Jeff Bezos Has Too Much Money
October 23, 2018 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Maybe the most “fun” part of the game is not literally spending Jeff Bezos’s money, but remembering that he is only one of many, many newly minted, appallingly wealthy Silicon Valley tycoons. Each of them has not just a lot of money, but a truly earthshaking fortune with which every day they choose to do mostly nothing. “You Are Jeff Bezos, how much can you spend before you run out of money?
posted by The Whelk (89 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
I played this a few days ago and the first and last screen of this game made me laugh out loud.
posted by bigendian at 9:49 AM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Christ, toyed around with this a bit yesterday. All it really does is make me want to sharpen the blade of the guillotine I wish I could afford to behead monsters like this. I am utterly incapable of expressing my feelings on this matter without resorting to wishing violence on such abusive individuals. Buying a home for every homeless person and still having more money leftover than you'd ever be able to spend... what kind of piece of shit fucking scumbag wouldn't do that if they could? Why should we let anyone unwilling to do that become so wealthy as to be able to do it and not?
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:49 AM on October 23, 2018 [39 favorites]


At least he's not a fascist. That we know of.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:50 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


this is so colossally depressing. while i'm happy to live my satisfying life, ignorant of this type of knowledge, it's important to be reminded - every now and then - that this sick wealth, should not be seen as normal (and to get a glimpse into what those high numbers really mean).
posted by rude.boy at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


From the author's Twitter thread on the game:
The most upsetting thing to me when I was researching was finding out how many things you actually CAN'T afford, even with Bezos money. Almost as if individual wealth is an inadequate solution to solving major systemic problems and we should have taxes or something!

[...]

Even if you rolled Bezos, Musk, Gates, and a few others into one unholy katamari of selfishness, the hoarded wealth still isn't enough to, say, pay off student loan debt ($1.5 trillion). It really just illustrates how absurd money is at scale.
posted by Iridic at 9:57 AM on October 23, 2018 [50 favorites]


I don't have it in me to go track down the exact numbers again, but I have pointed out in the past that there's only something like 560 billionaires in the US, but they control enough wealth that you could strip all of it away and leave each with precisely $1BN and:

(a) They'd still be the wealthiest 560 people in the country

(b) You could give every member of every family in the country whose household income is up to twice the poverty line something like $75,000. Not every family -- every family member.

And unlike the super-rich, these people would actually, y'know, spend the money on things like housing, goods, and services, thus using it to improve the economy. Imagine that!
posted by tocts at 9:59 AM on October 23, 2018 [57 favorites]


I would like to know why they aren't spending it on solving problems. Is it because they want to devote 100% of their cognitive bandwidth to their company, and don't have a trusted person of good judgment to delegate the social-good investing to? I can imagine they are barraged with pleas for donations.

I wish we had one or two, or people who know their thinking well, who could come here and explain.
posted by Baeria at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I assume they mean Silicon Valley tycoon in the metaphorical sense, since as far as I know neither he nor his company is from Silicon Valley, or even California (though they may have offices there).
posted by eye of newt at 10:05 AM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


One of my colleagues turned a similar idea into a Twitter bot, Bezos In Context. It looks for headlines that mention dollar amounts, and translates them into Bezos equivalents. For example:
Neiman Marcus has released its coveted Christmas Book, curating a selection of holiday gifts. The most expensive item this year is priced at $7.1 million (74-Foot Neiman Marcus Edition Serenity Solar Yacht).
$7.1 million? Jeff Bezos could buy 20,762 of those.
The price for Seattle to host World Cup soccer games could top $10 million, according to very early estimates. But almost all the money would be recovered, the city says.
It took Bezos 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 26 seconds to earn $10 million.
Sometimes it gets into arguments.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


At least he's not a fascist.

Jeff Bezos would literally feed his own grandmother through a meat grinder if it meant he wouldn't have to pay an extra $10 in corporate income taxes and the whole time he was doing it, his heart rate wouldn't deviate one BPM from his average resting rate. (Hyperbole? I guess that remains to be seen...)
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2018 [21 favorites]


My takeaways:

1. No one person should have such personal wealth at their disposal.
2. It would honestly be pretty easy to spend over $100 billion in a government budget (where it belongs).
3. I am not so concerned with the many worthwhile things the megarich could be funding. They shouldn't be the arbiters.
4. I am concerned about where they do spend their money.

Anand Giridharadas has been writing about self-serving philanthropy: "Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World"
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2018 [17 favorites]


The game is fine and all but yes, Jeff Bezos doesn't really have that much money.

It would take that much money to buy Amazon from him.

He's not going to sell it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2018 [18 favorites]


At least he's not a fascist. That we know of.

The Washington Post, which Bezos now owns, supported every pro-business, pro-right wing / profiteering education "reform", pro-unchecked development, anti-living wage candidate running in DC right now in its election endorsements (including some transparent stooges like Dionne Reeder).

Bezos may not be a fascist, but he's the kind of pro-corporate, pro-status quo liberal that is always a useful handmaiden for fascism, then acts shocked when it finally turns on them, too.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:18 AM on October 23, 2018 [29 favorites]


Is it not true that the Washington Post is the (or, nearly the) best national newspaper we have in the U.S.? What would it be like without him?
posted by Baeria at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


This would be a 'portrait' I did a few weeks back of Mr Bezos, as he prepare to inhale the rest of the planet's wealth into his voracious, sucking maw.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:32 AM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


The game is fine and all but yes, Jeff Bezos doesn't really have that much money.

It would take that much money to buy Amazon from him.

He's not going to sell it.


I'm not planning on selling my house any time soon. In fact, there's a small part of me that'd like to never ever move again, and live there til I die. But if someone were discussing how much I have, it'd be fair to count my total assets, even if I don't plan on divesting them.
posted by explosion at 10:35 AM on October 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


What does Jeff Bezos have to do with Silicon Valley tycoons?
posted by humboldt32 at 10:39 AM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


But if someone were discussing how much I have, it'd be fair to count my total assets, even if I don't plan on divesting them.

