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Gates Foundation annual letter (gatesnotes.com)
176 points by jchallis 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments



I have a fundamental issue with the way in which the Gates foundation gets its work done. Sure, there may actually be impact achieved in some of its investments, but in most others, the team does not even know the name of the founders they have invested in. I've interacted with Associates from the Foundation based in London who know the broad strokes of investments they've made in India, for example, but the actual companies, they have no idea. Their process has been to spray and pray. No active involvement, no process optimisation, no impact metric monitoring etc.

Further, the manner in which the foundation functions in India is what makes me cringe when I hear their name. They have unrestricted access to members of parliament in India, they promote Indian government programs e.g. Ayushman Bharat (Health insurance for 500 mn Indians), Aadhaar (digital unique number for all Indians) and they ensure policy changes to suit their funding programs. Their close linkage with the Indian government to further their propoganda is what makes me cringe. Sure enough, do implement some programs its commonplace to liase with Governments, but where's the ethics in that? Where do you draw the line to limit promotions for government projects that fake numbers and are not really having any impact on the ground?

This Annual Letter is just another propaganda piece, as stated by others here.


The first time I worked in a NGO, it was a Gates mission. We had a very small budget, under $100k.

The mission was part of the Millenium Village Project, and the various entities adhering to MVP were managing our money. The Gates foundation never checked how it was used.

And 37% of this budget stayed in new york, as a management fee.

14% of this budget stayed at the local MVP antenna, again as a management fee.

What were they managing you ask ? Well, one thing was our budget: if we ever had to order something, we needed to go through them, "to avoid inappropriate spendings". Once, I ordered a printer, knowing exactly the price of the device. It arrived alright, but the bill stated twice the price it should have cost.

The NGO in the street next to us had a worse story. We managed to perform our mission. They didn't. Yet they consummed $ 2 millions doing so.

For the 3 years I have been active in Africa, every time I went on a mission, no matter the degree of success, a marvelous report with shiny graphs was sent to our backers stating how great we did on the field. According to them, I saved so many children overpopulation is probably kinda my fault now.

We never heard once from the Gates foundation. Like you said, they sprayed and prayed.

One time, we had a gig from MS themself. We were supposed to do a conference over a few days in Senegal with their money. One MS guy came the first hour, distributed a few t-shirts, then leaved forever. We decided "fuck that", and proceded to give a training on Linux based products for the rest of the conf.

That's how ridiculous all that is.


> no matter the degree of success, a marvelous report with shiny graphs was sent to our backers stating how great we did

This seems like the core problem: every organisation's incentives are to look good to those paying, and if you're in the aid business, these people are not the poor. Spending 37% on new york people who can make just the perfect glossy report & get it into the hands of the people who matter... this may well be the right move for your organisation.

There are other incentives too. Lots of academics need fieldwork time on their CVs. Lots of rich people's kids need management experience for their CVs, and something to talk about at parties.

I'm happy to believe that Mr Gates's motivations are sincere, but the whole industry seems rotten to me.


Why is it bad that some people are not effective altruists? (Of course if someone is just giving out of guilt, then the shiny booklet industry is a scam basically, but I don't think we have data about this.)


No organization is perfect. Because organizations are made of people and people are not perfect. Can the resources be utilized in a better way? maybe so. Even with all these inefficiencies what Bill Gates is doing through his foundation should be commended.


Every time I have seen Bill Gates praise Nandan Nilekani (the one who headed the Indian irrevocable and unchangeable “unique” ID program called Aadhaar) and the Aadhaar program itself (going purely by fake numbers put by UIDAI and the government), my beliefs have been strengthened — that Gates is mostly clueless and that he still pushes things that would monetarily benefit him or his friends, without any care toward how these affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

We may probably be better off without philanthropy of this kind!


Do you have any pointers to organizations which have a higher hit rate than Gates foundation?

What are you basing the following on? -> "Their process has been to spray and pray. No active involvement, no process optimisation, no impact metric monitoring etc."


> Do you have any pointers to organizations which have a higher hit rate than Gates foundation?

I think there are a couple that are significantly better, e.g. Doctors Without Borders, who run an extremely targeted operation with low overhead (you can find spending breakdown in their annual reports). They also explicitly limit the amount of funding they accept from governments/etc. such that they remain politically neutral. I'm sure there are others in the same category.


