The distribution of wealth has long been a fascination of mine (as evidenced by all the posts I’ve written about it). There is a new book I just finished called The Wealth Hoarders by Chuck Collins (a former rich heir himself who eschewed his fortune for the common good). Its subtitle – “How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions” – captures the core of what the book is all about.
Even though the book dives into offshore trusts, family offices, perpetual trusts, tax code, and the medieval origins of wealth-preservation laws, it is still an easy, breezy read. There are all kinds of interesting facts, such as:
- Half of the corporations in the U.S. are based on the tiny state of Delaware (which basically looks the other way on just about everything, plus has low or no taxes);
- The three states in the U.S. which are the most friendly to tax avoiders are South Dakota, Nevada, and Delaware;
- Outside the nation, there are the obvious hot spots of the Caymans and Bahamas for the ultra-rich to hide wealth;
- Just as there are more sheep in New Zealand than people, there are more corporations in Delaware than humans. WAY more, in fact.
- Indeed, just one building – – 1209 Orange in Wilmington, Delaware – – is the mailing address to 285,000 different companies. I took a look at it via Google Streetview, and it doesn’t exactly look like the epicenter of the corporate universe:
I think the period from 1970 to 2020 marked the steady improvement of the lot of the rich. Back in 1970, the wealth of the nation was spread out relatively evenly, whereas by 2020, the billionaires owned the whole schmear (and the Covid crisis was the best thing that ever happened to the billionaire class, obviously). We are at the apex of wealth-worship, and the billionaires can cheerfully get away with murder.
I even remember back to 1982 when Forbes first came out with their Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America. If you added up ALL the fortunes of those 400 people, it came to $185 billion. Jeff Bezos ALONE has more than that now!
I suspect the mirror image of the 1970-2020 era will be borne out in the 2020s and 2030s, as taxes skyrocket, regulations increase, scrutiny is massively amplified, and entities like the IRS will be permitted to hire tens upon thousands of enforcement agents, some of them armed. This book helps shows how, here and now, the wealthy are able to make sure there’s no need to share a single dime with anyone else, and how they use the law to make their trillions invisible to the tax man and out of reach of any government or opponent.