher's new Dresden Files novel, SKIN GAME, we see MAGICAL POWER in the hands of a man who lives, financially, hand-to-mouth.
He is a cop, of the magical variety, and regards that as a responsibility for the safety of Chicago, not as power over the peasants of Chicago. He's had some love affairs -- and is currently getting more and more involved with a mundane cop who now knows all about the covert world of magic under Chicago.
Dresden comes back from exile on an island to find his woman and his protege and some friends have been trying to keep Chicago safe in his absense. In the process, they have grown braver, gained skills, and amassed much power as well as wisdom in using it.
His style of power-management has rubbed off on them -- or he is friends with them because they share that attitude.
Jack Cambell is writing two series in the same universe. I like one better than the other, perhaps just because I like the Hero. Cambell has a whopping love story holding his THE LOST STARS series together, two military leaders trying to turn themselves into politicians co-ruling a star system even though their training conditions them to distrust each other.
In the IMPERFECT SWORD, they are separated and fight two different battles, winning despite the tricks played against them. They win by applying their new theory of governance acquired from their former enemy, BLACK JACK.
Most of these novels, in both series, are nothing but large battles told from the POV of the General in charge, or the ship's captain dealing with enemy ships.
But the story and motivations of the characters is all about Relationship.
Taking a purely Relationship driven story, fraught with political philosophy, to an audience that hates romance and won't read non-fiction, and succeeding so very well at it, makes Jack Campbell a phenomenon to behold.
I've just given you 4 very recent novels, all aimed at very different readerships, all sharing a single attribute -- transmission of power-handling-skills.
Each of these novels depicts dynastic wealth of some sort.
Remember, wealth isn't money. Money symbolically represents wealth, but wealth is not money.
Wealth is something else.
Many people say that if you have a loving, functional family, you are wealthy even if living hand-to-mouth. If you have your children around you, you are wealthy -- even if squatting on a dirt floor nibbling raw moldy potatoes.
Others say the only wealth they can't take away from you is your education.
In the Middle Ages, wealth was the ability to apprentice your boys to a Master Craftsman.
In the Dresden Files, Dresden had built a magical laboratory, spending countless hours tediously creating magical tools from scratch. By SKIN GAME, all that wealth had been ripped away from him, and he's left with only one tool he's just built plus his training and talent.
Wealth is fragile, but the responsibilities that go with such wealth are enduring. Long after the wealth has shattered, the responsibilities will hound you.
Wealth is the potential energy inherent in your very existence which you have packed into the forms of material objects. If the wealth shatters, the material objects disappear, or wander into someone else's hands. The objects themselves are not wealth.
The energy of your life is your wealth.
So Wealth Management is self-discipline. Wealth management is your ability to make friends with yourself and persuade yourself to behave well.
So what is Dynastic Wealth?
Is there such a thing as inherited wealth that you have not earned?
If you assume that the concept "Soul Mate" has a valid corrolary in our everyday reality, then you have to consider that the children of Soul Mates somehow actually 'belong' to that couple.
If Souls are Mated, then the personal potential energy that each brings to the One they are when joined manifests as their wealth.
Children are one concrete manifestation of potential energy actualized.
Children contain some of the potential energy contained in each parent Soul.
If the wealth generated by two mated Souls is inherited by the Child of those Souls, that inherited wealth is, sum and substance, an integral part of the two Parent Souls and the Child Soul.
You can earn money, but you can't earn Wealth. Wealth is the substance of your Soul made manifest -- you don't "earn" it; you "are" it.
Your Wealth (in this science fictional theory) is part of you, just as your body is.
A strong man (or woman) can exert a considerable Power -- with muscles, or clever engineering -- creating a physical blow that can change things. Hammering a nail. Blowing up a dam.
What prevents a strong man (or woman) from hammering everything around them to smitherines?
Self-control governs -- the stronger you are, the stronger your self-control must be.
Laws can't control you. Taxes (Kings stealing your wealth) can't control you. Kings can't control you. "You" are both body and Soul, welded into a unit.
Historically, we are still here, but Kings are pretty much gone.
The Kings that are still here rule a constitutional monarchy. The despots and strong-men are on their way out. (they keep popping up, but my bet is on democracy).