"Do you have any pointers to organizations which have a higher hit rate than Gates foundation?"

- It's true they have the capital that spreads far and wide compared to most others. No doubt.

"What are you basing the following on? -> "Their process has been to spray and pray. No active involvement, no process optimisation, no impact metric monitoring etc.""

- Conversations with individuals that work at the foundation.


GiveWell, Watsi.


Marques Brownlee interviewed Bill about his annual letter.

https://youtu.be/4mxXdCUXSSs

Near the end you can see a younger Bill jump over a chair.


honestly both of his big intereviews, this one and the one with Elon Musk are very poor. Questions are generic and there isn't any interesting information gathered from these interviews, I would not bother watching them


I like Marques a lot personally, but in my experience he is at his best only when it comes to gadget reviews.

His high profile interviews are shockingly shallow and his new car review show "Auto Focus" (ok, that's an amazingly clever name) is also about as in-depth as you'd expect a smartphone guy's car reviews to be.

But again, he's got a great personality and screen presence, I just wish he spends a bit more time on more meaningful thoughts and more in-depth research when it comes to other subjects.


I would actually go ahead and say that his gadget reviews are wishy washy, too soft and lacks objectivity. I understand its not supposed to be a full technical analysis but he makes what makes it popular and wide appealing. Especially, his audio gear reviews are full of subjective claims - "It sounds roomy, with crisp highs and thumpy base but not too muddy." They are, to me, utterly and completely useless pieces of information.

I'll go and read Anandtech now. I don't fully blame MKBHD. I blame the entire genre of youtube reviews. I need data. I need A-B tests. I need technical specification verification using proper metrology. That's how my brain evaluates things I want to spend money on.


His channel is mostly for entertainment by viewers around his age rather than those looking for hard technical analysis. I do think he's much better suited to gadgets than interviews though.


Worth a read, I enjoyed the discussions about:

- still a high birth rate in sub-saharan Africa. Lowering birth rates are correlated with more education and income.

- how little we know about the causes of premature births

- the lack of detailed economic data about women in poverty

- 5 top sectors of greenhouse gas emissions. How are we going to reduce emissions from steel and concrete production without cratering the economy?

Definitely important causes for the Gates' to put money and effort towards.


To stay with your example, they are simply trying to reframe this narrative. People think Africa is a famined shithole that never gets better, and therefore does not warrant investment or even charity. Think toddlers with those big, pathological, bellies.

Yet that view is mostly wrong. Many, possibly most, Africans now live in busy metropolises. Yes, they are polluted and have a garbage problem and corruption may be rampant. But it’s a lot closer to similar cities in SE Asia than to the 50 year old stereotype that people have of Africa.

Saying „Africa is young“, and obviously the details that follow, tries to shift this to a narrative of possibilities.

You can call that propaganda, or marketing, or just clever copywriting. I think it depends on the agenda, but I can’t find fault with their intentions.


> Lowering birth rates are correlated with more education and income.

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/09/22/...

the effect is much less for Africans.

also how can people consider high birth rate to be bad while not being an anti-natalist. Why the cognitive dissonance?


Why assume cognitive dissonance?

It’s possible that there exists a birth rate at which population increases too much or too quickly for the environment to handle (peacefully at least).

It’s possible to want your own tribe to expand, but not others’.


> Lowering birth rates are correlated with more education and income.

Attempting to lower a populations's birth rate is a crime according to the Geneva conventions.


Why the downvotes? This is a legitimate concern for any body considering using this technique to increase quality of life.


Because the birth rate is lowered voluntarily, by the people themselves. I'm talking about people being given education about birth control, and free condoms.

Also the Gatesnotes blog has mentioned before that lowering the child mortality rate goes hand in hand with needing to produce less children, as more reach adulthood.


I'm surprised how this is more of a propaganda piece than insightful, specially given how much I've respected Bill Gates in the past for his contributions and after-Microsoft work. The facts don't appear wrong, its just the way they're presented.

Lets just start with 1# Africa is the youngest continent. Sounds great right?