Are you going to sell your house to fix Flint's water?

Assets overall are not the same as liquid cash, or even liquid non-cash assets.

Like, don't get me wrong, dude is rich as balls and could easily do one of those things in the game. He could not do it all.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


From the article: But that leaves $17 billion, which you, Jeff Bezos, can use to abolish the electoral college ($380 million)

I mean, the principle holds regardless — he has an obscene, profane amount of money. But how do you assign a price to the abolition of the electoral college? Funding the campaigns of a sufficient number of agreeable politicians? Buying a marketing and PR blitz for a constitutional convention?
posted by penduluum at 10:44 AM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yes, the important takeaway here is that someone used a general term that if taken completely literally means they committed the sin of casually mis-identifying the specific region that a tech mogul made his billions in.
posted by tocts at 10:44 AM on October 23, 2018 [36 favorites]


What does Jeff Bezos have to do with Silicon Valley tycoons?

The US tech industry overall is often referred to as "Silicon Valley" in spite of not all companies being headquartered in the region.

That said, Amazon has hundred or perhaps thousands of employees in Silicon Valley. He's as much a Silicon Valley tycoon as anyone. He's also a Seattle tycoon, a Washington DC newspaper baron and New York tycoon (as again Amazon has hundreds to thousands of employees in NYC)
posted by GuyZero at 10:46 AM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


From the game:
"Sure, sure. It's also true that no billionaire just sits on a giant pile of cash; most of Bezos' wealth is abstracted into stocks, investments, and so forth.

But that's not the scope of this simulation. This simulation is about spending all of Jeff Bezos' fucking money."
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:48 AM on October 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


What would it be like without him?

It has long been a center-right, pro-business paper, and has made no changes under his direction. I don't see it as a coincidence, however, that they endorsed Jason Andrean for the Ward 1 State Board of Ed seat - he's affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter / school privatization PAC to which Bezos is a donor.

If you're in DC, vote in Ward 1, and care about public education, I strongly recommend backing Emily Gasoi.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


From the game:

It's true he doesn't have all this money, but whatever!

The game might as well be called spend all of GuyZero's money because I don't have that much money either.

Although again, Jeff Bezon has way more money than me. At least until the lottery draw tonight.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


> I would like to know why they aren't spending it on solving problems. Is it because they want to devote 100% of their cognitive bandwidth to their company, and don't have a trusted person of good judgment to delegate the social-good investing to? I can imagine they are barraged with pleas for donations.

Questions like this reminds me of stories about people in the USSR thinking that corruption in their local party would be solved “if only Stalin knew about it!”

I have a relative who worked for a PR firm that took on Amazon as a client. The company spent a staggering amount of money to get the press to report on a relatively small donation Amazon had made to an elementary school. If I had to estimate, I’d guess that they ended up giving a thousand dollars to consultants for every dollar they gave to the school.

Moreover, it’s not like the higher-ups at Amazon didn’t know what was going on or whatever — said relative told me about email chains where fiddly little decisions about how to promote the small donation ended up being made by people like seven layers up in the Amazon hierarchy.

Don’t pretend for a second that people in power share your values. They act like immoral monsters because they are immoral monsters.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:52 AM on October 23, 2018 [26 favorites]


Are you going to sell your house to fix Flint's water?

One key difference here is, unlike my house (which I pay taxes on yearly based on its value regardless of whether I would be willing to sell it), Bezos can keep the literally ~$135B he has tied up in Amazon stock indefinitely and pay nothing in taxes on it until one day maybe he has to do so if he sells some and his accountants can't figure out a way to defray them.

Also I need a place to live, and nobody (Jeff Bezos or otherwise) needs $135B in wealth.
posted by tocts at 10:53 AM on October 23, 2018 [19 favorites]


Assets overall are not the same as liquid cash, or even liquid non-cash assets.

Not sure what your point is here in a discussion about wealth. Assets are wealth.

The U.S. stock market is one of the most liquid in the world and Amazon trades as one of the most liquid stocks in that market. Amazon trades over $8 billion in shares every single day. If Bezos wanted to convert his shares to cash, he would have no problem doing it. If he tried to do it too quickly, he would depress the share price temporarily, but that wouldn't prevent him from getting cash.
posted by JackFlash at 10:54 AM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


This thread is bringing to mind this observation.
(You influence what the other person says in a dialogue, by what you say.)
posted by Baeria at 10:59 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


You know how on a box of Tylenol it lists Acetaminophen as the 'Active Ingredient' and then a bunch of other junk as the 'Inactive Ingredients'?

The following facts are the 'Inactive Ingredients' of this thread:
  • Amazon is not literally located in Silicon Valley
  • Jeff Bezos is not literally worth $156 Billion
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:01 AM on October 23, 2018 [45 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; issue about "Silicon Valley" being both a place and a shorthand for internet stuff duly noted, but let's call it done, since that specific phrase isn't the point here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:06 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I feel like there's some kind of connection to the Paul Allen thread we just had. Just can't...quite...put...my...finger...on...it...
posted by praemunire at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2018


But how do you assign a price to the abolition of the electoral college?

Marketing campaign to promote the National Popular Vote interstate compact - if states totaling 270 electoral votes agree to assign their electors to match the popular vote, it doesn't matter what the other states do. They have 172 votes lined up.

A get-out-the-vote campaign in Texas would go a long way towards the rest of it--money doesn't buy votes, but it does buy access to legal ID, registration drives, and transportation to polls.

...Funding "free transportation to the polls for EVERYONE on election day" would be a terrific thing for a billionaire to spend money on. Start small - everyone in a city or county; move up from there.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


I can think of exactly one billionaire who’s ever turned class traitor by attempting to replace oligarchy with democracy. The right wing has responded by turning his name into a swear word and whipping up an antisemitic frenzy against him. Recently one of the members of their antisemitic mob shipped a bomb to his house.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:35 AM on October 23, 2018 [28 favorites]


Jeff Bezos is not literally worth $156 Billion

My beef, such as it is, isn't just that he's not literally worth $X amount of money (although it is in part*).