Dynastic Wealth is wealth accumulated over time, over generations. The demonstrable fact that a second, maybe a third and fourth, generation has hung onto the inherited wealth, and added to it, shows that the wealth is truly theirs - truly a part of their Soul as their Soul is part of their Parents' Souls.
The Mate chosen to marry into a massive fortune (as the Princess-to-be in DREAMER'S POOL), both acquires that fortune and contributes to it, then produces an heir.
The heir is part of the Two Souls Joined, thus part of that fortune, not separate from it.
That statement is almost a THEME. To make it into a theme, you need to take it apart and inject the CONFLICT.
For example, "Only Legitimate Heirs Can Manage Dynastic Wealth And Pass It On."
That would be a theme. The conflict is in the question so urgently begged by the thematic statement: "So what constitutes Legitimate?" And is loss of wealth under your management proof you aren't Legitimate?
Does the husband have to be the father of the child for the child to be Legitimate?
Is an adopted child a Legitimate heir?
What if something was wrong with the magical component of the Marriage Ceremony? Would the children be Legitimate?
What if the Parents aren't of the same species? (Think SPOCK!)
What sorts of Tax Laws on inherited or Dynastic Wealth would species on other planets make? What if they didn't have Souls, but humans did --- or vice-versa?
THEME: Dynastic Wealth Accumulation is Toxic to Civilization.
CONFLICT: The Legitimate Heir to a throne flees the clutches of those who would place that heir on the throne (and manipulate them?) because the heir believes Dynastic Wealth is bad for Civilization. Those who want to enthrone the legitimate heir believe the only way to avoid total war is to enthrone a legitimate heir.
ROMANCE: The current occupant of the throne (who is not legitimate) falls head over heels in love with the True Heir, who wants no part of any of this.
This scenario plays out in our real world in varying degrees all the time, especially in the USA.
Today a King doesn't have to be a Billionaire, or a 1%-er. Today, the owner of a store, a business or a farm, or even possibly just a house, is a King, or at least a Duke, and the heirs have this same tricky problem of somehow managing to hold it all together, add to it, and pass it on.
Since, historically, some of the largest Fortunes (Rockefeller, Railroad Barons, Shipping Magnates,) from the 1800's industrialization, have been inherited by people who have apparently abused that Power, the USA has soured on the entire concept of Dynastic Wealth.
We are all "self-made" successes (or failures).
Today's 50-somethings do not expect to inherit a single cent from their parents, and expect they won't be getting social security. It's a bleak outlook.
Those folks are part of your audience, as are their children.
In the 1940's, Congress made a series of laws essentially oblitterating the ability of a family to build dynastic wealth.
Tax laws were used to break up budding fortunes before they could become big enough to make politicians dance to the tune of the 1%. (OK, yeah, it didn't exactly work out that way, but we're writing fiction here.)
Here's from WIKIPEDIA (I said we're writing fiction, so this is a good authority.)
The term "death tax"
The caption for section 303 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, enacted on August 16, 1954, refers to estate taxes, inheritance taxes, legacy taxes and succession taxes imposed because of the death of an individual as "death taxes." That wording remains in the caption of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. The term "death tax" is also a neologism used by critics to describe the U.S. federal estate tax in a way that conveys a negative connotation.
On July 1, 1862, the U.S. Congress enacted a "duty or tax" with respect to certain "legacies or distributive shares arising from personal property" passing, either by will or intestacy, from deceased persons. The modern U.S. estate tax was enacted on September 8, 1916 under section 201 of the Revenue Act of 1916. Section 201 used the term "estate tax." According to Professor Michael Graetz of Columbia Law School and professor emeritus at Yale Law School, opponents of the estate tax began calling it the "death tax" in the 1940s. The term "death tax" more directly refers back to the original use of "death duties" to address the fact that death itself triggers the tax or the transfer of assets on which the tax is assessed.
Many opponents of the estate tax refer to it as the "death tax" in their public discourse partly because a death must occur before any tax on the deceased's assets can be realized and also because the tax rate is determined by the value of the deceased's persons assets rather than the amount each inheritor receives. Neither the number of inheritors nor the size of each inheritor's portion factors into the calculations for rate of the estate tax.
