The Wealth Gene


Genetics technology is advancing so rapidly that scientists can now test DNA to determine the probability of a person’s future diseases and health problems. Health insurers could base premiums on genetic testing and people with bad genes would be uninsurable.  So, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in 2008, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace and by health insurers based on genetic testing.


Insurance is a means of protecting against the risk of a contingent, uncertain financial loss. If genetic information is utilized, the risk of large medical bills becomes more known for a particular person.  That would be terrible for those with the genetic predisposition to get sick, but not so bad for those with healthy genes because their health insurance premiums would cost much less.  Insurance spreads risk out among a pool of those who are insured so those few who face a catastrophic loss are protected.  Congress and the public didn’t think it was fair to utilize information on something that is fixed and unchangeable by a person (their DNA) to dramatically impact his or her financial life.


Insurance against poverty is problematic because the poor are already known and fixed across generations. You cannot insure against something that has already happened.  Public aid used to be insurance against a family experiencing hard times, while they worked through it.  Anybody could experience a financial downturn, so welfare and other programs provided a safety net.  Not anymore; wealth and poverty have become structural. The children of the poor stay poor and the children of the rich stay rich.  Socioeconomic class is entrenched over many generations.  That’s not just because of financial inheritance, it’s also because of superior education and family values like marriage and work ethic.  Economic mobility is still possible but it continues to decline as we move into a new age of global capitalism.


That’s good news for us (the Mass Affluent demographic); bad news for millions of long-term welfare dependent families, for whom the next economic rung up is impenetrable. The only way for Government to address socio-economic structure is to engage in wealth redistribution, which perversely makes it worse.  Fortunately, there are powerful forces (practical, ideological and constitutional) that prevent large scale wealth redistribution.  Our wealth is safe.  The war chest wealth gene (like biological Darwinism) protects, secures and propagates the competitive advantage of financial fitness.  The birth lottery is not random for mass affluent parents.  Their children have already won.


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