My beef is that it misrepresents the way money and power interrelate. That you can simply buy a restored Puerto Rico. Sure, you need money to do it, absolutely. But you also need political will, agreement, consensus, stuff that politicians do that money really can't buy directly. You can't buy collective will.

"But we have collective will to fix Puerto Rico!" you scream, impotently, into your monitor. OK, well, the US Federal government also has more money than Bezos, does, heck, they make the money. And still nothing happened. I don't believe that the issue is fundamentally a lack of money.

"But the Kochs do it and all they have is money!" you shout, against your will, but unable to stop yourself as my narrative strawman. That's because they're eroding society and it's a lot easier to erode society than it is to build it, which is why it's rightly upsetting when people do it. Making stone into a pile of gravel is easy. Making a pile of gravel into a unified stone takes an enormous amount of effort and time.

Jeff Bezos can't just drop-ship infrastructure to Puerto Rico.

* And the thing that bugs me about the "literal worth" thing is that it's financially illiterate. It's like saying the economy is doing well because the Dow is up 200 points. The stock market is not the economy! Total assets are not cash! Bezos' stock is valuable to him because it allows him to control Amazon, possibly even more than the financial value of the shares themselves. It's possible that to Bezos his AMZN shares are worth even more than $156B, so why should he settle for less?
posted by GuyZero at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


> It's possible that to Bezos his AMZN shares are worth even more than $156B, so why should he settle for less?

adjust yr priors. you’re making the assumption that it’s both normal and alright to be a power-and-money-hungry sociopath. that is a
meaningfully wrong assumption. meanwhile, your argument about the exact value of bezos’s obscene fortune is not particularly meaningful.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:39 AM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


OK, well, the US Federal government also has more money than Bezos, does, heck, they make the money. And still nothing happened. I don't believe that the issue is fundamentally a lack of money.

Spending the government's money takes political will. But spending an individual's money? Maybe you think the $139B or whatever it was pricetag is too low because you'd need to ship supplies and so on. Fine. But if Bezos wanted to spend, say, $139B rebuilding houses in Puerto Rico, he could definitely do it with no political will involved. He just pays costs to ship materials and pays costs to hire contractors and gives it away to the first X people who get in line. Maybe you think he couldn't realistically cash out of his Amazon stock quickly enough to set up the project in one day. Yeah, that's right. But so what? He could say, "I am going to rebuild Puerto Rico over the next three months," and then convert assets over that period of time, buying and shipping materials, and hiring contractors. Right?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:46 AM on October 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


it's basically just immoral to be rich.

Like, that's known. that's a known fact. To hoard while others starve is immoral.

The problem is that our society is organized such that access to the necessities of life is in large part only available to people who help the rich, and who don't draw attention to the fact that being rich in a world with poverty is a crime. We need — and apologies for the troublesome r word I'm about to use — we need a social revolution wherein we collectively agree to value and care for each other more than we value and care for the rich. Unfortunately, that all has to happen at once, a bunch of us all together, because if one person alone goes ahead and start caring for their fellows more than for the rich, that person ends up getting cut off by the rich and starving to death in the street. in earlier times they'd crucify someone who cared for their fellows more than for the rich; these days they've learned that messily killing their opponents is less effective than just cutting them off from the means of living and waiting for them to die by themselves.

Moreover, the rich, who got that way and who stay that way by being sociopaths, are well aware of the threat posed by us all deciding to care for each other more than we care for them, and they're well prepared to do whatever it takes to stop it (see: the capitalists making common cause with fascists in the 1930s. see also: the capitalists making common cause with fascists in the 2010s.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:02 PM on October 23, 2018 [31 favorites]


Although again, Jeff Bezon has way more money than me. At least until the lottery draw tonight.

Jeff Bezos has sold roughly a million shares of Amazon a year for the last few years. You can win the lottery tonight and given the current stock price of Amazon, he will still make more money - and I mean that in terms of strict liquid cash income, not "total assets" - than you would this year. (Especially considering your lottery winnings will be taxed at a much higher rate than his capital gains!) And then he will make that much money or more next year. And the next year, and the next year. You could win a lottery jackpot like tonight's, every single year for the rest of your life, and Jeff Bezos will always be richer than you by every imaginable measurement. Y'know, barring a revolution or societal collapse anyways.

You can't buy collective will.

Jeff Bezos isn't a government. He doesn't need to buy collective will. He absolutely can drop-ship infrastructure to Puerto Rico; every step in that supply chain is absolutely willing to take his money and deliver those results if that's what he decides he wants to do with his money. He can easily hire workers to set up that infrastructure once it arrives. He doesn't need Puerto Rico's government to be collectively in favor of this, he just needs Puerto Rico's government to not be actively opposed to it. And he has an essentially unlimited amount of campaign donations to offer to make sure that's the case. This is an important distinction. This is precisely why "Big Philanthropy" can be dangerously un-democratic - because by having the budget to do things that are normally within a government's purview, Jeff Bezos can easily substitute "Jeff Bezos' will" for "collective will". The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has caught flak for exactly this kind of thing, overriding local health officials when deciding where and how to spend money on medical research grants.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:05 PM on October 23, 2018 [18 favorites]


If I had to estimate, I’d guess that they ended up giving a thousand dollars to consultants for every dollar they gave to the school.