Proponents of the tax say the term "death tax" is imprecise, and that the term has been used since the nineteenth century to refer to all the death duties applied to transfers at death: estate, inheritance, succession and otherwise.
Chye-Ching Huang and Nathaniel Frentz of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities assert that the claim that the estate tax is best characterized as a "death tax" is a myth, and that only the richest 0.14% of estates owe the tax.
Political use of "death tax" as a synonym for "estate tax" was encouraged by Jack Faris of the National Federation of Independent Business during the Speakership of Newt Gingrich.
Well-known Republican pollster Frank Luntz wrote that the term "death tax" "kindled voter resentment in a way that 'inheritance tax' and 'estate tax' do not".
Linguist George Lakoff states that the term "death tax" is a deliberate and carefully calculated neologism used as a propaganda tactic to aid in efforts to repeal estate taxes. The use of "death tax" rather than "estate tax" in the wording of questions in the 2002 National Election Survey increased support for estate tax repeal by only a few percentage points.
So now, instead of being run by Aristocrats who have inherited Dynastic Fortunes, the USA is run by self-made million&billionaires.
Many first-term electees who are elected to the Federal House of Representatives or the Senate start out so stretched financially that they camp out in their Federal offices between trips home. They can't afford an apartment in DC.
If they are re-elected a few times, eventually they retire with a lot more money than you or I would ever imagine. Nobody says how this little miracle happens, but one famous Mayor became famous trying to sell Barak Obama's Senate Seat because it was "Gold." What do they know that we don't know?
Most of these self-made 1%-ers were raised by the Poor Dad described by Richard Kiyosaki in Rich Dad: Poor Dad.
The rags-to-riches stories of these people make great reading, very inspiring.
Many, however, did not rise from rags but from comfortable middle income families where they got a fairly good start. The Founders of Microsoft and Facebook were college students at the time they quit school because their little fledgling enterprise was taking off into a full time job.
Now pull back and take the long view of our Civlization -- not just the USA, but all of Humanity worldwide.
Take a view with a deep perspective showing Civlization all the way back to 7,000 BCE and the advent of Agriculture.
It seems Civilization has always been run by Dynastic Fortunes.
If we run into Aliens in Outer Space who function on Dynastic Wealth, we should have no trouble understanding them.
And we've always had "The Poor" -- usually if you were born poor, you were poor all your life and died really young. Only recently has that changed, and it has not changed everywhere on Earth.
We've always had Poverty as a fate. Now we have poverty as a period in a person's life when they barely have clothes and food (think modern College Students).
It's healthy for the human spirit to learn just how little material wealth we actually need. Some Eastern Religions (and Christianity, too) advocate shucking material "stuff" and venturing out into the world to live on luck and faith. It works. It changes people, and they think they're better off for it later.
But people who have never been "poor" (not knowing where your next meal is coming from) -- people raised in comfort if not luxury, taught by parents who imposed strick discipline because the child would become an heir to dynastic wealth, raised by people who had Kiyosaki's RICH DAD perspective and transmitted it, make decisions using a different process.
If you are so rich you don't know that you are rich, you don't look at the world from the perspective of fear or of poverty (except the mob may storm the palace.)
You don't "spend money" -- you achieve goals with your wealth.
True, the goals you choose may not serve the best interests of the poor.
But I'm talking here about a perspective - the attitude of a Character that would color their relationship with a potential Mate.
Civilization has always been run by Kings -- so much so, that when Israel was just starting to become a Nation, they asked God for a King like other countries had. The Prophet they asked didn't understand why they needed a King when they had God. A people where all the individuals behave according to the Commandments doesn't need much government -- people behave well and don't hurt each other or steal, and those who have take care of the poor. If there's a problem, there are Judges in the Gates. What do you need a King for? Well -- everyone else has a King, and they won't talk to us farmers and ranchers; they want to talk to our King.
So Kings were the way of the World long before the Book of Kings.
A King who doesn't gain the throne by force of arms gains it by inheritance.
Thrones are all about Dynastic Wealth.
Dynastic Wealth has always run things -- for thousands of years -- and we're still here, wealthier for it.
