Friday, June 22, 2007

Backdoor Man

With the opening this morning of The Blackstone Group's $4.6 billion IPO for trading on the NYSE, I expect vast quantities of pixels and electrons to be sacrificed on the altar of public commentary, as pundits, kibbitzers, and assorted wackos of all stripes weigh in on "What Does It All Mean?"

Given the dimensions of the personal wealth event the IPO will be for Steve Schwarzman, Pete Peterson, and a few others at the company, I also predict we will see much wailing and gnashing of teeth from predictable directions on the ever-popular themes of rising income equality, preferential tax treatment for diminutive squillionaires, and the sclerotization of society arising from the upsurge in dynastic wealth creation. Being a prime offender myself in the first instance, and having already commented to the point of exhaustion in the second, I will add nothing further to the general frowst on these two issues. (Nevertheless, I predict you will not lack for reading material in this regard.)

However, I did discover a throwaway piece at the tail end of the Marketplace section of The Wall Street Journal today that might give hope to those who worry that this country's fabled social mobility is fading in the face of the rise of a new plutocracy. After all, not only do the rich seem to be getting richer, but there is also anecdotal evidence that they are procreating faster than the hoi polloi. (In my neighborhood, for example, it is a point of social pride and competition to have at least four children whom you can clothe in Hermes, take skiing in Gstaad, and send to private elementary schools at $30,000 a pop.) Some fear that the wealthy are getting so jiggy with the baby batter that there won't be any room for new entries in the privileged classes. (A little noticed provision in billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg's recently unveiled plan for NYC is to turn the entire island of Manhattan into a gated community for the über-wealthy, with a modest service entrance for maids and personal trainers located in the South Bronx.)

The WSJ snippet referred to a recent article in The Atlantic which talks about how the increasing use of genetic testing for diseases has had the surprising side effect of revealing just how many children are not the natural sons and daughters of their supposed "fathers." Oops.
The rate of nonpaternity can vary from community to community. The Sorenson Genealogy Foundation in Salt Lake City found that the nonpaternity rate from a sample of father-son pairs among its 100,000 volunteers is less than 2%. At the other extreme, Mr. Olson reports that an unpublished study of blood groups in a British town found that around 30% of the town's husbands weren't the fathers of their children.

Wow. Maybe "Coronation Street" isn't so unrealistic, after all.

Anyway, champions of social mobility and other egalitarians should take this as good news. It turns out that there is a lot more "mixing" going on in the gene pool than most of us suspected. This should help prevent the sort of socially constrained inbreeding among the rich that led to the demise of the Bourbons and other royal families, and it means that you do not need to be the natural child of a wealthy man to be born into wealth. Cool. Perhaps we need to rechristen such privileged souls members of The Lucky Egg Club.

There is also a gender fairness issue here. As a man, it has always struck me as unfair that physically attractive females with no other redeeming qualifications have had such easy access to the monied classes. All you need do is become a secretary, or a nanny, or otherwise put your smokin' hotness in the way of some rich man—married or not, it doesn't matter—and Presto! a couple of indiscretions and a quickie divorce later you are married to the bozo and your children are guaranteed a cushy ride for life. Hunky men with no education and no pedigree have been limited to modeling for GQ and hanging out at The Ramrod.

But now we learn that there is another path into the inner circle for men, if not for you at least for your offspring. Forget college, business school, or trying to get into a hedge fund. All you need do is become a gardener, a pool boy, or a "Manny." Then, just keep those abs chiseled and take your shirt off at every opportunity, and sooner or later the Mistress of the house will come looking for you, martini in hand, in desperate need of "a nice foot rub." Hubby will be away on business or typing e-mails frantically on his Blackberry poolside in East Hampton, so you will have plenty of time to give your children a bright and comfortable future.

Gregor Mendel would be proud.

© 2007 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.