Well its not a surprise at all. we knew this. the gates knew this. Africans (as in currently living on the continent called Africa) die young. War, food supply issues, lack of medicine, you name it. then why is it the first surprise? Exactly.

Each one of them has similar weird issues...

(time to get down voted to oblivion?)


I mean, the whole "surprises" thing may be more rhetorical device than genuine feeling. I'd cut them a bit of slack. They're trying to knit together a pretty broad portfolio of important work into one newsletter. The Africa "surprise" was a way to pivot to: what development work should be done to support a growing African population.


> Well its not a surprise at all. we knew this. the gates knew this. Africans (as in currently living on the continent called Africa) die young.

Maybe it should have been a surprise to you, because dying young is not the reason Africa is the youngest continent. They have young people because Africans are still having children, unlike much of the rest of the world.

Young people dying tilts the population balance older, not younger.


OP said that Africans _die young_, not that the _young die_. Lowering the life expectancy lowers the average age if it's because the older don't live long.


But a pattern of dying young is not evidence that older people don't live long.

Dying raises the average age if you die below the average age, and lowers the average age if you die above the average age. Thus, a 16-year-old dying can only lower the average age if the average age was already less than 16. A four-month-old dying can only lower the average age if the average age was already less than 4 months. (Which, obviously, it can't be.)

Dying lowers life expectancy regardless of when you do it, and it has a stronger lowering effect the earlier you do it. The dying four-month-old has a really strong negative effect on life expectancy, but a strong "positive" effect on the average age. They're orthogonal[1] concerns.

[1] OK, not technically orthogonal. One will help predict the other, especially if you know the average age. But the point remains that a negative effect on life expectancy can be associated with any effect at all on the average age, because all effects of death on life expectancy are negative.


That's a good comprehensive description and I agree.


What's the propoganda here? I fail to understand ( serious). It seems all positive. Please provide facts.


Propaganda doesn’t have to have negative connotation. In this case “all positive” results for the foundation’s capital allocations could be indicative of propaganda.


Or it could be indicative of them doing a good job?


Yes of course. I am not choosing sides. We are both equally correct. Institutional propaganda slanders enemies and praises the self.


Propaganda can be positive or negative.


In the video interview, he prefaces the conversation when starting to talk by saying they framed it as surprises this year.


From point #3

https://www.gatesnotes.com/-/media/Images/Articles/About-Bil...

Seems like the main greenhouse gas emissions problem can already be tackled. For instance:

Agriculture: switch to cultured (lab-grown) meat.

Transportation: switch towards public transportation.

Electricity Generation: go solar.

But maybe I'm just naive.


I was sitting in a bar in Seattle a few years back, and two people who worked at the Gates Foundation were bragging about how they were making $300k a year to "do nothing." I hope that is the exception rather than the rule, but I have a great distrust of foundations. The George Eastman method of directly endowing organizations strikes me as far superior.


At least in DC a lot of foundations/non-profits are a way to brush up the resumes of children of well-connected people with "leadership" and other qualifications while they make very good money. I am also very skeptical since I learned about this.


Mentioning foundations are tax havens for private wealth it is not too surprising to hear they have hereditary qualities (jobs, dinners, receptions, business expenses, travel, conferences). There is an oddly positive connotation typically gifted towards nonprofits when in reality they are stateless sovereign wealth funds.


Which is what makes it so funny when poor people support tax deductions for charity and would rather prefer a system of low taxes and high charity than higher taxes.

It’s really funny when they send your kid home selling candy to raise money for school or publicly humiliate the kids who don’t donate by giving stickers or allowing the others to wear something different.


The effects can be monitored in a lot of different ways - that is definitely one I had not thought since I was a schoolchild. Very effective propaganda went into this standard American framing of nonprofit orgs.


I am skeptical about where you learned this. Concrete examples?


I don't get why you're getting downvoted.


I missed the Gates Foundation of its early days. The Grand Challenges were all there was. I do not doubt the Gates aspirational letter, but their foundation Is more like a VC firm, with bad partners and managers who are terrible at doing their due diligence? They found plenty of stuff that have no bearing what so ever to any of the grand challenges. There is no oversight, when it is clear that a technology they invested in is never going to work or never going to serve the purpose they were sold (because people do lie to get money), they should pull out and re-invest somewhere. But no. The culture within the foundation must be pretty bad, and not aspirational at all. So much resources, so much waste... It makes me sad, really.


