April 13, 2012

Dynasticism: Fading or Growing?

Speaking of nepotism in India, here's my 2003 article in The National Interest, "Revolutionary Nepotism," surveying the global resurgence of dynasticism. It would be interesting to update it to see which way trends have gone over the last decade. 

One of the things that got me interested in the topic was the growth of dynasticism among baseball players: the best National Leaguer and the best American Leaguer of the 1990s were, arguably, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., whose fathers I vividly recalled. (I watched Bobby Bonds's first major league game in 1968 on TV, and he hit a grand slam homer to beat my Dodgers.) Before the late 20th Century, there just weren't a lot of examples in baseball history of superstars who were the sons of all-stars or vice-versa. So, one question would be whether this trend has continued in baseball over the last decade.


sunbeam said...

Someone is going to post how much money gladiators in Rome made or something (I think a gladiator or chariot racer made some ungodly amount of money that dwarfs what we pay our sports stars) but sports as they exist now are kind of a relatively recent thing.

As recently as the 60's most NFL players had off season jobs. I imagine the child of might be interested in sports (Mark Harmon for example) but following your in your father's footsteps into the NFL or NBA might not have been the best or most desirable option you could follow if you did have the same ability.

The sheer amount of money some players can make now makes it a different field.

In the 1960's if you could go to medical school or play pro football, I'm not sure football was competitive even in the short run.

Then there is the fact that the pool of people who are going to have the pool of physical traits (size, speed) in the outlandish extremes modern sports demands for the money sports has been surveyed.

If you have the physical tools, your parent did as well, and the pros made contact with him in his time. Obviously this is a simplification of genetics, as outliers can always come out of a family whose members were normal sized, but your odds are better if you have the right parents.

There is another factor. Some sports now, the athletes are made. They are not born, they are not totally self-made as they were in the past. They are in the position they are because their parents made the decision to push and support them playing a certain sport. You start out as a kid, and play in leagues all year long. Your parents take you to games and practice. They pay for special coaching and gym access. Trainers. They send you to camps for your sport in the summertime.

Examples of this are golf, tennis, baseball. Others I'm sure.

Who better to develop a baseball player than another major leaguer? And the environment that is probably around them.

Genetics and opportunity. I'd be kind of curious to find out the percentage of men greater than 7'0" tall that were ever looked at by an NBA team. Less than 1%? 5%? Out of the roughly 300 million people we have in this country how many are that tall?

And just to go back to a point I made earlier. If it was 1955, and someone called me on the phone and said the Colts would pay me $5,000 to play offensive line for them the rest of the season, but I'd have to leave my job at Sears...

Depends on my job, but I'm not sure I would have jumped. The money just wasn't that good back then. So I kind of wonder if the children of successful athletes weren't more likely to go through other doors their parents success opened for them.

I mean can you name a famous boxer whose son followed him into the ring? I can't think of anyone. All I got is Ali's daughter.

Steve Sailer said...

Ken Norton Sr. beat Muhammad Ali once.

Ken Norton Jr. won three Super Bowl rings.

The NFL is a tough way to make a living but it beats being a boxer.

helene edwards said...

Incidentally, Steve, Barry Bonds is a great example of the nearly reflexive carping that we've come to expect from blacks. According to SF media figures, Bonds often says his father took to drinking because of the racist treatment he received by baseball. Here's how: he was promoted to the majors at age 19, and never sent down, despite striking out an average of 150 times a year in his first 6 yrs.

Anonymous said...

Father and son boxers:

Floyd Mayweather, Sr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Julio César Chávez and Julio César Chávez, Jr.

I'm not a boxing fan, so I'm sure that there are a few that I missed.

-- Risto

mel belli said...

Joe Montana's son transferred to a different high school because he wasn't starting at QB.

MC said...

It bears mentioning that there are so few American blacks playing baseball nowadays that the few who do, such as Griffey and Bonds, often have a very idiosyncratic reason for getting into baseball.

Right now, of the very few American black starters in MLB, two of them are Prince (son of Cecil) Fielder, and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Geoff Matthews said...


I know that Hank Aaron received some pretty racist mail while he was on his way to breaking the all-time home run record. Wouldn't surprise me if Barry Bonds Sr did as well.

Anonymous said...

Just how did Sailer manage to get an article into the neocon National Interest?

SF said...

Marvis Frazer, made it to the top ten, knocked out by Tyson in the third round, pretty much ended his career.

NOTA said...

