The Family Business

In July 2004 my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. Soon after, many of his friends gathered at our home. Many expressed their condolences. One family friend then asked, directly, “When are you coming home to take over your father’s business?” I had graduated from law school just six months earlier, and had no experience or real qualifications to run my father’s venture capital firm – other than being the boss’ son.
I saw a lot of this growing up in Asia, but especially attending the private overseas American schools alongside many family “scions”. Kids who returned home from college during Christmas break, and would attend their family businesses board meetings – being groomed to take over the family businesses. Old management at the businesses all knew and accepted this.
When I told my mom what uncle/auntie so-and-so had said (all family friends are “uncles” and “aunties”) and how unqualified I would be, my mom said, in a very matter of fact manner, “Lin Han-dong will teach you.” That was my dad’s right hand man. Ostensibly, an industry veteran who worked years for my dad who would, as custom, step aside for and mentor the boss’ son when time came.
Nepotism was part of the social fabric – not so much frowned upon, than envied. My non-American School friends would comment, “it’s great to have a business to just walk into.” You didn’t have to deal with the job insecurities. They thought I would be crazy if I didn’t do it.
I had many friends who took over the family businesses. Some didn’t seek it. They felt their life choices were already made for them. From the outside, they were envied business socialites. But some privately chaffed at the notion that others from the outside would have died for, but ultimately followed in their fathers’ footsteps to keep the business within the family. They had to work their asses off. It wasn’t that things were just given to them, even though the opportunity was (similar to defenses of “White Male privilege” – I worked for everything I earned). In others, a more dangerous mentality set in.
The more dangerous mindset that comes with growing up with the shadow of a family business is one characterized foremost by entitlement, but also that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to you.
You don’t stand in line. There is a line for the ordinary worker, and there is the express line for the Boss’ son. Ordinary salary employee pay taxes. The families have their armies of accountants. (In the past few years, when my mom calls, she has occasional news of of which “uncle” got caught up in tax/fraud issues and might be looking at jail time.)
This is a world I knew.
My friend says I appear to be “brooding” a lot lately. It’s probably true that I brood when I see the children of a President-elect sitting in on meetings with foreign heads of state; that I brood when a President-elect brushes aside conflict-of-interest issues as not applicable to him; that I brood when the public appears indifferent to open documentation of self-dealing (Trump Foundation IRS filings) – and appears more interested in Hamilton tweets.
I never thought that I would leave a world I was born into, only to find the highest office – an office ostensibly for *public service- in the one I chose, this close to capture by people I have not met but know well. 
Just two dudes about to treat the Office of the Presidency like a Family Business?
The rest of America are freiers.
“It’s shocking to hear boastful and haughty words like: ‘Laws are meant to be circumvented.’ How many times have we heard people who’ve returned from trips abroad, who make fun of the citizens of the countries they visited, because they act like nerds: They stand in line, they make sure to pay.”


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