Third World Problems don't matter much to First World readers.

Oddly enough, Africa needs markets, and the U.S. needs charity.


Great read, but it should be taken with an enormous grain of salt. The economic system that maintains Gates' private wealth is dependent on positive PR. Showing all of us that he's doing Good Deeds with his massive foundation, keeps the masses from questioning how he amassed such a mountain of wealth and stymies efforts for reforming a system that allows unbridled accretion at any expense.

https://medium.com/@CitationsPodcst/episode-45-the-not-so-be...


Are you confused about where his wealth came from? He co-founded Microsoft, one of the most valuable companies on the planet which has made tremendous impact on people around the world. He's also giving away almost all of his fortune, that's the whole point of his foundation.


It sounds like omegaworks is claiming that in the absence of positive PR, the unwashed masses would pass laws expropriating Bill Gates' wealth.


If the "unwashed masses" need PR to show that the Gates Foundation has helped eradicate Polio then perhaps those masses should not be involved in any laws.


That is certainly the majority opinion historically and cross-culturally, but it conflicts with the modern American conception of democracy.


If you run a company you understand that you're not the person creating the profit. If every worker vanished you'd make zero profit (in fact you'd probably lose money because of static costs but depending on the scale you might still contribute some income to offset that).

Entrepreneurs don't create value, labor does. Entrepreneurs seed and lead organisations that direct labor towards profitable activities.

Bill Gates took a certain level of risk, yes. He also had a strong financial safety net and head start by sheer circumstance of his upbringing.

Unless every employee throughout the lifetime of Microsoft was compensated in actual proportion to their contribution to the overall profit of the company, Bill Gates didn't derive his wealth from his contributions but simply from those of his employees.

We have a cultural norm of hero worship but Bill Gates wouldn't be where he is if he had paid everyone their fair share. The reason we don't consider this is that we consider this to simply be how businesses operate.


I‘m just about as far to the left as an old radio set to 800Mhz, but it still seems foolish to choose Bill Gates as the specific hill to die on.

As but one problem: Microsoft employees, especially the early ones, don’t strike me as particularly good examples of abject victims of capitalism.


Why is your post being down voted?

Kinda makes sense, but the last bit regarding fair share is probably more complicated. Weren't the early employees at MS given stock options and many became millionaires?

How should new employees who joined 10 years after MS's founding for example be fairly compensated (as they didn't contribute to reaching escape velocity)?


That's not how capitalism works. It's all about the individual. The entrepreneur has ownership over the means of production, and the workers have ownership of their time. Of course everyone plays a part (and the leader definitely creates value unless you think companies run themselves) but workers are compensated under terms they agree to.

What you're proposing is just socialism that takes away power from the individual. That never works. You have no way to judge what the fair share is or what contribution someone actually made and thinking that you know how to value someone's life better than they do is just attempting to place a moral to be morally better than they are.

Also you might want to talk to the early employees of Microsoft who are millionaires, or any employees today who are highly paid with stock grants that give them a piece of the company, and most importantly talk to the billions of people who are living a little easier after the eradication of Polio thanks to the Gates Foundation.


He has given away half his wealth, and plans to give more than 90%. If this is all a ploy to keep his money, he’s doing a terrible job at it.

jmpman 34 days ago [flagged]

How much should [bm]illionaires be allowed to leave to their children? My opinion is no more than $10m per kid, and only to the first generation (direct children). Trust fund babies only help yacht builders.


Apparently $10m is the exact amount Bill and Melinda plan to leave to each of their children.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/05/who-is-jennifer-gates-bill-a...


Yacht builders employ lots of people to build large yachts, what's wrong with being a yacht builder?

Why $10 million? What about in countries outside of the United States? What if a wealthy person has a single asset that is worth more than $10 million and has one kid? ex: a $50 million commercial building. Would you force a sale of the asset and then strip away $40 million away?

What about lottery winners who win over $10 million? Should lotteries be capped at $10 million?


"What about lottery winners who win over $10 million? Should lotteries be capped at $10 million? "

Actually I think so. I would prefer if more people won a modest amount vs. one person winning tens of millions with a large jackpot.