It strikes me that coaching of a kind happens for political jobs, too. All sorts of internships and volunteer positions and such open up to someone with the right connections. Someone from a politically active and connected family has a lot of opportunities to make connections that will be useful later on in a political life.

Later, building a team of trusted political advisors and a core of experrtise to help you get elected must be much easier when you can borrow your father's or husband's, as with W and Hillary. Loyal friends of your father's or husband's are probably relatively loyal to you, as well. (Just be careful that your dad's old cronies don't try to cut you out of the loop, as Cheney is alleged to have tried to do with W.).

Anonymous said...

Wasp dyansty sho is fading.

Anonymous said...

"It bears mentioning that there are so few American blacks playing baseball nowadays that the few who do, such as Griffey and Bonds, often have a very idiosyncratic reason for getting into baseball."

This seems right to me. Although that idiosyncratic reason is probably as simple as they had a strong father figure who liked baseball more than basketball/football.

This is true even for the few black stars whose father's weren't major leaguers.

The Upton brothers are a good example. Both brothers were elite high school athletes who could've played any sport they wanted, but their father, a college baseball player, preferred that they play baseball. (He's said that he thought football was too violent.)

Rickie and Jemile Weeks, likewise elite youth athletes, were raised by a father who played in something called The Colored Baseball Assoc. of America in the late 70's.

Carl Crawford, who was offered scholarships to Nebraska for football and to UCLA for basketball, was raised by his uncle, who not incidentally played minor league ball for the Angels.

Etc., Etc.

The thesis here is as follows:

Premise 1: without a strong male figure pushing a highly talented black athlete toward baseball, he'll probably choose football or basketball.

Premise 2: blacks tend not to have strong father figures.

Conclusion: there are disproportionately few American Black baseball players.

Anonymous said...

I think American privilege is different from Indian privilege in this sense.

In India, rich folks hire their own kids and relatives.

In the US, rich folks hire the children of other rich folks. So, it's not really nepotism in the technical sense. Instead of Mr. Richowitz necessarily bringing Richowitz Jr. into his own company, the latter is hired by the company owned by Mr. Moneystein, whose sonny boy Moneystein Jr. is hired by the company of Mr. Richowitz.

So, there's a network. It's more networtism than nepotism.

Anonymous said...

You take my kid and I'll take your kid. But hey, we are all part of the same wide network.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has a list:


That only counts Major Leaguers (which I'd guess you'd want for dynasty status), but there are always noticeable sons of former Major Leaguers taken in the draft each year (with so many players drafted in baseball).

Delino Deshields Jr. is playing in the Astros farm system after a disappointing first professional season. Mel Rojas Jr. is a center fielder in the Pirates system, where his father was a reliever. Dereck Rodriguez (son of Ivan) was a sixth round pick by the Twins in the last draft. Dante Bichette Jr. is in the Yankees system. Etc.

sunbeam said...

I don't even think it's really "nepotism," or maybe I don't understand the word.

Look for most jobs, most of the applicants could do the job. At least applicants for professional positions.

Maybe it's different for jobs where you need some real unique talent to do it. Something like writing jingles or doing the music for movies like Randy Newman.

But despite what you hear, there really isn't a shortage of technical talent for just about anything in this country. (and for most things that statement is true worldwide as nearly as I can gather)

That's just one sort of field though. My point is that your son, or your friend's son can do the job just as well as anyone else in general.

Why not hire him? Is it even nepotism at at that point? I've been around guys who were hired from Eastern Europe and the FSU. I know there were geniuses over there, but I've never saw them do anything that someone I went to school with could not have done. Apparently the really smart ones stayed at home, or went to more prestigious jobs. I always wondered exactly how someone found them and hired them, when there were just as qualified people over here, that in my estimation could have done the job just as well.

In general, I think that to get hired to a desirable job, one that gives you more than you give it (the classic white collar job versus a blue collar job) you have to know someone or have some kind of connection.

It pretty much doesn't matter where in the country you are, advertise a good position on craigslist or monster or something and you will be swamped with resumes. A lot of them are lying and exaggerating. But most of them are from people who are qualified for the job.

Worldwide there are more people than there are jobs. This isn't 1960 where going to school gave you some skill or knowledge that was valuable. It might still be, but 10 other people had the same idea, and did the same thing whereas they didn't back then.

The same thing is true of blue collar jobs. I think China is going to have a heck of a problem in about 10 years, regardless of how much their economy grows, because the robots are coming. And cheap as China is, a human is just not as cheap as a machine.