See also (RED) or any corporate Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. I work for a retailer that trumpets on in-store signage how its giving $50K to such and such. That amount is on par with the money spent on marketing material to pat itself on the back. I presume you all read the Nike and U of Oregon post, companies don't give anything without expecting something back, that's how business's work.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:26 PM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Jeff Bezos isn't a government. He doesn't need to buy collective will. He absolutely can drop-ship infrastructure to Puerto Rico; every step in that supply chain is absolutely willing to take his money and deliver those results if that's what he decides he wants to do with his money. He can easily hire workers to set up that infrastructure once it arrives. He doesn't need Puerto Rico's government to be collectively in favor of this, he just needs Puerto Rico's government to not be actively opposed to it.

Yeah, for some thing, sure. He could build houses. And then answer all the questions about why some houses got build first and not other ones. Good times. But I actually sincerely don't think he can build roads or an electricity grid with pure dollars.

Maybe there is some amount of local licensing he could get that he could actually be a government-approved electric utility. But I think it takes a lot more to build infrastructure than mere complacence on the part of the local government.

Could he buy cooperation? Sure, I guess. But at that point I don't know which is crazier: a billionaire bribing people to be allow to spend his money or that people would be really into relying on the good will of billionaires to have roads and electricity. Both of these seem to me to be worse than just Scrooge McDuck billionaires sitting on their non-pile of paper money.
posted by GuyZero at 12:27 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


the chief problem with the idea of rich people suddenly deciding to do decent things with their money instead of hoarding it is that it assumes that the rich should have the right to decide what happens to their money.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:29 PM on October 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


My beef is that it misrepresents the way money and power interrelate. That you can simply buy a restored Puerto Rico. Sure, you need money to do it, absolutely. But you also need political will, agreement, consensus, stuff that politicians do that money really can't buy directly. You can't buy collective will.

I'm baffled that you think a dude who famously got hundreds of cities to compete to see who could promise to give him the most of their citizens money (bidding is now over 1.5 billion dollars!) will just be 100% stymied by these same local governments if he decided to help them build things that were of local benefit for none of their cost. Like sure, Mary Poppins could convince the kids to take medicine, but she has no chance to convince them to eat this chocolate bar.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:40 PM on October 23, 2018 [23 favorites]


It would take that much money to buy Amazon from him.

He's not going to sell it.


He could borrow against it- basically mortgaging his control of Amazon- and have billions to play with, until he dies. This would likely hand control over Amazon to... who knows, but he'd be dead already, so what does he care?
posted by BungaDunga at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, for some thing, sure. He could build houses. And then answer all the questions about why some houses got build first and not other ones. Good times. But I actually sincerely don't think he can build roads or an electricity grid with pure dollars.

Maybe there is some amount of local licensing he could get that he could actually be a government-approved electric utility. But I think it takes a lot more to build infrastructure than mere complacence on the part of the local government.

Could he buy cooperation? Sure, I guess. But at that point I don't know which is crazier: a billionaire bribing people to be allow to spend his money or that people would be really into relying on the good will of billionaires to have roads and electricity. Both of these seem to me to be worse than just Scrooge McDuck billionaires sitting on their non-pile of paper money.


I don't think any of these are really as hard or crazy as you think they are. But in any event they are clearly missing the point of the game and the discussion it's meant to provoke. The point is something closer to: There is an enormous pile of wealth sitting in the hands of a very few people, and that wealth could be used by a competent society to make the lives of many, many, many people much, much, much better off. Why aren't we doing that? Is Jeff Bezos' unlimited liberty to acquire money really worth all of the suffering that could be eliminated by curtailing that liberty? Not even eliminating it, just turning it down a bit.

Shorter: The government, the people, should just take the money, and then you have a question of political will for what to do with it. But probably it'll be something more collectively valuable than what the ultra-rich do with it right now.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:49 PM on October 23, 2018 [13 favorites]


I have more tolerance for self-made millionaires/billionaires like Bezos and Gates than I do for inherited wealth in America. There should be a 100% inheritance tax to level the playing field somewhat. But the Duponts and Heinzes and Carnegies have written the laws to keep it going generation after generation. But they stay under the radar.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


> I don't think any of these are really as hard or crazy as you think they are. But in any event they are clearly missing the point of the game and the discussion it's meant to provoke. The point is something closer to: There is an enormous pile of wealth sitting in the hands of a very few people, and that wealth could be used by a competent society to make the lives of many, many, many people much, much, much better off. Why aren't we doing that?

We aren't doing that because when folks tried in russia back in 1917, first the capitalists funded a massive civil war against them and then the atmosphere of militarism and paranoia that civil war produced resulted in their new government being taken over by utter monsters.

also we're not doing that because when folks tried it in spain in the 1930s the fascists murdered them all while the capitalists and the communists sat on their hands / actively assisted in their murder.

also we're not doing that because when folks tried it in chile in the early 70s the government of the united states funded a coup that resulted in the murder of their president and the installation of a military dictator.

basically we're not doing that because we'd all be killed if we tried.

I mean, it sucks. but it's good to be honest about why we're doing the things we're doing instead of the things we could be doing if it weren't for the folks who would kill us.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:14 PM on October 23, 2018 [29 favorites]


I like the idea of the game, but hate that you're kind of forced into clicking on certain things that you don't want when you should have all the options in the beginning. Like, I wouldn't have spent down on the electoral college change when I could have funded NASA!
posted by corb at 1:36 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


We're all agreed that we should eat the rich. We're just having problems deciding on the menu along with a side discussion on how tasty they might be.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:48 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Incorrect. We're having problems because the rich have a trillion dollar military budget, and we have memes. The memes are pretty dope, yeah, but coroplast doesn't have a lot of stopping power.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


All it really does is make me want to sharpen the blade of the guillotine I wish I could afford to behead monsters like this.

Fun fact: it is possible to make a functional blade out of an Amazon delivery box.
posted by ragtag at 2:07 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


There should be a 100% inheritance tax to level the playing field somewhat.

I've heard this before, and it doesn't make sense to me. What, my dad shouldn't be able to leave me his stack of books and a few novelty collectibles? Shouldn't be able to split his few thousand dollars of savings between me and my brother? People who own a house, should have it sold and the money given to the government instead of their kids?