It would definitely make more people realize how much of a money waste lotteries are. If you'd expect to win $1000 every year, you'd quickly realize you spend more on tickets than you get back.


I can spend $1 on a ticket and feel an insane whirlwind of emotion imagining myself winning $1 billion, or i can spend $1 on a candy bar and feel some pleasure eating it.

If buying a lottery ticket is a waste of money then all forms of entertainment are.


Ooh, nice one. A genuine defense of gambling as pure entertainment rather than a system built on exploiting addicts and people's irrational perception of chance events. I haven't seen that in decades. Are you next going to say cigarettes aren't addictive?

EDIT: Okay, fine, here are citations:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler%27s_fallacy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_gambling

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13929



> ex: a $50 million commercial building. Would you force a sale of the asset and then strip away $40 million away

Plenty of householders or businesses have to sell an asset to settle some debt or tax bill, why not estate taxes?

Of course we might have to bring back capital controls for it to be functional.


Exactly. The kind of millionaire you don’t want is thd one who hides money under the mattress.

Those who invest or conspicuously splurge are a boon to the economy and to workers.


This is wrong economically. Conspicuously splurging is just a waste of resources.

If a wealthy person and all her descendants save their money forever, then there's no harm to the economy. The money is just numbers in a computer, nothing concrete. (Politically, it could be dangerous, since there is always the threat that they could spend it.)

If she spends it digging holes, on the other hand, then that's wasting real resources. It employs people, yes, but in a pointless task. Their labor could have been better deployed.

There's obviously a continuum, but $100 million yachts are probably closer to the digging-holes side of the continuum.

(But maybe not. For example, spending $10 million on a painting for that yacht has very little real effect, since aside from the purchase transfer overhead, it is mostly moving numbers from one bank account to another.)


I imagine some of the r&d (tech, materials, manufacturing processes) leads to improvements in areas that less wealthy people benefit from.


the entirely of what you are saying is wrong economically.

all forms of economic transaction involves transferring money from one account to another. conspicuous splurging is a waste not in itself, but because of the opportunity cost of instead spending that money on capital investment, which will lead to higher production and consumption in the future for more people. if a rich person has extra money, he can use it to pleasure himself, or he can spend it on investment, hoping to make even more money. if he were to buy machinery for example, that would mean higher production and lower price, and many people will benefit from that. the aggregate benefit is higher in the long term.

but the goal of an economy is to allow as much conspicuously splurging as possible over the longest time possible. it is clearly utopic to have a society with such surpluses that everybody can own 10 space yachts, endless supply of the best food etc.


And how do you know what the correct usage of resources is?

This is why communism _always_ fails. Every attempt at a top-down control of the entire economy will lead to failure. The economy is too complicated and chaotic for that to ever work.


You're assuming the only alternative to laissez-faire capitalism is a centrally planned economy, fine, but please don't call that "communism" and pretend the two are interchangeable just because the USSR called itself communist.

If we had a marginal tax rate of 100% for all profits beyond $10 million, would that be communism? If we banned the sale of certain consumer goods, would that be communism? If we banned the private ownership of certain consumer goods, would that be communism? If we mandated shared ownership by all employees of businesses exceeding a certain size or revenue, would that be communism?

If so, how is the criticism of centrally planned economies relevant? If not, why are you talking about communism?

There are gazillions of ideas other than "let the government control the entire economy" (aka state capitalism) or "let the winners of the free market do what they want and f* everyone else".


>pretend the two are interchangeable just because the USSR called itself communist.

You're not one of those that's still waiting for real communism to be implemented, because all the other attempts were done all wrong, are you?

>You're assuming the only alternative to laissez-faire capitalism

Where did I argue for laissez-faire capitalism? Pretty sure I only made the case for a market economy.

>why are you talking about communism

OP didn't make a case for regulating certain products or industries. OP made a case that individuals choosing how to spend their earnings is essentially misaligned societal resources ... as if they knew better.

>If we mandated shared ownership by all employees of businesses exceeding a certain size or revenue, would that be communism?

Yeah, you're on your way now. There are many Venezuelas on the road to Soviet Union.


Ah, because everything socialist is a slippery slope towards gulags, autocrats, mass starvation and military imperialism.

