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French economist scours spreadsheets to find secret offshore accounts (bloomberg.com)
179 points by hokkos 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments



Without reading the article at all, this kind of thing sounds like an interesting mathematical problem.

You have some time series above various nodes on a graph (each node is an account), and you cannot observe the time series directly, only some functions of the total state space, such as yearly income statements, ( i.e. some information is hidden or obfuscated). The question is how much of the underlying graph and time series you can reconstruct from your observations. I know some people have methods for reconstructing time dependent dynamical systems from observations using E.g. manifold learning, but I'm not sure if this problem exactly fits the bill.


sounds like a continuous hmm problem to me :)


The money is only "hidden" in that people's bank accounts investments are not public record.

Really this title should read "Guy estimates wealth of super rich based on their income tax return" but that is not as sexy...


This is a dangerous business to be in, with questionable upside.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, one of the journalists involved in exposing the Panama Papers was recently murdered by a car bomb in Europe. [1]

Meanwhile, how many of the crooks she exposed went to jail? Not a one.

[1] https://www.npr.org/2018/07/22/630866527/mastermind-behind-m...


I found the last sentence here most astonishing.

Zucman and Saez’s latest estimates show that the top 0.1% of taxpayers—about 170,000 families in a country of 330 million people—control 20% of American wealth, the highest share since 1929. The top 1% control 39% of U.S. wealth, and the bottom 90% have only 26%. The bottom half of Americans combined have a negative net worth.


It started out pretty reasonable, but quickly lost me at the wealth tax and how "the other 15 countries that tried it didn't do it right". Suuuurrrrree.


And right after your paraphrased quote, after describing one of the reasons those wealth taxes failed one: “Too many people just start from the assumption that it’s impossible,”

May I inquire, are you starting from this position as well?


Article 1, Section 9 prohibits direct taxes (which a wealth tax would definitely be) unless apportioned by state population. So it is unconstitutional unless every state agrees on an apportionment arrangement, which is nigh impossible as low population states will not receive much of the benefit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_tax#U.S._constitutional...


That is an unscientific statement. If 15 countries have tried and failed, the burden of proof is on providing evidence that another attempt would not similarly fail. Empirically speaking, the evidence speaks against the efficacy of wealth taxes.


There are plenty of things in existence that took more than 15 tries to get right. It is silly to dismiss something because it has failed the last 15 times.

If wealth taxes are beneficial and a good goal to work towards for a society, then it might be worth it to try for a 16th or even a 17th time until someone figures it out. Human flight took plenty of tries too, but it was something we deemed beneficial, so we figured it out.. eventually.

Anyway, Property taxes are a kind of wealth tax, as are capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes. All three of those are wide spread and well established.


The person you’re responding to isn’t saying we should dismiss wealth taxes out of hand. They are saying that 100% of the evidence so far is that they do not work. So the burden of proof is on the person in favor of them.


15 countries failing doesn't actually seem to be 100% of the evidence so far. What about Argentina, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Italy (and BC in Canada) listed here as currently having wealth taxes?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_tax#Current_examples


Those are asset taxes (with the exception of Italy's 0.15% foreign investment value tax) and it's not hard to hide wealth in liabilities/investments. The über wealthy would barely be affected by such laws should they be enacted in the US while those most affected would be the unlucky few who managed to buy a family sized home in a Californian metro suburb and farmers. I know the "inhereted wealth (estate) taxes kill family farms" is a Republican trope but a tax on assets would disproportionately affect those who own real property and outside of the wealthiest urban centers and their elite suburbs, that would be people who own hundreds or thousands of "cheap" acreage. I have a friend who recently took over his family's 1,200 acre, certified organic dairy farm and a 0.75% asset tax would almost assuredly have him call it quits and sell off to a regional Wal-Mart-tier agribusiness. He only nets ~$100k/yr off of property assessed at $2m and lopping ~$15k/yr off his take home income would be enough incentive, in my opinion, for him to go back to hos $80k/yr industrial equipment sales job.


Yeah, my comment was about the argument, not about the actual facts. I don't actually know anything about the facts.


Right, the proposal for try 16 needs to say: we are we succeed this time because tries 1-15 had flaw X and we have remedy Y that overcomes it.


Capital gains taxes are income taxes, not wealth taxes.


I sure hope that those who are dismissive of a wealth tax are offering alternative proposals that would fix this problem. I don't want a world where a handful of random babies a born into more wealth than the bottom one billion humans will ever have.


The alternative is protecting and even strengthening estate taxes and perhaps something like Bernie Sanders' wall street high frequency transaction tax idea.


You don't need to prove that an experiment will not fail.


> You don't need to prove that an experiment will not fail.

You do before experimenting with the lives, livelihoods and quality of life of 350 million people.

Or, if not prove, at least provide some really compelling reasons why this time it's different.

FWIW, I think that a Georgist land value tax would be better than a straight wealth tax.


> Or, if not prove, at least provide some really compelling reasons why this time it's different.

What qualifies as "really compelling" is subjective, but sure, I didn't mean to suggest that you should just try the same thing again and again.

> You do before experimenting with the lives, livelihoods and quality of life of 350 million people.

The way I see it, if an experiment fails, it does limited damage which you can recover from. Of course, the greater the possible damage the more careful you have to be and the higher the threshold to start the experiment should be. But if it succeeds, you permanently improve your society and learn what works.

When the possible loss is limited and temporary while the possible gain may last until the end of civilization, I don't think you should be too conservative. Though running experiments on 350 million is kind of overkill when there are smaller countries. Maybe it's a better policy for large countries to ask smaller ones to experiment, promising to help them recover if they fail.

> FWIW, I think that a Georgist land value tax would be better than a straight wealth tax.

Sure, but what non-pigovian tax isn't worse than an LVT?


"wealth tax" is already a biased framing of specific design.


I really don't see the point of wealth taxes; modest inflation combined with actually taxing investment income seem to accomplish the same goal with easier enforcement.


Inflation doesn't actually tax 'wealth' per se, it taxes cash on hand. The actual value of investments denominated in a given currency is inherent to the investment vehicle and not to what it is denominated in. For instance, if gold retains 100% of its value over time but there's 10% inflation per annum, $100 of gold today is still worth exactly the same as $110 of gold next year. Inflation taxes 'idle' wealth only.


Inflation incurs an additional capital gains tax on any asset that sees its value remain constant or grow. The asset doesn't have to be idle for this effect to manifest.


True. Although, that does only apply on disposition and you can plan accordingly, borrow against the assets and pay off your debt through dividends.


> I really don't see the point of wealth taxes

I think the article actually mentioned that when it wrote of 'soaking the rich.' That's the real point I think: envy.

I'm very open to the idea of some form of asset tax; I think that they can make a lot of sense. But the reason shouldn't be to drag a few lucky folks down: it should be to try to make a better economy and world for everyone.