100% inheritance tax sounds like, "after you die, all your possessions get sold to give the gov't money, and it will allocate those funds as it sees fit." Even if I assumed a sensible, compassionate government, plenty of items have much more value to the family than cash value on the market.

Or does it mean, "100% beyond X amount?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:08 PM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


That seems like an uncharitable reading and conflation of private Capital and personal property
posted by The Whelk at 2:27 PM on October 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


Or does it mean, "100% beyond X amount?"

yeah, in general I think inheritance taxes are the real way to unwind the rich. I think they had a lot to do with the loss of power of the English aristocracy at the end of the 19th century.

But like everything, they're not without problems. The "family farm" is the standard GOP talking point here - a farm that's been in the family for generations and because of the surge in land prices is now worth millions. It's impossible to hand down with a flat inheritance tax.

There are dozens of responses to that point, but in general yes, there's some sort of floor so that poor people aren't pushed farther back by the tax. The other issue is the infinite number of loopholes which make the tax pretty toothless such as assigning things into trusts or corporations.

This twitter thread is frames as "tax advice for Mega Millions winners" but really it's just generic tax and estate planning advice for anyone who is really wealthy. Set up a charitable foundation, give your family jobs, everyone draws a comfortable salary and gets to swagger around with everyone kissing up to get foundation grants. Per this tweet when Warren Buffet says he's "donating all his wealth to charity" what that apparently means is that he's set up a charitable foundation for each kid to run as they see fit and to draw a salary from as its executive director. Nice work if you can get it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh it looks like Twitter guy published his advice as a Slate article on the off chance anyone rich reads Slate.
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


That seems like an uncharitable reading and conflation of private Capital and personal property

I mean sort of, but you and I both move in some of the same weird circles now so you KNOW there are some people who genuinely mean both or who just don't think through the consequences of their pet theories. They are intolerable and not representative of the good theories, but like...they are painfully real as hell. I have definitely heard the 'nobody should be able to leave/own personal property' whether or not they are using it as exploitive capital a LOT.
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


The median inheritance in the U.S. is less than $70,000 -- which is divided among all beneficiaries, a trivial sum. Most people do just fine in life without large inheritances. It's hard to see why some children are entitled to wealth they did not earn simply based on a genetic lottery.
posted by JackFlash at 2:50 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't have any objections to inheritance taxes, including what's currently considered extreme inheritance taxes. I'm trying to understand the difference between "100% inheritance tax" and "your parents can't leave you anything they own," because as far as I can tell, those phrases have the same meaning.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:59 PM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Playing this while knowing I need 700 bucks to get out of a bad situation is the opposite of therapeutic.
posted by Freeze Peach at 3:03 PM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to understand the difference between "100% inheritance tax" and "your parents can't leave you anything they own," because as far as I can tell, those phrases have the same meaning.

Why should there be any difference? If your parents want to leave you something, you pay the tax on the item and you get it. Why are certain children entitled to free stuff when their parents die? Most don't get free stuff.
posted by JackFlash at 3:13 PM on October 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


If your parents want to leave you something, you pay the tax on the item and you get it. Why are certain children entitled to free stuff when their parents die? Most don't get free stuff.

If you are low income and live with your parents in a house that has appreciated in value, you may be forced when they die to sell the house to pay the tax on inheriting it.

Rich people simply pay to have legal documents drawn up putting their houses in a trust that's managed by both parents and children and thus the house is not part of the parent's estate when they die.

The rich pay nothing, the poor get fucked.
posted by GuyZero at 3:21 PM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


So sci-fi writer and early Bolshevik Alexander Bogdanov wrote a novel titled Red Star that had as part of its backstory a successful revolution that had taken place on Mars. The way the Martian revolutionaries had neutralized resistance from the Martian bourgeoisie was by offering them the following deal: total exemption from all work requirements and enough resources to live the rest of their lives in luxury, but with the proviso that they couldn't pass any of it on to their children. Basically, they could carry on being bourgeois — but they'd be the final generation of bourgeoisie.

That's more or less what a 100% inheritance tax gets you, and that's why it's an inherently revolutionary idea.

but also, fuck the idea that parents can pass wealth on to their children. that's absurd. the only reason we don't recognize it as absurd is because it's an absurdity we're used to.

needless to say, Bogdanov's Martian revolutionaries had an alternate deal for bourgeois Martians who didn't like the "you get to be rich but your kids don't" arrangement. This alternate deal was "you stand against that wall over there and we shoot you."
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:25 PM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ah, yes, the old "inheritance taxes hurt the poor" gambit which goes along with the fable about people losing their family farms. Republicans constantly bring up their bad faith concerns about poor people losing their inheritances.
posted by JackFlash at 3:31 PM on October 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


which goes along with the fable about people losing their family farms.

Let me the the first (well, now the second) to say that most of these gambits are indeed bullshit but bad taxes hurt the poor more than the rich. The solution is not to do nothing and make sweet love to the status quo but to make well thought-out changes. A 100% inheritance tax sounds great but rich people will absolutely get around it while poor people cannot.
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


also if you're interested in hearing more about the life and times of alexander bogdanov don't tell anyone but i'm working on a sung-through broadway musical about him

eat your heart out lin-manuel miranda
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


rich people will absolutely get around it while poor people cannot

Indeed. The Trump clan never paid the moderate inheritance taxes that already exist. If the current inheritance tax were set up to 90% they still wouldn't have paid any of it.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


also if you're interested in hearing more about the life and times of alexander bogdanov don't tell anyone but i'm working on a sung-through broadway musical about him

You joke, but from Wikipedia:

"His wide various scientific and medical interests ranged from the universal systems theory to the possibility of human rejuvenation through blood transfusion"

Cut to dateline Wed, 31 May 2017: This start-up is offering $8,000 blood transfusions from teens to people who want to fight aging


This guy WAS ahead of his time
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Most people get "free stuff" when their parents and/or grandparents die. They get maybe a car, some books and personal effects, parents' clothes, household appliances, and sometimes a house. They are likely to many items of great sentimental value and negligible financial value.