You still haven't given an argument about why "conspicuously splurging is just a waste of resources" and "there's obviously a continuum" means "state capitalism now", though.

You also haven't bothered explaining how "every company beyond a certain size or revenue must be organised as a worker's cooperative" leads to state capitalism (or whatever you're trying to express by invoking the Soviet Union as the scary end), but I'd be fine if you at least bothered actually addressing the OP you replied to rather than just a strawman.

To reiterate, this is what you say you replied to:

> individuals choosing how to spend their earnings is essentially misaligned societal resources

(and also, more implicitly "OP thinks OP knows better how those earnings should be spent and therefore advocates a centrally planned economy, i.e. state capitalism")

This is what you actually replied to:

> Conspicuously splurging is just a waste of resources.

> If a wealthy person and all her descendants save their money forever, then there's no harm to the economy.

> If she spends it digging holes, on the other hand, then that's wasting real resources.

> There's obviously a continuum, but $100 million yachts are probably closer to the digging-holes side of the continuum.

Note that this is a refutation of the GP:

> Those who invest or conspicuously splurge are a boon to the economy and to workers.

I don't see how you can go from "rich people splurging are not actually great for the overall economy" to "state capitalism now", yet that is your interpretation.

OP didn't say "rich people shouldn't be allowed to waste resources", OP only said "rich people wasting resources is bad". There's an obvious solution that doesn't require controlling the entire economy: increase marginal tax rates to reduce wealth gain and make it harder for millionaires to become billionaires.

But I suppose that too inevitably leads to the Soviet Union?


I think the history of capitalism, communism, and economics as a field of study are all too young to make such an absolute statement. And don't you think that the birth of machine learning might change this equation just a bit?


>I think the history of capitalism, communism, and economics as a field of study are all too young to make such an absolute statement.

I'll agree with this statement on capitalism. But we know communism is a disaster. That won't change.


I see this a lot — the jump straight to ”communism”, and it’s tiresome.

I believe in this day and age we know a lot of things we didnt’t at the start of industrialization.

As soon as someone starts talking about keeping mindful about consumption they somehow end up being supportive of full blown communism.

Looking at the state of our earth you could easily say that capitalism doesn’t work, at all. It’s more nuanced than that though.


If we had to start it all over again, we'd still do a market-based economy with a social safety net, democracy and reasonable regulation and taxation. No sane person should ever want to have anything to do with Marx. Agreed?


Totally.

A critical comment regarding the state we’re in does not make me wish for a full blown totalitarian regime.

Marx was a philospher and writer with some points however, and I doubt he personally would appreciate what went down with Lenin & co.

It’s all about balance, and right now the balance is off by quite a bit.

The problem is that capitalism has turned in to ”consumerism”.

Not sure how to crack it, but in a way it’s a bit like a new enlightenment phase needs to take place.


> capitalism doesn’t work, at all.

i look at north korea then i look at south korea. if capitalism doesn't work, at all, then communism must negatively work.


Questioning the end result of capitalism is obviously touchy for many...

My comment was simply that you can question the state of capitalism in the world today without suggesting that communism should take it’s place.

P.s Also, have a talk to the insects, polar bears, cheetahs (only 7000 of them beauties left), etc.

Out of whack and out of balance.


I would agree that communism is better at regulating population than other forms of government. And since population pressure is the main driver behind incursion into wildernesses, I’d agree communism would handle over pop more “efficiently” but not morally better.

On the other hand communism typically suffered from stunted innovation, outside of targeted areas, so they probably would be worse off, if they didn’t import tech from non communist states.


I kind of agree with what you’re saying, but it still lacks a lot of nuance.

Most good stuff arises from public funded research imo. How and why? Because it’s down to individuals that are allowed to do their thing.

This gets stiffled in a short term, for profit organization. What we’re left with is often conservatism. Too many big orgs with big money simply want to keep things as they are, and it’s clear (or should be to everyone) that this is not wanted or sustainable.

Regarding man earth balance it’s currently down to over consumtion by us in the west.

As your average Swede I consume approximately 4 earths worth of resources. We either changes this behaviour volontarily or bad things will happen eventually.

There’s a lot of power in those piles of cash though so anyone that want’s to change anything is in for a tough fight.

