Rethinking America, Richter Scale

The Trumps and the Fuggers

The Trumps want to become a dynasty like the Fugger family. Are they in the same league? Get the fugg outta here!



  • Trumps are, first and foremost, a mercantilistic bunch that looks after its own interests.
  • The power-hungry Trumps aspire to be a dynasty along the lines of another influential family : the Fuggers.
  • The Fuggers were financing international deals when the Trumps were still in their nappies, metaphorically speaking.

With just one summit, Donald Trump has apparently decided to put his family’s long-term dynastic commercial interests above those of the United States and its working people.

It is therefore only fitting that he has turned into a veritable kitten in the hands of China’s overlord.

In the entire history of Chinese diplomacy and its self-conception as the middle Kingdom, along with demanding tribute, there has never been a more elegant form of tribute payment than Ivanka Trump’s children singing a song in Chinese to the Chinese emperor.

The von Trump Family?

Many people who saw the video of Ivanka Trump’s children singing to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife must have had to think of the von Trapp family from The Sound of Music. In this version of the story however, the halls were alive with the sound of cringing.

But anyone who thinks the Trumps will be content with forming a family band (the von Trumps?) underestimates their ambition. The Trumps have bigger Bratwursts to fry.

Because the Trumps are, first and foremost, a mercantilistic bunch that looks after its own interests. The niceties of diplomacy are a mere staging ground to go for the “deal.”

The power-hungry Trumps likely aspire to be a dynasty along the lines of another – and much more influential – family from that neck of the woods: the Fuggers.

Made of the same stuff?

At first glance, there are indeed some similarities between the Trump family and the Fugger family.

Both originated in Germany – the Trumps from the village of Kallstadt in the Rhineland, and the Fuggers from the city of Augsburg in Bavaria (less than 250 km apart).

Both families can also trace their ancestry back for hundreds of years, handed down wealth from generation to generation in order to carry on “the family business,” and have interests in real estate.

But look a little deeper

On the surface then, one could draw a few parallels between the two families. Look a little deeper however, and it very quickly becomes obvious that the Trumps are not in the same league as the Fuggers.

In fact, their ancestral homes are an apt metaphor for how the two families stack up against one another.

Kallstadt – a village of around 1,200 inhabitants, and Augsburg – a city of approximately 300,000 inhabitants founded in 15 BC and a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire for over 500 years.

Both families have dealings in real estate, but while the Trumps build exclusive hotels and resorts for the rich (frequently stiffing their contractors in the process), the Fuggers built the oldest existing social housing complex in the world.

The so-called “Fuggerei” in Augsburg has operated continuously for almost 500 years, taking in people on low incomes for an annual rent of €0.88 (basically 1 dollar).

Who’s the real master of “the Deal”?

Compared to the Fuggers then, humanitarians the Trumps are not. But what about the Trump family’s business sense and in particular Donald Trump’s legendary ability to make a “deal”?

Let’s look at a very successful deal Donald Trump made – the Wollman Ice Rink. Trump renovated it in 1986 after contacting New York Mayor Ed Koch and promising that he would renovate it for 3 million.

Not only did the renovation finish on time, it also came in at $750,000 under budget and it now attracts 5 million visitors a year. Not bad!

And a successful deal that a famous Fugger made? Jakob Fugger raised capital for his bank by exploiting savings accounts, introduced in Augsburg and paying 5% per year, but this contravened the Catholic Church’s ban on usury.

Not letting that stop him, Fugger approached Pope Leo X and convinced him to rewrite the ban in 1515. It was now a legitimate business to take risks with client’s money, ushering in the modern economy.

Trump’s failed businesses

Compared to a deal like this, Ice Rinks are beginning to sound like small fries. It is true that Donald Trump not only involved in real estate, but also in a wide mix of businesses.

Trump Airlines (ceased to exist), Trump Vodka (production stopped), Trump the board game (discontinued), Trump Magazine (production ceased, Trump Steaks (discontinued), Trump Mortgage (shut down).

And Jakop Fugger? He also dominated the commodities trade in Europe and successfully helped finance a Portuguese scheme to relocate the spice trade to Lisbon, which delivered a fatal blow to Venice’s commercial stature. As if that wasn’t enough, he also invented to world’s first news service.

In other words, the Fuggers were financing international deals when the Trumps were still in their nappies, metaphorically speaking. Ironic, as Trump Nappies is one of the few businesses the Donald has not attempted and failed at.

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About Stephan Richter

Director of the Global Ideas Center, a global network of authors and analysts, and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist.

About Markus Heinrich

Markus Heinrich is an independent political analyst and international relations researcher. [Ireland]

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