That's a little off topic, but I always thought of nepotism as being an unjust reward. The wicket gets more sticky when the person involved really can do just as good a job as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

You're writing ability has diminished. Good article.

Ed Vere said...

This trend is pronounced in basketball, but is far less visible in baseball. On our local University of Michigan men's basketball team in the spring of 2011 (an average Div.I team) were no less than Tim Hardaway Jr., Jon Horford (son of Tito, brother of Al) and Jordan Dumars (son of NBA HOF Joe). (Dumars has since transferred.) UM's recruits for this season include Glen Robinson, Jr.

As a father who has seen many hundreds of competitive youth baseball games in numerous venues the last few years, I can tell you that very few black kids play serious travel baseball. Maybe it's the money involved, although there are few black kids even in parks and rec ball. I think it's because the genetic speed and quickness advantage doesn't pay off much for blacks in baseball. Baseball is a game that emphasizes skills that must be relentlessly practiced; ie. hitting line drives to the opposite field or throwing 150 foot lasers to the cut-off man does not come naturally.

Also, baseball is almost always introduced father-to-son in a game of catch in the backyard. Might the disintegration of the black nuclear family and the disappearance of black fathers plausibly explain the decrease in black interest in the game? (An iSteve topic?)

Some years ago Gary Sheffield, in a feeble attempt to explain the decline of black baseball players, made some boorish comments about docile Latin players taking away spots from deserving (but fiercely independent and therefore likely to be cut, in Sheffield's bizarro world) blacks. Left unmentioned by Sheffield was his own situation: fathering six kids by five different women. How many of his kids would ever play catch with him in any backyard?

Anonymous said...

You know what the white movement needs? White movement neighborhood blocks in cities. It doesn't have to be big. It just needs to make a presence. It's like gay communities are small in cities, but they make a presence with gay bookstores, festivals, marches, theater, art, cafes, conferences and etc. And being close together gives gays a sense of strength, unity, purpose, and etc.

And chinatowns are small, but they make their presence known too in cities.
Cities are where it's at, so if the white right is to be the focus of attention, renewal, and promise, it needs to follow the gay model. It needs to buy up property in a certain city block and turn in into a WHITE INTEREST zone. That will lead to unity, confidence, together, creativity. Just like Greenwich Village was for leftist artists and the like.

Too much white interest is dispersed in suburbs and small towns. There needs to be concentrated centers of WHITE INTEREST in cities. It can just be a block or two. Big or small, it can make its presence felt and known.

Florida resident said...

My (late) brother-in-law A.A.O. taught me:
“We all, at some stage of our life, were helped by somebody.
The question is not about (the morality of) that help, the question is whether you do work at the appropriate level at the position which you occupy now.”

I can only hope that in my prime years I (F. r.) have been working at the appropriate level.

Pathetically yours, Florida resident.

dave chamberlin said...

Baseball players that make it to the major leagues often have to tough it out for six to ten years playing minor league ball. It is no picnic, it's a life of bad pay, long bus rides, and living on the road in flea bag motels. Poor kids from latin american countries are far more likely to put up with this lifestyle than black or white americans, it is one of the major factors for why baseball has become progressively more latino. Black america loves basketball, if you are a star on your high school or college team you are treated like a prince. Shawn Kemp has left a trail of twenty plus kids and he isn't alone in the productivity department. It isn't too hard to predict that in the future there will a lot more Kobe Bryants than Prince Fielders and baseball will see the sons of latinos major leagers make the big leagues as well.

Victor said...

Nick Swisher, the son of Steve Swisher, has done well for himself in the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

Nepotism with backscratching (I'll hire yours if you hire mine) is still nepotism (I think).

-- Risto

Assistant Village Idiot said...

sunbeam hits the main points, I think.

Roger Clemens' son started tonight for my local BlueJays affiliate, the NH Fisher Cats, BTW

Auntie Analogue said...

Archie Manning's two sons are NFL quarterbacks - groomed by Archie for those jobs. Such father-son grooming doesn't always work though, simply because a lot of sons of famous sports pros develop there own interests and many of those interests lie outside of sports.

Then you get guys like Jimmy Piersall whose father drilled and pressured him to Major League aspiration, and Piersall cracked up, and so do many other father-pressured sons - they simply crack up or they rebel against the pressure, or they simply ignore it and pursue interests outside of sports.