Also, morality... you probably consume stuff originating from sweat shops and child labour.

We’ll it’s not our children!

Lot of high horses in the ”west” unfortunateley.


> Should lotteries be

No.


>How much should [bm]illionaires be allowed to leave to their children?

As much as they fucking want. The rationale for taxation is the idea that you owe your government money by using up public resources (such as national defense, public works, emergency response, etc.). That's why you get taxed for activity such as buying stuff and earning a living. Dying doesn't use up the government's resources. You don't need the government's protection and assistance to die without interference.

Just lay your motives naked and talk about expropriating property from the rich without compensation. That's what estate taxes are, just with extra steps.


> The rationale for taxation is the idea that you owe your government money by using up public resources (such as national defense, public works, emergency response, etc.).

If this were the case, then everyone would be taxed equally. People with more money have always been taxed more (at least in the U.S).


That's because the rich use up infrastructure and protection (they have more stuff worth stealing) more than they would if they were poor. The poor also get a pass because they can't easily pay regular tax rates and we want to lift them out of poverty so we can tax them more once they are (hopefully) in the middle class.


When you're a socialist, you don't believe people have any fundamental right to private property. It may be allowed in a socialist system as a means to an end in order to motivate people to work and create, but don't any funny ideas about owning it.


> When you're a socialist, you don't believe people have any fundamental right to private property.

Wrong.

There is nothing in socialism that prohibits you from owning things.


>Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

I'm gonna need some help figuring out how "means of production, distribution, and exchange" can't be expanded to include almost all private property.


because, like most people on here, you talk about socialism without knowing the first thing about it, like an idealogue.

If you're the product of the US education system then I can't really blame you. The the meanings of well-established political terms are completely warped into something else over there.


When you can't attack the idea, just attack the person.


Is there a managably-concise introduction to these concepts you would recommend?


If you want to continue mocking socialism you should learn the difference between private property and personal property. The commies aren't going to deprivatise your toothbrush.

EDIT: Since HN rate limits me again, I'll just reply here:

The difference between private and personal property isn't about the thing so much as the use and intent. If you own a toothbrush for personal use, that's different from owning a toothbrush factory for producing toothbrushes you sell for money.


Would knowing that distinction have changed my point?


The socialist definition is unsound. A toothbrush is a means of production - it produces clean teeth using human labor as input. The only difference compared to a big machine in a factory is scale, which is a completely arbitrary metric to define on and in many cases impossible to quantify.

Only land and natural resources can be treated as something different in a sensible way, but that's explored in georgism, geolibertarianism and similar philosophies, not socialism.


As much as they want. It doesn't really matter since 90% of them will lose it all, which is to say stimulate the economy. Today's 1% is not yesterday's 1%. The Rothschilds and the Rockefellers are outliers, most families lose all their money in 3 generations.


> How much should [bm]illionaires be allowed to leave to their children?

As much as they want/can.

> Trust fund babies only help yacht builders.

But it does convince the parents to build useful companies, provide useful services etc


> How much should [bm]illionaires be allowed to leave to their children?

As much as they want. Without estate or gift taxes, either.

OTOH, it should be taxed as normal income to the recipient (as should capital gains), though to avoid excessive taxes on non-repeatable windfalls, there should be mechanisms both for recognizing and paying taxes on advance of realization and spreading taxes one incoe over several years after realization, with some limits on the latter.

And several higher tax brackets should exist above where the current maximum kicks in.


Not even Andrew Carnegie agreed with this take. He was an ardent supporter of heavy estate taxes - despite being worth over $300 billion equivalent today.


> Not even Andrew Carnegie agreed with this take.

So?

> He was an ardent supporter of heavy estate taxes

Yeah, so what?

Heavy estate taxes are a not-horrible band-aid over not adequately taxing the income of rich people as income, but it's better and simpler just to tax income appropriately.

The fact that some rich people like heavy estate taxes doesn't really change that.


the idea that people don't get their properties seized by the government is controversial. who could have thought?


No.

In your best case scenario, where you actually successfully enforced this ludicrous policy, it would create ugly incentives for the government (or corrupt agents in the government) to profit from an untimely death of the self-made billionare. In this scenario, the murder of Jeff Bezos would lead to the nationalization of Amazon.