My point was we can make wealth non-self-sustaining by applying progressive taxation to long-term gains, combined with modest inflation. We probably do need to increase the top income bracket from where it is now for that to work though.


You can't have an allowance with inflation.


It failed because those countries didn't had Citizenship-based taxation, and guess what USA has it.


I also like pointing out that the United States has an Expatriation Tax. France's wealth tax was like if a US state tried to tax wealth, the wealthy would just move away.


Perhaps I’m not following you, but all income produced in the US is subject to federal taxes, regardless of the citizenship of the parties involved.


And all income earned by a US citizen is subject to federal taxes, regardless of where in the world the income is earned. Hence there would be precedent for a US wealth tax to apply to a citizen’s “global wealth,” which, unlike in the case of those other countries, means people couldn’t dodge the tax just by changing the physical/notional location of their wealth.


> And all income earned by a US citizen is subject to federal taxes, regardless of where in the world the income is earned.

This is just the same as many countries. All income earned is subject to tax in the country you live in, regardless of where in the world it was earned. However, this only applies when you are tax resident. So I can't see any reason why a wealth tax in other countries couldn't also apply to global wealth. There's a precedent set by their income tax already applying to global income.

The almost-unique difference in the case of the US is that it taxes its citizens even when resident outside the US (I realise there's a deduction for taxes you've paid overseas).


>> (I realise there's a deduction for taxes you've paid overseas).

Sort of. It depends on which country you live in and if that country has a tax treaty, which applies to 68 [1] of the world's 195 countries. If you're living in a tax treaty country then you pay the greater of the US tax or the local tax. If you're living in a non-treaty country you pay taxes to both countries on all your income. The US excludes the first ~100K of foreign income.

Complications arise when you start a business abroad as a US citizen because then you're the proud owner of a controlled foreign corporation and that's its own special brand of disappointment.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/businesses/international-businesses/unit...


Ah, that makes sense. I did know about the U.S. taxing foreign income (less whatever taxes were already paid to foreign governments). I see the connection to a wealth tax now.


All income earned by USA citizens is subject to taxation by USA authorities even if the money was earned while resident in another country. Most other countries do not tax their citizens for income earned abroad.

*There may be tax treaties that may reduce total tax liability.


It reduces your tax liability to the greater of the two. The only other countries that practices citizenship based taxation are Eritrea, Hungary and Myanmar. Even Hungary doesn't tax dual-nationals. Of them only the US is in a position to really collect.


Again,people often make this sound simpler than it actually is. I don't like paying taxes,nobody does. I'm also not stupid enough to deny that even though my income is higher than national average,I'm most likely getting more in return than I contribute. I'm also strongly against any tiered tax model,where you pay more if you earn more.There are some freeriders out there but the majority did put extreme amounts of energy to get to the point where they can make lots of money and that can't be said about everyone. If extra money to be raised from additional taxes,it shouldn't go towards F-35s, carrier ships or some other shit but rather towards education, some element of risk acceptance towards encouraging people to start business,create and etc. However, until we continue having people who vote based on show values rather than merit and not ensuring the elected once doing what promises, there's no chances of changing any of this.


There are some freeriders out there but the majority did put extreme amounts of energy to get to the point where they can make lots of money and that can't be said about everyone.

Did Jeff Bezos put in a million times as much effort as a typical minimum wage worker?

The reason why it's fair to make Jeff pay way more taxes than the average person is because he benefits way more from public services than the average person. Where would Amazon be without public roads, electricity, or water services?

You can perform this exercise with any big company. The idea that an entrepreneur builds a billion dollar business entirely on their own and so they deserve all of the wealth produced is the most pernicious idea in our societies today. Unfortunately, as the Monopoly study showed [1], this idea may be universal to humans who obtain an advantage.

[1] https://tedsummaries.com/2014/09/05/paul-piff-does-money-mak...


> Did Jeff Bezos put in a million times as much effort as a typical minimum wage worker?

No, but he did make a million times more risky bet than the typical minimum wage worker. He quit a lucrative job at a financial company to start a company where he owned 100% of nothing and he has held onto that stock for 23 years. Common financial wisdom is to diversify your investments but instead, he took a massive pay decrease to start a company in the hopes that the stock would one day pay off, then held onto the stock of his company and led it to the massive valuation it currently has. He could have cashed out at any time but he didn't because our system rewards those who take risks/keep investing.

If you massively taxed outsized earnings and/or capped it, he probably would have never even started the company because why would you take the extreme risk of doing a startup when most of them fail? He probably would have just stayed at the financial company and if he did do the startup, then he probably would have cashed out when the taxes/cap got too large and retired instead of working to continuously increase the company's value which increases everyone's standard of living.


A million times more risky bet? By what measure? The risk to his livelyhood? His savings? That kind of hyperbole might help your argument, but I think it's wrong in a few regards. If he came from a lucrative job in the finance industry that means that he had a position to fall back on if it didn't work out, he would have had plenty of capital to bankroll his business without hefty, high-interest loans. His interest on those loans would almost definitely be lower because he is less risk to the lender. He would also have had connections in the business lending industry but I think that is getting too specific for my argument.

Compare this to someone who has a background in retail or a warehouse worker, the personal and financial risk of starting a business is arguably higher. In order to accrue the savings to start their business they would have to work far more hours, and if it doesn't work out they may never have the opportunity to try again. They have less job security if the business fails. They have less savings, and may completely deplete their savings and incur a large debt if it doesn't work out.

I'm not saying that Jeff Bezos didn't earn some of his keep, or that Amazon doesn't provide a lot of service, but I would say the risk vs reward of his business is atronomical compared to the average business startup. The entire idea that he took a risker bet starting a business than a minimum wage worker is, I think, totally wrong, it's utterly ridiculous, and lacks any perspective on what minimum wage workers have to stress about.


Exactly, we should just be upfront when we say that his success is due to both luck and hard work. Hard work is a given, and many people do that. But to really succeed you need a good dose of luck as well, and luck is not something you "work" for


Hard work is the most idiotic concept ever. If one works hard,he usually stays in the same place for 30 years. One needs to work smart,not hard...


If you massively taxed outsized earnings and/or capped it, he probably would have never even started the company because why would you take the extreme risk of doing a startup when most of them fail?

What is the marginal utility of another billion dollars to someone who is already a billionaire? What motivates Jeff to get out of bed in the morning?

The answer: winning.

Guys like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are the business equivalent of professional athletes. The money they continue to make is only a trophy at this point. To them, the real prize is to enter new markets and succeed, challenging and disrupting the status quo.


> No, but he did make a million times more risky bet than the typical minimum wage worker.

He took a risk in absolute monetary terms perhaps, but not risk in terms of consequence. Having spent a few years being relatively high up in DE Shaw, the worst that might have happened to him if his business failed is that he'd move to a smaller house.