A prime advantage for a sports-groomed son is formed by the high-level contacts and the top coaching, other than by the father, that the famous father affords him - but this is true of any father-son grooming, pre-paved-path dynamic in sports, business, finance, politics (Kennedys. Gore, Bush, even way back to the LaFollettes), entertainment, &c.

1930's boxer Max Baer's son wound up as Jethro on 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' not on 'Dynasty.' So that instead of Linda Evans' character Krystle Carrington, Baer had to be content with Mr. Drysdale's horse-faced bank assistant Nancy Kulp (Kulp, by the way, was a lesbian).

Matthew said...

Does two generations in anything count as a dynasty?

The old saying is "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." Two generations of excelllence isn't particularly rare in any field of endeavor. Three generations or more is where it truly impresses as a "dynasty."

The Medici Family was influential in Italy for 300 years. The Rothschilds have lasted over 200 years. Achieving excellence in any field is pretty impressive; for two generations even more so. But it does not rise to the level of a dynasty.

Anonymous said...

You're writing ability has diminished.

Posted without a sense of irony, apparently.

Auntie Analogue said...

Is it possible or likely that the longer an institution lasts, the more likely it is to produce dynasties?

Pro football and baseball are, roughly 100 years old, and dynasties have only recently shown up in those sports, and then only since those sports burgeoned with big money. Pro basketball is much younger, and so are golf, motor sports (Mario Andretti & Richard Petty have, or have had, sons who race, and such. Tennis has been around for over 100 years but, so far as I know, there've been no tennis progeny succeeding their parents; but then big money tennis has only been around for about 30 years.

American politics has been around since the Revolution, but only since massive wealth accumulation began in the post-Civil War years has US politics seen the emergence of dynasties - wealth having become a nigh universal prerequisite for a viable candidacy for office higher than congressional representative (though wealth never hurt and it certainly helps candidates for offices beneath senator and governor).

It seems that not only the duration of an institution, but also the amount of cold cash an institution attracts, curries, generates, or dispenses may also favor the emergence of dynastics - and these factors seem to outweigh the single factor of talent (just look at Al Gore Jr. or the post-60's Kennedy progeny!), though in sports sheer talent, plus abilities development, do count more than a player's father having a huge cash hoard counts in other institutions' dynastics.

Anonymous said...

"Worldwide there are more people than there are jobs. This isn't 1960 where going to school gave you some skill or knowledge that was valuable. It might still be, but 10 other people had the same idea, and did the same thing whereas they didn't back then."

I agree.

Ivan Illich said that work used to be a verb and it has become a noun. People didn't have work they did it. We need to get back to that.

There is something unnatural about this system. We go to work and have someone we don't know boss us around.We also hang around all day with strangers that we may not like, while the people we do like, we rarely see.

Nepotism is natural. Our system is unnatural.We have gotten some benefits from it, but it still is weird. Look at the guy Steve wrote about who worked at the NYT. He cares more about the other instead of his own.

Anonymous said...

"Why not hire him? Is it even nepotism at at that point? I've been around guys who were hired from Eastern Europe and the FSU. I know there were geniuses over there, but I've never saw them do anything that someone I went to school with could not have done. "

I have seen Russians hired by a transit system on the East Coast for an office job. They lost the cold war and now they get to take our jobs away from us. This country is a joke.

NOTA said...

I'm trying to figure out if the new pattern of posts telling Steve his writing has gone downhill once in every comment thread is some kind of individual weirdness of a single poster (like the weird string of posts suggesting Steve had been replaced with a doppleganger awhile back), or some kind of oddball astroturfy kind of attempt to influence either his writing or our perception of it.

Truth said...

" You're writing ability has diminished."

The single greatest post in THE HISTORY of the internet.

Anonymous said...

" You're writing ability has diminished."

"The single greatest post in THE HISTORY of the internet."

Maybe he or she meant "You are writing 'ability has diminished.'"

Anonymous said...

It looks like a single poster or AstroTurf. "You're writing ability" is just fine, Steve. Keep up the good work.

-- Risto

Anonymous said...

" You're writing ability has diminished."

This is true in quantitative terms ever since Sailer stopped writing for Vdare.

Londoner said...

NOTA - was Cheney really a GHWB crony? I was under the impression GHWB was fairly cool towards him (and Rumsfeld and the rest of that crowd) although he did appoint him to his cabinet. Enmity dating back to the Ford administration plus ideological differences.