More likely, however, it would incentivize massive tax evasion, with schemes being cooked up to move money offshore as quickly as possible.


Come on that's a little silly. Even Amazon or Apple would be a rounding error to the government's balance sheet. Noone would have the incentive to organize such a public and attention-drawing murder conspiracy for super incremental gains to an entity noone can reliably control.


Interestingly though, this is how the Roman Empire funded itself from time to time. Caesar would proscribe some rich citizen and then seize his assets.


We can go a step further. That's the modus operandi of every authoritarian regime ever, including every communist dictatorship.


It is fun to come up with unintended consequences of an unworkable feel-good policy. But I wouldn't necessarily dismiss it because the incentive is there.

Having said that, I don't think there's any question that this policy would lead to massive tax evasion. Not including all the fun societal unintended consequences we can only speculate about ... and all for what? To punish some trust fund kids OP is bitter against?


can't the government do that right now?

there's incentive for the government to assisinate billionaires and forge wills that donate the whole shebang to the government.

and yet, they don't do this? it can't be a great incentive


We still live in a society that is against that level of redistribution. When that changes, you'll have different type of people in government. But it is very possible in the future. This is exactly what happens in socialist regimes like Venezuela and Authoritarian regimes like modern Russia.


They already do this as much as possible as it is.


$100k? less? If they want their kids to be rich, they should teach their children to get rich, not just be rich


Why not $0? If they want their kids to be rich, they should teach their children to get rich, not just be rich.


Why is it your place to decide? It isn’t your money.


No, it’s not, but in societies that allow too much wealth disparity, heads roll in the streets.


And it can be your head, even if it wasn't your money. And sometimes it feels like we're approaching that point...


This is an example of correlation != causation. The French Revolution, commonly cited as an example of this, was not caused by wealth inequality. It was caused by the fact that the French were practically, in some cases literally, starving while the government flailed about ineffectively, accrued tremendous debt seemingly to no end largely driven by fruitless wars, and ultimately turned to taxation to try to sustain a failing state. It was not an otherwise comfortable people suddenly deciding to lop off people's heads because wealth inequality rose beyond some acceptable level.

I doubt we'll ever see another effective organic revolution in any developed nation because people in general no longer have the chutzpah for the actions required to change a government that doesn't want to change, and because we've all become contented from that pale white glow in front of our faces for ever longer fractions of every single waking moment. There's also the effective division of society. Two sides increasingly hate each other which means if either side ever crossed that invisible line, the other side would suddenly become hugely pro-government.

There are also some economic changes that mean France's situation would never be replicated in a place such as the US. In particular money no longer has any real meaning. It's not backed by anything and governments can 'print it' (not how most money is made, but that's another topic) to no end. The only real constraining factor is perception. So long as your people and other nations agree to believe your money has value, then it does. This is how we can spend trillions of dollars we don't have on wars, be $22 trillion in debt that nobody expects will ever be paid off, inject huge sums of money in the market to artificially inflate it and call that 'growth', yet still have an ultra-premium rated currency.

This is also why 'helicopter money' [1] is thought to be a good idea * . You print money, load it up on a helicopter, and then drop it down to the people. The asterisk there is because it's a good idea only if people don't expect it to be repeated. It all goes back to perception. Keep dropping the helicopter money and people stop believing in the value of the dollar and so it indeed loses all value. This is, as an aside, a major issues with things such as a basic income. We could easily 'afford' it. But you very much are risking a perceptive change on the value of the dollar with such systems in which case all that money you're tossing around becomes worth about as much as the beads at Mardi Gras. And tossing even more only trends towards hyperinflation.

The point of that aside on money being that France lived in a time where there was a fixed amount of money and their government was wasting that money. Today our governments waste money like never before but it has less effect on the common people since governments don't need the amount spent to be less than the amount 'earned.'

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_money


If it's my money, why can't I choose who to give it to when I die?

Are you so envious and bitter that the idea that some people get given large amount of money is so painful to you that you think it must be forbidden?


Why did your comment get greyed out?


Comments become progressively grayer if it's been downvoted more often than it's been upvoted.


This newsletter was interesting, and probably aimed at a wider range of audience.

Interesting to note some valuable comments here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19149479




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