Contrast that situation with someone who might struggle to make rent if their business failed, and tell me who's really taking the bigger risk.


How would Jeff bezos be in a better situation than some small business owner if both companies failed?


How would he not? Are you really arguing that someone with D.E. Shaw and Princeton on his resume would be in the same position as, in your words, a "typical minimum wage worker"?

Even ignoring the signaling value of D.E. Shaw and Princeton, are you arguing that the wealth he'd accumulated in his career up till that point is comparable to that of the "typical minimum wage worker"?

Then are you arguing that a hedge fund manager and a "typical minimum wage worker" face the same relative risk when they invest the same amount of money? In other words, are you saying that someone who has 110,000 dollars in savings and someone who has 11,000 dollars in savings face the same risk if they both invest 10,000 dollars?


"he did make a million times more risky bet than the typical minimum wage worker"

No, definitely not.

The rhetoric here is missing the nature of power: power gives leverage and enables entities to extract money and surpluses. Knowledge and talent is just one means to power. A more common means is patronage. The highest earning individuals are generally more talented and intelligent, but not that much more so.

Major corps have access to information, systems, lobbying that individuals do not have, any 'salary negotiation' is like playing poker against the house: the tables are tilted.

I think European taxation is excessive after income, payroll and VAT it's well beyond 50% for many income earners (though they get healthcare from that), there's no reason that those earning $1M a year can't pay the tax rates on the books, and opt to hide their money offshore.

Especially in US/Canada where taxes aren't crazy, there's really no excuse for these folks. It's just criminal.


"He did make a million times more risky bet than the typical minimum wage worker"

What a ridiculous statement! A bet one million times riskier than the average person makes would be one where there's a 1% chance of achieving great wealth and a 99% chance of everybody you love dying immediately.

An already affluent person starting a business is not that risky.


> have never even started the company because why would you take the extreme risk of doing a startup when most of them fail? He

“To change the world”


An already affluent guy convinced affluent investors to fund a technology company which the social meme was going on and on about being the next big thing.

I find it hard to believe there was any sort of real “risk” to Bezos future ability to earn a more than average wage.

It’s an information and networking game. You can say there’s some sort of numerical or quantifiable risk. But I suspect Bezos status pre-Amazon, in an early 90’s economy, with a very different wealth equality and cost of living scenario for the masses, he was well buffered from any long term ruin.

Just consider how much it’s changed: 22 people invested $50k according to Google. What’s that get you in 1994? My after tax take home is $110ish/year depending on bonus. My purchase power is a fraction of what it was a generation ago. I should be taking home $500k/yr to enjoy the same purchase power as someone making $110k in the 80s. And this is “normal”, we’re told.

Most people don’t even get anywhere near the network access and education he had.

The notion that we exist in a meritocracy is mind bogglingly engrained in the masses. Bezos earned every cent, it seems. They pay economists a lot to measure very carefully and confirm as much.

Bezos is not that good and that special, and took very little real risk. Society is rewarding him so much because that’s what society is told is correct.


> I find it hard to believe there was any sort of real “risk” to Bezos future ability to earn a more than average wage.

You are ignoring opportunity costs [0]. He quit a highly lucrative job in finance to attempt a startup where he probably payed himself like 1/10th the wages of his old job during the initial years while he established his business.

With like 90% of startups failing [1], that is a massive risk in the hope of future stock worth for decreased current wages.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost

[1]: https://medium.com/swlh/why-90-of-startups-fail-and-what-to-...


You’re ignoring the boring but more important human aspect for abstraction: he was capable of getting such a job once and was well connected to a couple dozen people that could toss $50k/each at him on a pipe dream.

If it failed, he would have had plenty of options relative to the average worker.


And he lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of real income while pursuing said startup. In his case, the stock that he created ended up being worth way more but for 90% of companies, that stock will be worth nothing.


Effort != value.

A single person could discover the cure to cancer tomorrow, and he would save billions of lives, even though he has the human labor of one.


As someone getting well with an incurable genetic disorder while the world calls me crazy and generally tries to tell me to STFU because I must be making that up, I find comments like this ironic at best.

Good luck getting the word out if one person solved it rather than a member of a team in a large lab and yadda. More likely outcome: The "one guy" who cures cancer will be written off as a member of the lunatic fringe and have endless doors slammed shut in his face.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis


I would guess the person who discovers a cure like this will do so on top of a bunch of preceding human labor, maybe even publicly funded.


That puts societies free riders really into debt


How would you calculate the value (to society) of Amazon? A lot of small businesses have folded as a result of pressure from that behemoth. Yes, consumers have benefited from lower prices, but the total value is unclear. There is considerable debate in antitrust circles concerning what to do about Amazon [1].

[1] https://www.yalelawjournal.org/pdf/e.710.Khan.805_zuvfyyeh.p...


How many people would be sad if amazon closed up shop tomorrow?


What is the value of the society that raised him and all the research and effort that came before him?


Society's profit is cancer is cured, why wouldn't that suffice.


Well that depends on what he wants to charge for the drug now doesn't it? and dont give me some free market BS because there is very little free market left in pharma pricing. its just extortion by making artificial monopolies plain and simple.


Yes, patents give companies monapolies for a limited time but I don't see how a company having a monopoly on a drug for a limited time makes anyone worse as the alternative is to just not have the drug at all.

And if your argument is that the government should fund all drug research, realize that they are fully capable of doing so and then patenting the drug and giving it out for free in our current system. Thus, both funding models can work in cohesion.


> its just extortion by making artificial monopolies plain and simple.

I agree, that is done by the state. They put the rules.


Why do we tax individuals in the first place? It goes back to history, there was a time when kings got their money from their estates as well as from prize money. But, the wars were not paying well so they would get some poor souls to be taxmen and to demand hard currency from peasants that weren't even on the monetary system as they lived off the land. In the UK the minority who the king would bully into collecting the taxes would be the Jewish one.

There was a time when it was considered none of the government's business to know how much people earned, hence taxes on fireplaces and windows. If you had a fireplace then you were probably a family unit and needed to pay up, if you had two fireplaces then you were a bit rich and could pay up double.

We take for granted so much of the tax system that we do not question it, there are also entrenched left wing and right wing viewpoints.

When it comes to value added tax, a.k.a. sales tax, we let businesses off but make sure individuals pay. It is all skewed in favour of capitalism rather than the individual.

Clearly a company can move to wherever it wants to avoid taxes. Individuals don't have quite the same freedom unless they are of the capitalist company owning class.

So we need to stop confusing individuals - businessmen - with businesses. Bezos and Amazon are not one and the same. If Amazon paid all its taxes then Bezos the individual as well as all Amazon employees should be afforded zero income tax and have zero motivation to squirrel gains away in some tax haven.

We also have a slight problem of rents and property being too expensive with property being insufficiently taxed. The whole system is designed to screw the little guy over with the corporations getting a free ride.


