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>> It's not impossible that we will look back in 20 years and see Japan not as some sort of failure but simply as the first society that had to learn to live without growth.

They still haven't learned, they're trying really really hard to force growth. Negative interest rates can be seen as a tax on inactivity, and while it's been talked about in the US, I think it comes too close to taxing assets for the rich to embrace it.




> I think it comes too close to taxing assets for the rich to embrace it.

What's wrong with taxing assets (wealth)? I don't know the full economic implications, but I think it may be more fair than taxing income. Wealth is a much better measure of a person's financial strength. Consider:

* Because we tax income, a person with $1 billion in assets who makes $100,000 pays less tax than a person with $0 assets and makes $150,000.

* Because we tax income, a person who loses all their assets in the housing collapse but earns $100,000 pays more tax than the person whose assets appreciate $1 million but earns only $50,000 in income.

* If we tax wealth, future taxes are much more predictable, enabling more efficient long-term investment and planning. I could make a pretty good guess about what my tax bill will be next year, 5 years from now, etc. The billionaire can make much longer-term projections.

As a rough estimate of the wealth tax rate: One estimate of total wealth in the US is $80 trillion and the federal government takes in ~$3 trillion in revenue. By those numbers, the wealth tax rate would be 3.75% for the average American, if all that revenue were replaced by a wealth tax.


So, in essence, we punish responsible people who save for retirement. No thanks.

Also, one unintended consequence of this policy would be that the MINIMUM interest rate you would have to pay would be 3.75% because below that it makes more sense to just buy a gold bar and bury it in the backyard vs. lend it out.

Basically, the way you can imagine the impact of that is that your mortgage interest would (today) essentially double. Again, no thanks.


Generally wealth taxes (and many other taxes) will not apply to retirement funds (when said funds are in an account specifically for those)[1]

[1] http://guides.wsj.com/personal-finance/retirement/what-is-a-...


thats great, but 1) a 401k is not sufficient for retirement and 2) the other caveat (adding 3.25% to any interest rate) is far worse.


> the MINIMUM interest rate you would have to pay would be 3.75% because below that it makes more sense to just buy a gold bar and bury it in the backyard vs. lend it out.

I don't quite follow. I have to pay a tax of 3.75% of the gold bar's value whether I keep it or lend it. Even if I only can lend it at 2%, that's still better than nothing.


He's suggesting that you avoid taxes by hiding your assets.


It is used in practice in some countries, although mostly at a rate that's a fraction of a percent and excluding some lower tier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_tax#Current_examples


But wealth isn't just a pile of cash under someone's bed. It's usually held as assets: homes, securities, land, etc.

Do you really want to require someone to sell 3.75% of their stake in a start-up every year so they can pay the taxes on it?


> Do you really want to require someone to sell 3.75% of their stake in a start-up every year so they can pay the taxes on it?

Yes. That's one of the many expected results.


That's a good point, about liquidity. However, not all assets are as illiquid as a stake in a startup; many people have cash, stocks in public companies, etc. Also, they can plan ahead: 'I'll need around $x next year for taxes'.


Eh, it can be a lien, payable upon transfer or death of the owner.


An inheritance tax?


i can't quite tell if this comment is assuming that everyone would agree that inheritance taxes are bad. i certainly would disagree with that assumption. i think inheritance taxes, if implemented properly, could be a great thing, both in terms of providing government revenue and in terms of creating a level playing field for society.

i don't think that a person should be able to give things, after their death, tax free, to their children, with no limitations. i don't think the right to give gifts as you please trumps the right of newborns to a fairer playing field. i think both rights deserve consideration, but i don't think the former is anywhere near absolute. kids should have to earn a living, and shouldn't get huge financial advantages solely because of who they're born to.

besides, if you transfer gifts while you're alive, you're not subject to such high taxes, right? and only gifts over a certain threshold from person to person get taxed anyway, right? if you don't trust your kids to not take the money and run while you're alive, maybe they don't deserve it. i don't think society gets to let you have your cake and eat it too, in terms of both passing on wealth through your bloodline and staying secure yourself. i understand that sort of lineage building is a pretty basic human desire, but there are lots of basic human desires that society doesn't indulge, let alone bankroll.

also, it's not like steep inheritance taxes kick in unless the inheritance is of a decent size.

in the spirit of full disclosure, i don't expect to get any sort of appreciable inheritance, so i'm biased by not having anything to lose here. but this is a thing that seems quite obvious to me, and has seemed obvious for a long time now.


The interesting thing is that countries that lean more to the left/socialism, don't have inheritance taxes. Australia, Canada, Israel, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway all have no inheritance tax.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_tax


that is interesting. i'm not sure what to make of that. i have half-formed ideas about why that might be, or why that might be ok (or not ok), and whether that sort of solution is better in principle than an inheritance tax, if one had to choose. but none of those ideas are fully baked enough to mention.

do you happen to know why that's the case? for example, that wiki entry says sweden abolished the inheritance tax in 2005 (retroactive to 2004). was the motivation that it was unnecessary? did constituents complain about its existence?


Indeed, one may view it as the central banks' wealth tax to reverse (however small) income inequality which will lead back to more growth.




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