Sting may not plan on leaving very much of his wealth to his offspring, but don't mistake him for some kind of equalizing role model out of Thomas Piketty's dreams.
Gordon Sumner, a/k/a Sting, the 62-year-old former frontman for The Police and alleged marathon sex-haver (not really), told the UK's Daily Mail that his children are not going to see very much of his fortune, which amounts to a little more than $300 million.
"I certainly don’t want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses round their necks," he reportedly said of his six kids, all of whom are now adults. "They have to work. All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate."
This is an admirable position for jillionaire rock royalty to take. If all millionaires and billionaires were more like Sting, then maybe we wouldn't have to worry about the dystopian hellscape of yawning inequality foretold by French economist Piketty in his book Capital In The Twenty-First Century. In Piketty's telling, wealth inequality will widen forever because the rich always get richer at a faster rate than the economy grows, and then they keep leaving their ever-expanding wealth to their ne'er-do-well young.
But Sting's screw-em approach to estate planning is not quite the noble child sacrifice it might seem.
For one thing, Sting's children are forever going to have the very substantial benefit of being Sting's children. They have been raised by millionaires in nurturing environments and attended the very best, most expensive schools. And the connections they have are priceless. For the rest of their lives, if they ever get into trouble, Sting's kids can just ring up, say, Paul McCartney or some other jillionaire rock royalty, or maybe just plain old royalty, and say, "Hi, Sting's kid here. Can you spare a few pounds and/or a job?"
And Sting has not promised to give all of this money to charity, as billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have done. Instead, Sting claims that he just plans to spend most of his loot. (Though he does do a lot of charity work.)
Which is fine, it's Sting's money, he can do what he wants with it. And this is certainly wealth redistribution of a different sort. Because boy, can Sting spend the hell out of some money. For example, he apparently has "more than 100 people on his payroll," according to the Daily Mail.
‘I keep a community of people going," he reportedly said. "My crew, my band, my staff... it’s a corporation!’"
I guess the rich really are job creators, just like they're always telling us. Still, this 100-person payroll raises nearly 100 questions:
What is Sting doing that requires the assistance of 100 people? Are they helping him sign autographs? Curate his Twitter feed? Do these 100 people do search-engine optimization for Sting.com? Do they make the olive oil, wine and honey for his Palagio brand of foodstuffs? Are they running the Tuscan estate where said foodstuffs are made? Is that Tuscan estate hiring? Would the ability to type left-wing diatribes at 100 words per minute be suitable experience? Do they act out songs from the Broadway musical he wrote? Does Sting sign the paychecks? Are those checks worth more than their face value because they have been signed by Sting? What are the benefits? What music plays in the break room? Good Police stuff or Sting's sketchier solo work?
Anyway, good on Sting for hiring all of these people and making his kids get jobs, but I'm not sure having everybody emulate Sting would be the best fix for wealth inequality.