> I don't like paying taxes,nobody does.

I like paying taxes. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that if I (and others) contribute from what we earn, that we get collective benefits, such as education, infrastructure, and healthcare, which in turn improve our society.

I also have no problem with tax increases, as I am well aware that the overall benefit I receive from increased contribution greatly outweighs having that money in my bank account.

The money I pay in taxes contributes to a better educated society, who are more aware of the challenges we face together, and more capable of solving them.

The money I pay in taxes builds public transport, helping people move around, and removing the burden on our roads. It repairs those roads, so they are safer.

Where I live, the money I pay in taxes provides healthcare, so people who are ill or injured can be treated without going into life-ruining debt.

I am happy to pay taxes, because I believe a country where the population on the whole are smarter, safer, and healthier, and infrastructure is modern and maintained, is better than one in which I'd have a bit more money, but be surrounded by people who are less educated, sick, and in crippling debt, with crumbling infrastructure.


> I also have no problem with tax increases, as I am well aware that the overall benefit I receive from increased contribution greatly outweighs having that money in my bank account.

Why don’t you just write a bigger cheque to your tax collector, then?


Because collective benefits don't work without the collective. Might as well say "If you want roads why don't you just build or pay for them yourself?" "If you want electricity, just build and operate your own power plant"

You can do a whole hell of a lot more with 100 people working together than with 100 individuals acting of their own isolated accords.


But you just said “the overall benefit I receive from increased contribution greatly outweighs having that money in my bank account”. The marginal utility to the government of your cheque only decreases if more people do the same.


Don’t really buy this in the middle argument. “It’s the budget committee’s fault that I dodge taxes.” The way you change the way the national budget is allocated is changing your voting habits and organizing with people who feel similarly, not gaming the tax system until you feel that it’s suitable


Regardless of the industry, the anti-subsidy side has a bunch of stressed-out volunteers. The pro-subsidy side has a sizable budget, and a large team of paid professionals doing lobbying.


> but the majority did put extreme amounts of energy to get to the point where they can make lots of money and that can't be said about everyone.

Did their children also? Then why do they inherit it? I'm all for a 100% estate tax. You shouldn't be able to take it with you. Society doesn't need dynasties. Their children were raised with the benefit of extreme wealth with all of the advantages it brings. They shouldn't also get to keep it.


Because in a free society you can donate your property to whomever you please.


So in a free society, power should be given out according to the whims of the already powerful? Rather than earned of their own merits and general public accord?


An actual free society does its best to balance different things, like individual rights versus the good of the whole. When done well, protecting individual rights enhances the good of the whole.

The reality is that a 100% estate tax mostly will hurt the middle and lower classes. The ultra rich will get with their lawyers, set up trust funds while they yet draw breath and find other loopholes.

Same as it ever was.

And while wealth inequality is a genuine issue, there's much worse things that grow out of trying to prevent people from being wealthy at all. It's absolutely the wrong goal. The goal should be to not exclude people from the benefits of living in a wealthy, developed nation. It shouldn't be trying to arbitrarily and spitefully rob the rich.


> So in a free society, power should be given out according to the whims of the already powerful?

It depends on what you mean by “power”. If by “power” you mean money then the answer is yes, if it’s their money. The same applies for the not-so-“powerful”.


You can. It's just pointless because your heirs can't keep it.


> I'm also not stupid enough to deny that even though my income is higher than national average,I'm most likely getting more in return than I contribute.

But we have also proven that men have a great interest in exaggerating the relative value of the services they render one another. I cannot indeed, see any other limit to these claims than the free acceptance or free refusal of those to whom these services are offered.


I feel at some point tax payers should be allowed to select where their money goes, in a broad sense (military, education, arts, infrastructure), but allowing a portion to go a mixed-use fund for government flexibility.


> I feel at some point tax payers should be allowed to select where their money goes

They can, by voting.


I feel there is a disconnect between voting for representation and where money is allocated. In the US, voting does not guarantee representation, as losing votes are essentially useless.


True. But that's a bigger issue than "just" some money being misallocated. Letting taxpayers decide individually where "their" money goes also smells like census suffrage.


"They found that something cataclysmic happened around 1980. As Ronald Reagan was winning the White House, the top 0.1% controlled 7% of the nation’s wealth. By 2014, after a few decades of booming markets and stagnant wages, the top 0.1% had tripled its share, to 22%, a bit more wealth than the bottom 85% of the country controlled."

Then later. ..

"When Reagan cut the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% across eight years, and later, when Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush slashed tax rates for investors, they were doing so on the advice of economists. The prevailing belief, backed by theoretical models, was that lower taxes on the wealthy would stimulate more investment and thus more economic growth. The real world hasn’t been kind to those theories."


> would stimulate more investment and thus more economic growth. The real world hasn’t been kind to those theories

Economists need to stop optimizing for growth and start optimizing for fixed size. Once we run out of third-world countries to pump investments into and get cheap gadgets, there will be no more economic frontiers (or they would have been found already). Not to mention, our obsession with growth is destroying the planet we depend on.

I heard an interesting idea the other day: give all males a vasectomy (or some form of long-term birth control) at the age of 14. The purpose is to make having children a conscious decision instead of a "whoops!" and put downward pressure on the overall population.


Ah, yes, the ultimate "fuck you, got mine" sentiment in action: benefiting from the level of unprecedented wealth and prosperity we live in, which came from humanity spreading around the globe and ingeniously utilizing its resources, and now wanting to pull the ladder of life itself up away from the next generation.

Remember, rising empires build roads, and declining empires build walls. The way out of the current climate crisis is not to wall off what we have and die in stasis; I'm afraid the only way out is through, and we're not going to get there by dwindling our own population.


> rising empires build roads, and declining empires build walls

The first half is true, because roads are a key instrument of military invasions, and that's how empires rise.

The second half is true in that all empires of any scale build walls regardless of whether they're rising or declining. An empire with no walls is an empire that belongs to someone else.

But neither of those seems like an especially deep or compelling point.

> "Good fences make good neighbors" experienced early retirement. In its place came the untested phrase, "Build bridges, not walls." If nothing else, the new slogan seemed designed to give military historians fits. Throughout history, bridge building had been recognized as an act of aggression.

( https://www.amazon.com/dp/1501172700/ )


> benefiting from the level of unprecedented wealth and prosperity we live in, which came from humanity spreading around the globe and ingeniously utilizing its resources, and now wanting to pull the ladder of life itself up away from the next generation.

Uh, where else on the globe do we have to spread? What new resources are there for us to discover?

The time period where a growing human population could grow their standard of living by moving into pristine lands and exploiting their natural resources is basically over. Lands are either already being exploited, or are intentionally protected. And the side effects of exploitation are starting to balance against the benefits.