In the 1940's, after WWII, in the USA, the Inheritance Tax was systematically rewritten specifically, (as a matter of the theory of governance by what we now call The Progressives) to prevent Dynastic Wealth from accumulating.
So as I said above, we are now governed by New Money.
In this blog about the 1% I pointed out a quote from ROYAL PAINS on "New Money" and referenced the Estate Tax.
New Money settles things with Lawyers; Old Money settles things over coctails.
How much of the ineffectual decision-making we see in our current government is due to the decision-making processes inherent in the mind of a person of New Money?
People raised by a Poor Dad (or no Dad) trying to handle the Power of real Wealth (and wealth that isn't their own) will grab at The Law to cure whatever problem they have. Old Money knows how to apply dynastic power to finesse away problems and keep stability. (If you hate the status quo, old money is the enemy! Wow, Conflict!)
Now go back to the 1960's and Johnson's WAR ON POVERTY initiative, and check out what progress we've made.
Since that time, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all military wars in U.S. history since the American Revolution. Despite this mountain of spending, progress against poverty, at least as measured by the government, has been minimal.
You want to write a HOT ROMANCE?
Remember the STAR TREK episode CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER by Harlan Ellison.
Kirk - adventure Hero Extraordinaire and crazy sexy playboy - meets up with his TRUE SOUL MATE who runs a soup kitchen during the Great Depression.
You can write that Romance, and end it with an HEA.
Worldbuild a place where Dynastic Wealth has been destroyed, and some hotshot yoyo idealist wants to get rid of all restrictions on inheritance and rebuild the Aristocracy of Extreme Wealth.
Opposing is the Soul Mate who sees any wealth in the control of a private citizen as purest Evil.
This would work easily on an alien planet, maybe a shipwrecked human colony living with some Natives (think about C. J. Cherryh's FOREIGNER universe).
Play that conflict out until their child comes of age with an opinion of his own -- maybe there are siblings? Maybe one sibling is a clone of the father?
THEME: we must rebuild the capacity to accumulate Dynastic Wealth
CONFLICT: The Couple accumulates wealth and is attacked by The Mob that greedily wants to steal or destroy it all (think French Revolution).
To make this work, you have to create a scion of a family that inherits Wealth and uses it well to keep people safe and government stable. Opposing him/her, you need The Poor -- and you need a scion of a dynastic fortune that isn't a wastrel but is bent on gaining personal power.
Many of these novels have been published, many very well written, but there are still variations -- especially in the Science Fiction or Paranormal Romance hybrid genres -- that have to be treated.
Consider the role Romance novel has played in feminism, presenting the kick-ass heroine in a good light, showing young women what it is to be a hero and a woman at the same time.
In the Western, we have heroic women who can keep a home together without a man to protect them and the children. In Romance, we have women who rescue themselves and then turn around and rescue their guy.
By looking at what it means to be a woman from every possible direction, women readers have come out of trying to dress and behave like men, to being charming and feminine in dress and manner, yet assertive and when warranted even aggressive at work, play, and local politics.
Perhaps it's time for the Romance hybrid genres to tackle the issue of what it means to be a Soul Mate, produce children, and bequeath them a Fortune.
I expect to see novels where children are tasked by their semi-wealthy parents to double their inheritance and pass it on, creating in 300 years or so, Dynastic Wealth in order to eradicate poverty as the "War on Poverty" has failed to do by destroying Dynastic Wealth?
The four novels I've discussed here, Murder 101, Skin Game, and The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword, and Dreamer's Pool, as well as the TV Series ROYAL PAINS, all in different genres aimed at different readerships, tiptoe around the edges of this theme of Dynastic Wealth as the prime weapon in the war against poverty.
THEME: To command extreme wealth without destructive errors, one must be born and raised to the task.
THEME: Civilization will disintegrate without Dynastic Fortunes.
Consider, if today we decided the inheritance tax has to go -- so that we can rebuild dynastic wealth -- then what experienced people could train the next generation to wield that power in a constructive way?
Depict your King/Billionaire from the inside as understanding and acting upon the distinction between Money and Wealth, between Cash and Capital. But when depicting such a King/Billionaire from the outside, those same actions will seem Greedy, callous, and irresponsible to the 99% who can not perceive the distinction.