Yes, Walter White Jr ultimately received $9 million of his father‘s drug money. But how did meth kingpin Walter White accumulate his multi-million dollar fortune in the first place? And what does Walt Jr‘s inheritance reveal about the morality of Walt‘s criminal empire? Let‘s analyze the shady financials of the Heisenberg drug business.
Following the money trail: Walter White‘s net worth
Walter White entered the meth trade in desperation after an early-stage lung cancer diagnosis. His motivation was seemingly noble – to earn as much money as possible in order to leave behind financial support for his family after his death. But his rapid accumulation of wealth soon warped that original motivation.
According to estimates, Walter White was able to earn over $80 million dollars through his blue-sky meth distribution empire. At one point, White had accumulated over $80 million in cash, which he kept hidden in a storage facility. The operation had enormous overhead costs and regular payouts to business partners, including lawyer Saul Goodman and distributor Gustavo Fring. But the profits flowed as Blue Sky became the choice meth brand throughout the Southwest.
|Estimated revenue||$80 million+|
|Estimated costs||$15-20 million|
|Estimated net profit||$60-65 million|
This drug fortune would be equivalent to $700 million in today‘s dollars when accounting for inflation – an astounding sum from an illicit enterprise. However, most of it ultimately eluded White.
What happened to Walter White‘s $80 million?
The majority of Walter White‘s meth money was stolen by Jack Welker‘s white supremacist gang, who raided his burial site in the New Mexico desert late in the series. By that point, White had been forced out of the meth business and was suffering from advanced cancer. This theft left him with only around $9 million – still a sizable nest egg, but a fraction of his former wealth.
In the final episode, White launders this remaining $9 million to his son Walter Jr using Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz, his former business partners, as cover. They agree to create a trust fund for Walter Jr under the condition that White not reveal their involvement. In the end, Walter Jr believes the money came from Elliott and Gretchen‘s generosity, allowing him to pursue college and be financially stable without realizing the funds originated from his father‘s drug crimes.
Was Walter White‘s quest for riches morally justified?
Walter White consistently justified his harmful actions through the goal of earning as much money as possible before his death to support his family. But does the end truly justify the means in this case?
From a utilitarian ethical perspective, White‘s choices resulted in significant emotional pain, harm, and danger for his family along with many victims of his drug enterprise and criminal behavior. White rationalized these "ends" as worth the "means" of securing his family‘s financial future. But the steep human costs clearly outweighed the benefits.
Through a deontological ethics lens focused on intent and duty, White also falls short. Manufacturing and selling methamphetamine violates a moral absolute against harming others and damaging the community, regardless of the motivation. White had a duty as a father and community member to pursue legal work if he wanted to earn extra income to provide for his family. His turn to reckless criminality breached this ethical duty.
Real-world case studies and consequences
History provides many examples that shed light on White‘s actions. In times of desperation, people do sometimes turn to illegal activities like theft, fraud, or dealing drugs to provide for their families. For instance, Jean Valjean stealing bread in Les Miserables. But there are always alternatives, no matter how difficult, that don‘t severely violate ethical duties.
In cases where people compromise values to provide for loved ones through crime, the consequences are also nearly always devastating. The money comes at a steep moral and emotional cost that destroys trust within families and communities. Walter White‘s family suffered trauma that no amount of money could ever heal.
Walter White‘s greed and hunger for power
Beyond providing for his family, greed and ego also clearly fueled White‘s relentless pursuit of power and wealth. As he grew his meth empire, White became addicted to the thrill and stature of being a wealthy kingpin. This greed destroyed White morally and alienated him from his family – the very reason he claimed to be earning money in the first place.
In the end, Walter White‘s family would have been better off without his tainted meth money that came at a terrible ethical and emotional cost. There are always alternatives to "breaking bad", even in the direst of circumstances.