We can't think about burning the next 1,000 tons of coal, the same way we thought about the first 1,000 tons of coal humanity burned.

I think you've got the idea that a growing human population was a major factor in building wealth and prosperity, which is not really true. Our ability to adapt to and exploit new areas of the Earth allowed us to grow wealth and prosperity despite steep population growth.

I'm not advocating for forced sterilization. But it is absolutely true that humanity cannot continue to grow its standard of living by just keeping on with what worked 100 years ago.


Humanity has occupied effectively the full extent of the globe since the last Ice Age ended 10,000 years ago. Any increases in territory since then have come at the expense of some group that was living there before.


> Remember, rising empires build roads, and declining empires build walls.

That’s a fine statement but the wall building is a symptom of decline, not a cause of it. I don’t think the Roman Empire would have reversed it’s decline by building more roads to Scotland and Germany.


> I heard an interesting idea the other day: give all males a vasectomy (or some form of long-term birth control) at the age of 14. The purpose is to make having children a conscious decision instead of a "whoops!" and put downward pressure on the overall population.

Wtf did I just read?


I've heard this suggested seriously in a number of places lately. (Often in response to the recent abortion bans - there's a "Men cause 100% of unintended pregnancies!" meme going around.) Don't necessarily agree with it, just like I don't agree with the abortion bans, but be aware that there is a sizable contingent of people who seriously want this to happen.


Is it really serious, or is it just counter-trolling?


I suspect it's what you are characterizing as "counter-trolling*, but with intent to make a point: Pregnancy isn't something women do by themselves. There's going to be a man involved.

Historically, we have generally tried to hold both parties responsible. Women were expected to refuse to put out until marriage. If you got a girl "in trouble," shot gun weddings were a thing.

But men were generally expect to earn the primary income and women were expected to primarily care for the family and maybe supplement the income. With people generally having fewer kids on average and women more often expecting real careers with status, income and job satisfaction, things have gotten vastly more complicated and "you two need to just get hitched" is not sitting well with most folks.

(There's a lot I'm leaving out. This isn't intended to be comprehensive, just a thumbnail sketch.)


>Pregnancy isn't something women do by themselves. There's going to be a man involved.

Plenty of women use sperm banks...

This is very much the exception and yes, a man is involved, but the transaction is 100% voluntary on the part of the woman without any specific intent towards that specific woman on the part of the man.


Use of sperm banks and unintended, accidental pregnancy are pretty much mutually exclusive.


I'm suggesting it seriously. Our planet is already butting heads with climate disaster, and one of the more obvious problems is the sheer number of people on the planet that are creating byproducts and waste.

Given finite resources, you cannot have infinite population. So you can either restrict population growth or let it balloon out of control and deal with much worse consequences. It's not a matter of personal liberties, it's a matter of resource management. And without effective resource management, there is no personal liberty.


I think it started as counter-trolling, and then a bunch of people were like "Wait, that's actually a pretty good idea." Which is the danger of trolling in the first place...you might dredge up some idea that's better left alone.


"Trolling is a art" afterall.


Many "first world/developed" countries are already starting to rely on immigration to have a ~2.1 birth rate (necessary for non declining population levels). I doubt vasectomies would fly in other countries.

Not to mention the idea of vasectomies for every teen is unfeasible and dumb.


> put downward pressure on the overall population.

Most of the developed world already has below replacement-rate fertility (in some cases significantly below).


> “Economists need to stop optimizing for growth and start optimizing for fixed size.”

this is too abstract, general, and more importantly, unsupported. we have no idea what the future holds, especially about what markets will open up and where capital (which is a proxy for human focus and effort) will flow. we don’t know how many people the world can hold, especially as we solve the problems we create while growing (a principle challenge of civilizations), and whether we will eventually colonize other worlds. humans are ingenious and continually defy such simple characterizations.

in any case, i do agree we citizens should constantly monitor and assess the effects of monetary policy on the wider world. the govt’s interest in inflation is principally for growth (money devalues unless you keep making more) and our central control of interest rates is in service of making sure we grow faster than our neighbor to preserve our economic lead and the global political power that confers. it’s ok to sometimes slow down and enjoy the fruits of our collective labor.


> we don’t know how many people the world can hold

We DO know that at our current population and current level of technology and/or level of comfort, the world CANNOT hold the number of people that are currently occupying it. That's why we're facing climate disaster and unprecedented levels of pollution. There's just too many of us.

So, the answer is to, if not shrink the population, at least not keep growing it incessantly. People are acting like population controls are some huge affront to them. In a place with limited resources, you need to limit the number of mouths to feed, or resource shortages (or evironmental catastrophe) will do it for you, and much more violently.


>We DO know that at our current population and current level of technology and/or level of comfort, the world CANNOT hold the number of people that are currently occupying it.

Do we? I'm pretty sure that the simple fact these people ARE currently occupying the globe proves this false.

Now, if you mean cannot forever hold this many people, well, perhaps - but assuming all technological advancement and rollout will cease seem to fly in the face of history.


> Do we? I'm pretty sure that the simple fact these people ARE currently occupying the globe proves this false.

Right, and the earth is being destroyed rapidly because of it. And "technology will save us" may be true, but why not also try to fix the real problem?


"Optimizing for fixed size" implies that comparative advantages are not a thing, and economic growth only comes from exploiting poorer countries (at least, as far as I can understand).

Do you really believe this?


Our current economic system's growth is based off of exploitation. As far as growth in general, I think there are very few frontiers left. Almost all usable land has been claimed. Almost all minable resources are being extracted. There are certainly going to be technological gains that will increase quality of living, but is that "growth" in the sense that we're producing more than before?

People seem to be really offended by the idea of not having a growth economy. As if it's some horrible thing that at some point our population will remain constant and we can find an economic model that doesn't rely on consuming an ever-growing amount of resources (blasphemy).


Maybe i should start calling myself that. Kevas, Wealth Detective.

There's a person that has a Huntington Beach address that's owed over one million by California. There's hundreds of thousands of dollars waiting for Google and its subsidies to claim. This is the same for all major corporations... In Los Angeles County, a certain Agency has overcharged nearly all of their commercial customers hundreds of millions (possibly billion(s)) of dollars over the last few decade.

Wealth Detective has a nice ring to it.


> when New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed on 60 Minutes to hike the top marginal tax rate to as much as 70% on income above $10 million, Zucman and Saez were fast out with a New York Times op-ed in support.

Isn't he smart enough to know that such a tax would only serve to permanently entrench the super wealthy?

That's why I think Warren's wealth tax is much smarter and would effective.


> Isn't he smart enough to know that such a tax would only serve to permanently entrench the super wealthy?

How?


because no-one will ever be able to make enough money to challenge the position of the super wealthy. The super wealthy, barring extreme inflation and unavoidable estate taxes, would become the permanently super wealthy.


