The power of families: Dynasties

17. April 2015

Date: 16-04-2015
Source: The Economist

The enduring power of families in business and politics should trouble believers in meritocracy

“AS A democracy the United States ought presumably to be able to dispense with dynastic families,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger junior, one of America’s best-known historians, in 1947. Yet almost 70 years on, next year’s presidential election could well become a family affair. A Clinton or a Bush has been on the ticket in seven of the past nine races. Hillary v Jeb may offend against equal opportunity, but not the laws of statistics.

How, people wonder, can this happen in a country that went to war to rid itself of a king’s hereditary authority? That is the wrong question. Around the world, in politics and business, power is still concentrated in the family. Power families and dynasties are here to stay. The question is how to ensure that they are a force for good.

In politics the Clintons and the Bushes hardly count as exceptions. The leaders of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Bangladesh are all related to former political chiefs. The “Stans” of Central Asia are family fiefs. The Gandhis are struggling in India, as are the Bhuttos in Pakistan, but the Kenyattas are kings in Kenya, a Fujimori is once again leading the polls in Peru and a Trudeau has a fighting chance in Canada. Meanwhile the lengthy catalogue of China’s “princelings”, the children of Communist Party grandees, starts right at the top with the president, Xi Jinping. Read the rest of this entry »