"100% inheritance tax" sounds like, "pay the full financial value of the estate, or you lose them all. If you're too poor to pay market value for grandpa's woodcarvings, you lose them; if you can't afford to pay for your mother's stamp collection, or dad's now-vintage leather coat, it gets taken away and distributed to some stranger(s)."

I don't see a simple way to separate "you can't hand off REAL WEALTH to your kids" from "you won't be able to use the boardgame your dad used to teach you math with your own kids."

(In my head, I've been thinking of it as "100% inheritance tax for values over $1m." Enough for a reasonable family house, or a small business, even a small farm; more than enough to cover personal and sentimental items, including a large collection. Enough to get past the arguments of, "but you'll be leaving people destitute" - a million dollars should be plenty to be not-destitute.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't think the argument "we can never raise taxes because some people will just commit fraud" carries a lot of weight. By that argument, you should just throw up your hands and say all taxes should be cut to zero. Better enforcement is another option.
posted by JackFlash at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


> (In my head, I've been thinking of it as "100% inheritance tax for values over $1m.")

hey who wants to look up how much money, in the american system, can be passed on to children at death before the inheritance tax kicks in?

hint there's a reason republicans whinging about the "death tax" never mention this number.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:51 PM on October 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


Something I find very helpful when conceptualizing one million and one billion:

It takes almost 12 days for a million seconds to elapse and 31.7 years for a billion seconds
posted by standardasparagus at 3:52 PM on October 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


some people will just commit fraud

Using family trusts and holding companies isn't fraud. Which is why rich people get away with it. Loopholes just cost money to use.

hey who wants to look up how much money, in the american system, can be passed on to children at death before the inheritance tax kicks in?

Off the top of my head it's $5M.

I have no fucking clue whether people want the same allowance limit when they talk about "100% inheritance tax".

Also, it's irrelevant as rich people simply circumvent the entire system, entirely legally.
posted by GuyZero at 3:54 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Also, it's irrelevant as rich people simply circumvent the entire system, entirely legally.

careful, if you follow this line of reasoning too far you end up demanding a dictatorship of the proletariat.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:55 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Using family trusts and holding companies isn't fraud. Which is why rich people get away with it.

Why are you assuming these loopholes would still exist? It's only common sense to assume that if you are overhauling the inheritance tax, you are overhauling the trust loopholes as well. Otherwise what's the point. The argument that you can't change the laws because existing laws have loopholes doesn't make much sense.

By the way, the methods Fred Trump used to pass his inheritance were not loopholes. They were outright fraud under existing laws.
posted by JackFlash at 4:04 PM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Rich people evade the current system because it has loopholes and exemptions. 100% past a certain level would have (almost) no loopholes - you could argue the value of grandma's china or the value of artwork created by someone who died tragically young, but it's a lot harder to say "this $3m bank account is really only worth a quarter-million" or "this stock portfolio, valued at $2.4m, is really only worth a couple hundred-thou."

Would there be some cheating? Sure. But it'd be a lot harder to cheat, a lot easier to point out, "there are 12 vintage cars here, insured for half a million each. They are housed in a building and grounds appraised at four million dollars. Plz explain how the total value of these is under a million dollars."

Close the trust loopholes in part by making them irrevocable. If the assets could be reclaimed before death, they're part of the estate. If you actually trust your kids, you can hand them money while you're alive, but you can't retain control of that money; they're no longer reliant on your goodwill. Close the rest by making the transfer normal taxable money; it's income. Maybe it can be staggered out over years, but make it taxable income for those years.

(The weird part is figuring out how to get money to the gov't for those items - a collection of designer handbags worth $1.2 million doesn't translate directly to cash usable for infrastructure. But I can have fun imagining the bizarre celebrity-item auctions for the first decade or two of this policy, followed by sensible rich folks realizing that "accumulate stuff" is no longer a good legacy plan.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:13 PM on October 23, 2018


Immediately after this, I recommend playing “SPENT”, a poor person simulator.

Gives a perspective to the human cost of these fortunes.


playspent.org
posted by andreinla at 4:22 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


A lot of these conversations and questions come up in MMT discussions which I only kind of understand cause I went to school for art not math - but like if rich people and companies are so good at avoiding taxes then say ... buy out a majority of their stock and hand control to their workers. Or while taking people’s yachts is fun it’s not like they easily translate into funds for other things, so why not make their wealth irrelevant by just inventing the money needed for social and infrastructure projects appease on the ledger like we do for say fighter planes that don’t work?

But at a more basic level, if we eventually all decide Bezos wealth hoarding, the working conditions in factories, the retail monopoly, the tax evasions are all actively antagonistic to the running of society as a whole. No matter what we do, it will involve making Bezos and his ilk less powerful or hoping he will voluntarily give up some of this power. And I don’t think they will and I can very easily see a situation where some radical new administration says “hey amazon you have to break up, nationalize, give back the majority of your wealth” and them going “naw.” .
posted by The Whelk at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


A lot of these conversations and questions come up in MMT discussions which I only kind of understand cause I went to school for art not math

I like what I hear of MMT and if it makes you feel any better I don't think economists have a better handle on it than you do.
posted by GuyZero at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2018


Why wait til you die? You can give things to your children when you're alive. You've got years and years (usually) to give to your children. By the time you're dead, you are no longer a person, therefore, you have no rights.

The framing of inheritance should really be, "how much income should people be allowed by virtue of having wealthy parents?" The answer, of course, should be "not very much."
posted by explosion at 5:35 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Immediately after this, I recommend playing “SPENT”, a poor person simulator.

Gives a perspective to the human cost of these fortunes.


playspent.org


about that...