You should be able to avoid this via properly designed and implemented marginal tax brackets.


is there evidence that there presently exist people who challenge the super wealthy who would be immediately and obviously affected by the tax?

Even a single example would be helpful


I'm guessing because actual wealth accumulates though capital gains and income sources that are not classified or taxed as "income"


I wonder if a neural net could be trained on this problem, to "scour" en masse


> One proposal, posted on Twitter by Adam Bonica, a political science professor at Stanford, was for a 100% tax on wealth beyond $500 million. He based it on what he called “Beyoncé’s rule,” which he explains as, “Think of the most talented and hardest-working person you know, and think about how much money they have and how much money they deserve.” Queen Bey, he tweeted, has an estimated net worth in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars. “Let’s have Howard Schultz explain to us why he should be worth more than Beyoncé.”

I don't think a statement has ever made me more furious than this.


This may be considered OT, but since we are on the subject of the "Super Rich" I'd just like to remark that I've never understood the cult of personality surrounding Beyonce. The people I know who like Beyonce, really like Beyonce. It's borderline religious worship.

About the only pop star that has ever made sense to me for was Michael Jackson, and that's pushing it.


I think it may have been intended specifically to make you that angry.


I think 100% is too high, but I'd consider 80%-90% reasonable.

There comes a point at which marginal wealth stops having much utility, other than as a metric to compare yourself to others.

Steve Jobs's behavior provides a decent demonstration of this. He was okay taking a $1 salary because it cast him as the great CEO taking a hit for his company. But when the board insisted on paying him, he told them their offer was too low. He wanted to be _either_ the great sacrificing CEO or the great CEO who is equally well-compensated, because he didn't actually need the money, but he wanted the reputation from it.

If it's just being used as a yardstick anyway, we might as well tax most of it.


There comes a point at which marginal wealth stops having any utility

No there doesn't. Whatever you can't spend goes towards making sure your descendants are taken care of. Or you can donate it to the various charitable organizations of your choosing.


Fuck that. Leave your descendants no more than 10M each and anything over goes into a social dividend. It's the "you got to be incredibly wealthy for decades and leave a fortune to your family and now you can repay the society that gave you all that wealth" tax.

If we make it as easy as we do to become incredibly wealthy, we should make it just as hard to stay wealthy.


Lol. If it were easy to become wealthy then we probably wouldn't be having this discussion. Besides, a social dividend implies that somebody else decides how to spend my hard-earned money. Fuck that!


> Lol. If it were easy to become wealthy then we probably wouldn't be having this discussion.

That doesn't logically follow. I think that a great portion of what makes wealthy people wealthy is blind luck. That's not to say that Jeff Bazos isn't a great businessman or a hard worker, but I'm not convinced he's the greatest businessman there is.


> If we make it as easy as we do to become incredibly wealthy, we should make it just as hard to stay wealthy.

What possible reason could one have for making it “hard” to stay wealthy, other than pure spite and jealousy? How does it benefit society in any way?


Circulating money is a good thing. Stagnant money not so much.


Wealthy people invest their money. It doesn’t “stagnate”.


Extreme concentration of wealth is detrimental to society as a whole.


How exactly are you measuring “concentration of wealth”? And why do you think high values of that measure are “detrimental to society as a whole”? Take note of the difference between cause and effect.


Only to the extent that the disutility to other people isn't too high. Imagine, say, the CEO of Foxconn pushing their staff to the extent that an unusually high number commit suicide, then dying and choosing to give it all to a cat charity. Are we really saying that's the best we can possibly achieve in terms of human social organisation?


You can also start projects that mere mortals can only dream of, and hedge your bets against amazing technology being available only to the wealthiest people in the future.


I think that it is great that Jeff Bezos was able to grow his wealth by owning a good part of the company he started and now is in the position to spend about $1 billion a year on developing rockets and spacecraft.


I can’t think of a statement - beyond, perhaps, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights - that I have agreed with more.

There is simply no use for one individual to have that much wealth. Tax it, and individuals will find creative ways to put it to use instead of hoarding it.


Tax it, and individuals will find creative ways to put it to use instead of hoarding it.

You seem to think the ultra rich have Scrooge McDuck style swimming pools of cash or stacks of gold bars in a cave somewhere doing nothing but somehow "storing" accumulated wealth.

This is generally not true. Most billionaires appear to have most of their wealth in the form of stocks in a company they run. (AKA investment in the economy)

There's lots of valid criticisms to be made of extreme wealth inequality. The rich supposedly "doing nothing" with their money doesn't seem to be one of them.


> Most billionaires appear to have most of their wealth in the form of stocks in a company they run.

That's a lot worse. Owning stocks means having control over a company and thus power. One unelected person having so much more power than others is incompatible with democracy.

A Scrooge McDuck style gold pile, in contrast, would make gold slightly more expensive but wouldn't influence the economy otherwise.


He's more or less saying "no one should ever be richer than my favorite singer." I can't possibly think of a shallower way to talk about wealth inequality.


The argument was that nobody should be richer than what they can earn through work, or "exploitation" of themselves as a capital asset. Ronaldo would also work as a yardstick. Earning purely through property or being a boss wouldn't. It's an interesting one to explore, as there are all sorts of annoying corner cases possible.


The royalties an artist receives are a form of passive income. Beyonce had to work to create an asset (her music), but when she's done with a recording the income comes from controlling the asset, not directly from her labor. It's really not that much different to owning a business. She's still capturing an outsize portion of the value from a process that involves thousands of other people.

Wealthy musicians are still capitalists, and getting rich running a business that employs thousands should be as respectable as singing, if not more so.


Seriously, stop thinking about the singer and think about the number. $500,000,000. That's a lot of money. The world is a crazy place right now, and part of it has to do with so few people amassing so much wealth.


Sorry, to clarify, I wasn't necessarily opposing the wealth cap. I was reacting to the view that Beyonce and Schulz's contribution to the world are comparable, or even the suggestion that somehow Beyonce has contributed more. Starbucks is a company that employees tens of thousand of people, and delivers value to millions of customers around the world.

I think the view that Schulz shouldn't have more than 500 million isn't unreasonable, but it seems very clear to me that he should have more than Beyonce.


> I can’t think of a statement - beyond, perhaps, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights - that I have agreed with more.

That Beyonce is the most talented and hardworking person? That no one should have a higher net worth than her? You have some very strange views.


If you are worried about wealth concentration, there is nothing that concentrates more of it than government.


I'm having a very hard time believing your statement, because all you need to do is substitute $500,000,000 for her name and ask yourself should people have more wealth than that, with all the inequality in the world right now?


I was upset by the notion that Beyonce's contribution to the world would be considered on par with, or even remotely close to, Howard Schulz's. Starbucks is a company that employs tens of thousands of people, and delivers value to millions of customers the world over. Beyonce's great, but they're pretty clearly not in the same league.


