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Dean Baker, a great economist and easily the best on the (relatively) radical left, said (in the context of discussing Piketty's work) that "capitalism is infinitely malleable" - markets are shaped by infinite rules and tweaking those rules tweaks the outcomes. To speak of "capitalism" as a thing with defined outcomes is to ignore how vast that range of outcomes is, and how badly things work without any market whatsoever, which is what true alternatives (as opposed to tweaks) to capitalism amount to.

"That changed on Nov. 8, when the American oligarchs ousted noncompliant professional politicians and assumed direct power through Donald Trump and his cabinet."

Does it follow that Obama was defiant of "the American oligarchs" in his bold support for, say, TPP?

"Marx thought communism would see the withering-away of the state. Instead, capitalism has reduced the state until its chief functions are protecting the rich and policing the poor."

Does TFA imply that things got worse since Marx's days in terms of the absolute standard of living of "the poor"? Does the modern state redistribute less from "the rich" to "the poor" than it did in Marx's days?

Since the rich don't pay taxes, and the poor (unemployed) get only money from the state, there is no redistribution from the rich to the poor. There is redistribution from the middle class to the poor, right?

The rich do pay taxes, just a smaller portion of their income as compared to your average taxpayer. But that smaller portion is leaps and bounds larger than the bigger portion paid by the average taxpayer.

I seem to recall some graph indicating that even though they pay 4-5x (or higher) lower percentage of their money in taxes, the higher amounts mean they shoulder most of the tax burdon.

I don't think the percentage difference is ultimately beneficial to society, but it's not correct to say they pay nothing.

The share of taxes paid by the rich is greater than their share of income and wealth.

The chart in this article says people who make more than $250K per year are paying just over 1/2 of income tax paid.


And then here, merely the top 10% of wealth holders hold 76% of the wealth, and the top 20% of wealth holders hold 85% of total wealth. The statistics are no where near what you appear to be claiming.



Do you mean that Warren "tax me harder" Buffet's much-publicized income tax of slightly less than $2M per year is not much relatively to his net worth of tens of billions, about half of which is taxpayers' money from bailouts? I guess you have a point. Still, I can't believe he completely evades the capital gains tax.

Anyway, I never looked very deeply into it, but I'm pretty sure that single-digit millionaires pay plenty of taxes, and I find it fair to call them "rich." I do agree that taxing income much more heavily than capital gains, property, etc. doesn't sound like a great idea.

I think the quote about Marx is quite funny in that it is a fundamental misinterpretation of the idea it ascribes to Marx, but not in the way Marx is usually misinterpreted.

Marx thought the state would wither away once socialism had gradually transformed society until a point where there were no more capitalists and thus no more class distinctions.

In other words: At the end of a long journey where he first expect capitalism to engage in a long sequence of boom-bust cycles, eventually have fully globalised to an extent where there are no new markets to expand into, and proceeded to compete itself into the ground by cutting margins until the only viable way of continued cost reduction is to push down total salary costs, and which he expected would culminate in a revolution once people were desperate enough, following by a long transition phase.

If anything the idea that "capitalism has reduced the state until its chief functions are protecting the rich and policing the poor" could almost be a quote from Marx as it is pretty much exactly the Marxist view of the state:

Marx explicitly saw the state as existing in its current form as a tool for the ruling class to use to oppress the rest. His phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is well known because it's a favorite to use because people think it refers to Soviet style oppression, but he also used the phrase "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" to refer to capitalist states - irrespective of level of oppression. The terms refers to which class is in control, not the means of control or the level of individual freedom, and highlights the idea of the state-as-oppressor:

The dictatorship of the proletariat as envisioned by Marx was the working class taking control and oppressing the capitalists, and gradually transforming society and pushing said capitalists into the working class.

By doing so, the capitalist would become part of the ruling class again, as a worker, and the capitalist class would eventually cease to exist.

That end-state would be the start of communism: Once there's nobody who is able to work who is living off the work of others, and no class differences.

Marx argued that if you reach that point, the state-as-oppressor has no function left that can not be served by purely administrative organs subordinate to more egalitarian power structures such as communes, and then it would wither away.

As such, the quote you picked from the article is trying to set current capitalism up as an example of how Marx is wrong, while instead succeeding in making an arguments that most Marxist would agree with.

> Does TFA imply that things got worse since Marx's days in terms of the absolute standard of living of "the poor"? Does the modern state redistribute less from "the rich" to "the poor" than it did in Marx's days?

From Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations":

> By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people.

His point is that poverty is not to be measured absolutely, but relative to the society and times that it exists.

"The poor" might have indoor plumbing now, which they might not have had in 1860, but it is disingenuous to suggest that means anything relative to living in America in 2017.

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