“In fact, the game had a negative effect on attitudes among certain participants—including some people who were sympathetic to the poor to begin with,” states the Psyhology Today article, before placing blame for the failing at the door of the mechanics, which leave players with the impression that people living in poverty are able to change their circumstances simply by changing their choices.

“In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice,” said Macklin. “If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

posted by juv3nal at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]




> I can think of exactly one billionaire who’s ever turned class traitor by attempting to replace oligarchy with democracy.

Who? Do you mean Soros?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:35 PM on October 23, 2018


I can very easily see a situation where some radical new administration says “hey amazon you have to break up, nationalize, give back the majority of your wealth” and them going “naw.” .

Ways the gov't could enforce such a decision:
1) Seize the personal assets of stockholders, esp anyone with voting stock.
2) A variant on Sanders' BEZOS act: if any employee is getting gov't assistance, possibly including health care benefits through the ACA, the company is fined 1:1 for the amount the gov't is paying.
3) Void their contracts - declare that they are no longer a legal entity, and can't sue in court as a company. Their contractors will quickly force them to break up.
4) End all gov't contracts with the company; this won't destroy all of them, but an awful lot of companies rely on ties to gov't organizations. (F'rex, Amazon has a pretty tight deal with the US Post Office.)
5) Hold companies responsible for the acts of their employees that are even remotely related to work. Got a speeding ticket on the way to work? Company owes the fine. Flu outbreak at the office? Company is on the hook for their medical expenses -- and for everyone who could've been infected by those people.
6) Remove their trademark protection, and seize their copyrights and put them in the public domain.*

...And so on. These range from "a stretch" to "never gonna happen," but the point is, the gov't has the ability to make rulings that will destroy a company if they refuse to comply with a basic court order. The problem we're having right now, is that courts refuse to hold companies responsible for the harm they're doing.

* Actually, just start with that one. Declare that the company, going forward, cannot hold copyrights - all new works are either copyrighted by the individual author(s), or in the public domain. I don't think there's a single modern company that could survive without copyright protections on their code, their ad copy, their internal communications, and that's before we get to contract details.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:15 PM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


re: MMT, here's a profile of the guy who started it :P

as a kind of precursor to 'applied' MMT, check out TNB!*

and speaking of billionaires, here's bloomberg's editorial board: Making Capitalism Work Better for Workers

and another (silicon valley, well san francisco) billionaire addressing homelessness: Marc Benioff's backing, donation for Prop. C came following late-night Twitter interaction with bookstore owner

also btw...
Tribalism Isn't Our Democracy's Main Problem. The GOP Is. - "Partisan polarization has made it easier for lawmakers to disregard the popular will; but it is reactionary elites who demand such disregard."
In truth, the most formidable obstacle to responsive government in the U.S. is — and always has been — the disproportionate power that economic elites wield over its political system. Influencing elections and legislative processes requires investments of time, money, and attention. Wealthy individuals and corporations can easily shoulder such expenses; ordinary voters can’t. This simple reality — that economic power is easily converted into the political variety — is an inherent constraint on popular sovereignty in all (capitalist) democracies. But it’s a constraint that can be more or less restrictive, depending on how unequally wealth is distributed, how easily large masses of ordinary people can organize politically, and how effectively outsize political spending is regulated or socially stigmatized. More concretely, policymaking tends to be more responsive to popular concerns in nations with strong labor unions, as such institutions help secure workers a larger share of economic growth, while also enabling working-class voters to collectivize the costs of political engagement...

But if social polarization abets the power of reactionary plutocrats in the United States, reactionary plutocrats return the favor. In the industrial Midwest, labor unions once functioned as a (modestly) effective bulwark against racial polarization — unionized white workers were far more likely to remain Democrats (which is to say, in a political coalition with a majority of the African-American electorate) than their non-unionized peers, amid the white backlash of the late 1960s.

But over the ensuing decades, a political movement bankrolled by conservative elites implemented a variety of policies that weakened organized labor — and consciously worked to increase the political salience of America’s racial and and cultural divisions.

Of course, the Republican Party did not invent America’s social conflicts. The white South didn’t require Barry Goldwater’s permission to recoil from the Civil Rights Act; blue-collar whites in the North didn’t need Richard Nixon’s blessing to deplore forced busing or the anti-war movement; white Evangelicals didn’t need Reagan’s encouragement to revile the sexual revolution. To some unknowable — but doubtlessly significant — degree, the social polarization of the American electorate was an inevitable response to events that no Republican strategist ever dictated.

But it remains the case that the GOP, and its associated institutions, have spent much of the past half-century actively trying to polarize the electorate along racial lines, and mobilize the Christian right through appeals to its most paranoid, millenarian instincts. This is no partisan conspiracy theory; it is basic political history. In the late 1960s, Republican operatives realized that an America in which the electorate was split along racial lines would be one in which the party least dependent on African-Americans would thrive. Some spelled out this theory explicitly, in best-selling books. John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s top domestic aide, summarized the spirit of his boss’s 1968 campaign as, “We’ll go after the racists” — adding, in his memoir, “The subliminal appeal to the anti-black voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.” And that appeal has been a fixture of Republican political rhetoric in the United States ever since. (Anyone who doubts that the conservative movement still seeks to exacerbate social polarization would do well to spend an evening with Fox News’s prime-time lineup.)

...the conservative movement — and the economic elites that it serves — have an interest in perpetuating both social polarization, and the unresponsive governance that it produces. And for a very simple reason: The interests that unite most members of America’s fractious social groups tend to be those that derive from their common identity as people who must work for a living. Which is to say, they tend to be class interests: An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the American public wants their government to raise taxes on the wealthy, create jobs for the unemployed, expand access to subsidized health care, and prevent corporations from poisoning their air and water. The conservative movement wants Uncle Sam to do none of those things.