>I'm having a very hard time believing your statement, because all you need to do is substitute $500,000,000 for her name and ask yourself should people have more wealth than that, with all the inequality in the world right now?

Imagine a world where every human being on the planet had another $100 a month in wealth but Beyonce happened to double her wealth as a result. This seems like a good thing to me but others may disagree.


> Remember, he points out, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the income tax unconstitutional in 1895; it took a constitutional amendment to legalize it in 1913. “There’s a lot of policy innovation ahead of us,” he says.

Why not just get rid of the entire Constitution then? The idea of changing our constitution from that of a liberal republic to that of an authoritarian state should be universally met with disdain.

This is not a matter of liking the rich. I disagree wholeheartedly with the politics and spirituality of Gates, Zuckerberg, and Bezos. However, the idea that the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit is a quick step towards a totalitarian nightmare.


> However, the idea that the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit is a quick step towards a totalitarian nightmare.

Not really? Only in the case where the government is no longer beholden to the people (or the rich). Right now, the federal government in general is more or less a captured agency of Wall St and the tax policy follows as such. Either way, no matter who controls the government, there's a vested interest in setting tax policy that above all else, optimizes for stability. I mean, you're a voluntary exchange type, right? Is it in the government's rational self interest to set a tax policy that causes revolt?

Also, who protects that private property you love so much? There's a cost associated with that. This whole "taxes are theft!" nonsense is becoming tiresome. You're part of a society. Pay your membership fees and stop whining.


> Only in the case where the government is no longer beholden to the people (or the rich)

No. The exact opposite. Only in the case when the government is beholden to the people can it be expected to protect the rights of those people. Otherwise, it is rule by those in power, which is just as bad (if not worse than) as rule by the rich. Power does not always come in the form of money.

> taxes are theft!

Stop with the strawmen. I didn't say taxes were theft, I just said this wanton approach to the legal system, especially at the highest levels of law, without any forethought for what kind of thing this opens up, should be met with universal criticism. Taxing property of the rich sounds like a great idea, but the truth of the matter is that giving government this broad power allows it to also do things like take poor people's personal possessions whenever they see fit.

Already, even with our rather strong legislation in place, some government agencies have found it okay to use search warrants to seize private property (thankfully the SC reversed that idiocy), but the fact of the matter is that government is one of the few agencies well known to overstep any and all power given to it.

> You're part of a society. Pay your membership fees and stop whining.

I'm quite happy to support a liberal government. I would not be happy to support authoritarianism, and I think you wouldn't be too.


The argument that passing a constitutional amendment using the approach to constitutional amendments set down in the original constitution is a "wanton approach to the legal system" is ridiculous.


I don't think it's ridiculous at all. I never said it would be illegal, I said it would demonstrate a lack of care and consideration -- like Prohibition (also passed legally, without doubt).


And the original constitution's treatment of tax apportionment expressly acknowledged slavery as a legitimate practice. So perhaps a constitional amendment process can do good things too!

Back in the real world, the federal government has always used its constitutional entitlement to tax people, and despite your clearly bad faith insinuations, the Sixteenth had absolutely no impact on its [in]ability to take the possessions of the poor whenever it saw fit or implications for search warrant seizures. What the amendment actually did after nearly two decades of careful consideration and public debate was remove an odd quirk in the constitution whereby in the eyes of the Supreme Court the federal government could directly tax individuals and companies as much as it liked, but only if the total amount contributed from a state was proportional to its population (which made assessing direct taxes based on variables like incomes and corporate profits rather than fixed things like the right to vote difficult).

If your definition of the difference between a "liberal republic" and an "authoritarian state" is based on whether the constitution mandates that the quantity of direct tax collected in each region is proportional to its census counts, you really, really don't understand the concept of liberty.


No, the 'odd quirk' was that it explicitly required that the tax money from each state be earmarked, held in a separate fund, and only spent in the same state that the tax was originally collected from. FWIW you could buy stuff in each state and send it to DC, but you couldn't use the money to pay salaries in DC. Partly it was intended to prevent a donor state / receiver state situation - https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/which-s...


Hmmm... I don't think I ever argued against an income tax. I only argued against a personal property tax, pointing out that the government is typically very happy to take from the poor, even without any law making it explicitly legal (see the civil forfeiture cases). My main point so far has been to urge the utmost caution in these laws. It is certainly not something to enact simply because we want to make Mr Gates less wealthy. That is a bad reason to open the flood gates.


> government is one of the few agencies well known to overstep any and all power given to it.

It seems that pretty much all agencies (and most individuals) overstep any and all power granted.


Luckily we don't grant individuals the right to take property or liberty or life without criminal consequences


> Pay your membership fees

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay roughly 37 percent of all income taxes, while the bottom 90 percent pay roughly 30 percent. Do you consider that an equitable “membership fee”?


> Why not just get rid of the entire Constitution then?

Because the Constitution -- or more generally if you like, the idea of what a Republic is -- has a lot more to it than the question of whether an income tax is within the powers of its institutions.

> the idea that the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit is a quick step towards a totalitarian nightmare.

It might be interesting to examine the question of how "the government may assess taxes at rates which can be justified to the citizens who elect representatives and other officeholders" transforms in the mind to "the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit", apparently without any notice of either the skipped steps or the actual observable realities of not-totalitarian-nightmare in America since 1913.


> Because the Constitution -- or more generally if you like, the idea of what a Republic is -- has a lot more to it than the question of whether an income tax is within the powers of its institutions.

An income tax is wholly different from a property tax. A fundamental tenant to liberalism is that you have an innate right to your life, liberty, and property. Taxing income does not tax your property; it rather taxes the rate at which one acquires property. A property tax is a tax on an inalienable right. It's like the government requiring you to pay a specific tax in order to have particular freedoms. I find that to be morally questionable.

> "the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit"

You are insisting I am arguing against income tax. I'm not. The article (did you read it?) suggests a tax on personal property including real estate, luxuries, etc. These things do not have innate value that can be measured unless sold. Thus, someone needs to come up with a valuation.


I think arguing that real estate taxes would be totalitarianism in a country that already has them is a bit of a non-starter.


Did I argue real estate taxes were totalitarianism? No.


> However, the idea that the government has any right to tax private property at whatever valuation they see fit is a quick step towards a totalitarian nightmare.

Many (most?) towns already have a property tax on houses and condos.


Im unsure of the point of this comment. The constitution restricts the taxing ability of the federal government. States of course are fully sovereign over their land and have broad discretion to levy taxes. Thus their ability to levy this tax speaks nothing about not wanting the Feds to have the same power. State income tax was also legal well before federal income tax.

