America was forged in opposition to the aristocratic corruption of Europe. Today, inherited wealth is more entrenched in the US than it is in almost every corner of the old world. So too are legacy places at Ivy League universities that were once such wellsprings of US meritocracy.
Today, inherited wealth is more entrenched in the US than it is in almost every corner of the old world
In politics too, dynasty has rarely been more entrenched. It would be little surprise were the 2016 election to turn into a contest between Hillary Clinton and Mr Bush. Seven of the past nine presidential elections have featured a member of the Bush or Clinton families. Next time could make it eight out of 10.
Both families benefit hugely from the networks of donors they have cultivated over the decades. It goes without saying that their donors have done pretty well too. The story continues. George P Bush, Jeb’s son, is running for land commissioner in Texas. Many believe Mrs Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, is preparing the ground for her own future in US politics.
Of course, dynasty is not only about money. In a celebrity-driven age it also brings valuable name recognition. Moreover, money is not enough on its own to change election outcomes. The infamous Koch brothers, Charles and David, who own the second-largest private corporation in the US, spent tens of millions on the 2012 presidential without avail – as did Mr Adelson. And US democracy is still capable of extraordinary upsets, notably Mr Obama’s emergence from nowhere to dislodge Mrs Clinton in 2008.