Back to your point -- while property tax is a form of wealth tax, I do believe it is different. Real estate is a kind of property that one owns at the mercy of the state. It is not something that anyone -- other than sovereign governments -- really own. That being said, there is also danger in raising property taxes so i think any such tax should be met with intense scrutiny


> Real estate is a kind of property that one owns at the mercy of the state. It is not something that anyone -- other than sovereign governments -- really own.

That would be true if that tax was only on the value of the land. But it's not. The value of the structure on that land is part of the tax.


Permanent fixtures (like homes) are -- in common law -- typically considered part of the land.


And condos?

But I don't think this actually changes anything. Clearly, homes and condos are considered private property. Whether or not the government has certain rights to that property (eminent domain, search with a warrant), most people consider it their property. So house and condo taxes are going to be perceived by people as taxes on their property. I also claim that we are not currently in a "totalitarian nightmare." So maybe people are okay if the government decides on a case-by-case basis what kind of property can be taxed.

Also: some states have car taxes. And boat taxes.


Personally I wish the federal government just taxed the states by census apportionment per the constitution and left it up to the states how to tax their residents to raise the money.


You say you don’t like authoritarianism but what’s the difference between feudalism and a system where a tiny percentage of people control the vast majority of the wealth?

Freedom isn’t just freedom from government. I don’t see much difference to someone with no money between bending the knee to Washington and bending it to google or Facebook.


> between feudalism and a system where a tiny percentage of people control the vast majority of the wealth

In feudalism, the working class is considered the same as a home -- a part of the land -- that can be sold along with the estate. Asking how this differs from a free society with a subset of rich people is like asking how chattel slavery differs from modern society.

The fact is that Bill Gate's wealth does not impact my personal freedom or ability to collect my own wealth.

> Freedom isn’t just freedom from government

The purpose of government is to ensure freedom from other people -- that is why government is the one entity allowed to use mechanisms no other individual is allowed to use.

My fundamental disagreement with you is that I do not believe Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet's, etc, wealth impacts my inalienable right to life, liberty, and property.


"I do not believe Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet's, etc, wealth impacts my inalienable right to life, liberty, and property."

That seems simple enough, however there are a multitude of secondary effects that happen when you allow individuals or corporations to amass the levels of wealth we see today. This enables them to monopolize markets through a variety of means and subvert the political process. Even without Citizen's United making bribery pretty much legal such wealthy entities would still be able to use their wealth to influence society.

Simply because Gates was in the right place and time to develop a near OS monopoly he should have a disproportionate say in society's politics?

These are not simple problems to solve, but then again they aren't that difficult either.


> This enables them to monopolize markets through a variety of means and subvert the political process

You mean their wealth allows them to offer people money to do services and provide goods in exchange for it? If Mark Zuckerberg or Gates were hiring hitmen, enslaving people with their private army, etc, we can have a conversation, but I won't condemn someone for asking someone else to do something for them and giving them money in return.

> Simply because Gates was in the right place and time to develop a near OS monopoly he should have a disproportionate say in society's politics?

Well I personally think the government should be doing substantially less, which reduces the efficacy of lobbying.

> Simply because Gates was in the right place and time to develop a near OS monopoly he should have a disproportionate say in society's politics?

I am not sure what the question means. I have lots of opinions on what one 'should' do, but -- unless necessary to protect someone's life, liberty, or property -- I hesitate to enforce them by law. For example, I think driving a car to work when you could take a bus is immoral, and I think no one 'should' do that, but I would refuse to make it law. I feel similarly here.

But coming back to reality, Having more wealth means you have an increased ability to influence others.

Do you think being a famous artist means you 'should' be able to have a disproportionate say in society's politics? Why or why not? But regardless of what you think, famous people always do.

Coming back to Gates, I don't like that he has that ability personally, because I disagree with a lot of his social policy, but I won't stoop to taking his money. It is ultimately his money, earned legally. If you find he did something illegal, then I think he should be prosecuted and jailed.

> These are not simple problems to solve, but then again they aren't that difficult either.

Again, I think the fundamental disagreement is that I do not believe there is a problem. There is no allegation of criminal means of money accrual; there is no allegation of using that money in an illegal fashion. The only accusation is that they ask people (and I'm not talking politicians here -- that's illegal; I mean their NGO or corporate employees) to do things they want and offer them money in exchange. That is legal, and a fundamental right.


How did Citizens United “make bribery legal”?


> Why not just get rid of the entire Constitution then? The idea of changing our constitution from that of a liberal republic to that of an authoritarian state should be universally met with disdain.

But it's wasn't universally met with disdain, it was broadly agreed upon. The amendment procedure requires 3/4 of the states to ratify it. The 16th amendment got 42 out of the 48 states at the time (87%).

Aside from this, federal income taxes were just a shift away from the previous way that the federal government raised money before the 16th amendment, which was primarily through tariffs. From a libertarian perspective, is there really much of a difference? Tariffs are regressive and come with all sorts of political issues that income taxes don't have.


Would you be ok with a geo-libertarian style land value tax?


I don't have a positive opinion on taxation that I'm willing to share really. I simply would like to urge caution with regard to the idea of allowing the government to tax wealth simply because we don't like the fact that the Zuck is rich.


I read his point the other way: you can't just randomly experiment; there's an existing framework, which can be adapted as we learn more / change our minds.

Which seems like a perfectly rational statement.


> Why not just get rid of the entire Constitution then?

This, but unironically


Seriously, tathougies should be King.


yeah, don't want any of your slaves fleeing to other states

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


Yeah, don't want an otherwise good constitution because of a provision that has been repealed for over 150 years.


> otherwise good constitution

well, if we're capable of telling the good parts from the bad parts, why do we need it in the first place.

- edit, you contradicted your initial "slippery slope" point. either we judge the constitution or the constitution judges us. either it's a buffet where you take what you like or you don't. which one is it, tauthage?


> you contradicted your initial "slippery slope" point. either we judge the constitution or the constitution judges us. either it's a buffet where you take what you like or you don't. which one is it, tauthage?

If we lived in a world where the constitution currently allowed slavery, I'd say begone with it. But we do not, and I am uninterested in considering what I'd do if I lived in a time I do not.


>>an otherwise good constitution

This bold assumption is where the issue comes in. There's plenty of constitution that I'd be fine shredding and plenty more that could really use some specific, involved updating. The whole of the 2nd amendment can fuck off and I wouldn't shed a tear. 3rd feels like it doesn't need to be at "cornerstone of our government" levels, and the 4th could really use some extra juice to it. Also, based on recent events, we can get rid of the 10th and I'd be happier.

TL;dr- Having a constitution is great. Ours could use some work.


I'd be a lot happier if we actually acted like the 10th means what it says.


The more governments try to control the economy and the flow of capital, the more inefficiencies and unintended consequences will be created.

The entire offshore investment market only exists as a result of high tax burdens. Economic resources that go to sustaining that industry would be better spent expanding production of goods and services that enhance people's lives. The tax rates of major economies are far too high and beyond what is optimal..




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