For this reason, any serious program for combating unresponsive government in the United States must be concerned with both increasing the political salience of (non-billionaire) Americans’ common material interests, and reducing the political power of the conservative movement. Achieving those objectives will require bridging America’s social divides (to whatever extent that that can be done without acquiescing to unjust hierarchies of race, gender, and religion). But it will most definitely not entail the pursuit of a depolarized, dispassionate partisan politics as an end in itself.
Was Gary Hart Set Up? - "What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987?"

An Alternative History of Silicon Valley Disruption - "Three recent books challenge the tech industry's myths of self-reliance and prescience."

Radical Markets and the Question of Rational Design - "When should we redesign basic institutions, and when should we defer to the wisdom of tradition?"

World After Capital: Technological Deflation - "Once we break out of the job loop with the help of UBI, then in fact technological deflation becomes desirable. For individuals it means that they can afford more with the payments they are receiving and for society as a whole it means that UBI is affordable."

but like if rich people and companies are so good at avoiding taxes then say ... buy out a majority of their stock and hand control to their workers

like, for a political-economy application of this, viz. nuns vs. guns! cf. Deciem :P
Who controls a corporation? We have talked about this question a lot, and have discussed the merits of various answers: The chief executive officer is the person in charge of managing the company. The board of directors has legal responsibility for the company and supervises the CEO. If there is a controlling shareholder, she has the ultimate power to fire the board and CEO and appoint the ones she wants. And of course whoever has the keys to the front door, or the passwords to the company’s social-media accounts, has a very real and practical kind of control.

Skin-care company Deciem Inc. is an unusual and sad who-controls-a-company story in that Brandon Truaxe controlled Deciem in every relevant way, and still managed to lose control of it. He is apparently the majority shareholder, with 72 percent of the shares. He was the chief executive officer (at times, co-CEO) and on the board. And he very much controlled Deciem’s Instagram password. Too much so:
Early [last] week, in a video posted to Deciem’s Instagram account, Mr. Truaxe announced Deciem would “shut down all operations until further notice,” citing “major criminal activity” by company employees. The move prompted Estée Lauder, which owns a minority stake in Deciem, to file a lawsuit seeking Mr. Truaxe’s removal. …

In the Instagram video, Mr. Truaxe claimed that “almost everyone” at Deciem has been involved in the alleged criminal activity including financial crimes. He didn’t elaborate, but the post went on to list various celebrities, executives and investors without explaining their relevance. … Since taking over Deciem’s Instagram in January, Mr. Truaxe often posted rants against employees and competitors or attacked fans.
A judge in Ontario gave Estée Lauder what it asked for:
“Urgent relief is necessary in order to save this business,” Ontario Superior Court Judge Michael Penny said, citing Mr. Truaxe’s recent behavior in his decision. The order, which takes effect immediately, strips Mr. Truaxe of his chief executive title and seat on the Deciem board. … “It appears that Mr. Truaxe’s behavior is not his normal behavior and he may be suffering from some type of psychiatric problem,” Judge Penny said during the hearing.
You can read this narrowly as a question of minority shareholders’ rights: Even if there is a controlling shareholder, he has some duties to the other shareholders, and can’t just do whatever he wants. But there is also a sense in which society controls the corporation, in which it is not a pure piece of property that its shareholders or managers or directors can do whatever they want with. “Urgent relief is necessary in order to save this business,” said a judge, because the business is something independent of its owner-CEO-director-Instagrammer, and a court can step in to save it from him.
posted by kliuless at 10:19 PM on October 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


“hey amazon you have to break up, nationalize, give back the majority of your wealth” and them going “naw.”
Yup, this is the road we've been headed down, you could--and some do--claim its the inevitable result of Citizens United.

And this is why:
the gov't has the ability to make rulings that will destroy a company if they refuse to comply with a basic court order. The problem we're having right now, is that courts refuse to hold companies responsible for the harm they're doing.

I mean on some level this kinda thing's been around since at least the East India Tea Company, but however lacking in subtleties these estimations of Bezos's purchasing power might be, they do at least help to show how wildly out of proportion it is.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:05 AM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


The quick, easy way to push a company into compliance with a court order: Criminal contempt-of-court charges on the officials who drag their feet. Throw the CFO in jail, and the company will either quickly change its practices, or start collapsing as there's nobody available to sign essential documents. Remove the people who sign paychecks and the company will start dissolving quickly.

But again - this only works if the court is willing to enforce the law.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:30 AM on October 24, 2018


> We aren't doing that because when folks tried in russia back in 1917, first the capitalists funded a massive civil war against them and then the atmosphere of militarism and paranoia that civil war produced resulted in their new government being taken over by utter monsters.

I hear this lame canard all the time. Nobody every tried *REAL* Communism! It was always somehow not the REAL thing.

I think this is obviously false. (Seems pretty clear that capital accumulates no matter what, fact of life, whether its economic, political, social, whatever--and that capital translates into inequal outcomes, also no matter what, and to gain economic "equality" requires hardcore tyranny that humans just can't handle.)

But supposing I'm wrong about that, if it's true that True Communism was never actually tried, then this admits that it's an entirely untested, mostly theoretical system. Yet you and many here seem to think it's *obviously* going to work just fine and be super-great and end all this misery we're all experiencing with The Everything Store ruining all of our lives.

That is pretty terrifying.

This book goes over pretty clearly why you should be more tentative: Systemantics
posted by mario_incandenza at 12:23 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I think cap gains taxes should be progressive (based on lifetime cap gains reported), and top out at 90-100%.

This whole "100% estate tax" thing seems especially unproductive. Goes against too much ingrained human nature. Sweden got rid of there's 15 years ago (it started off at 65%) because it was ineffective and mostly symbolic.
posted by mario_incandenza at 12:32 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Something Frank Herbert once said about Dune
"Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero... Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster."
And that's fundamentally the problem with the mega-rich. If it were only money, if they were content to live their lives in lavish decadence and let the rest of us be, that would be one thing. But it's not about money at $135 billion dollars, it's about power.

Even in a "good" case like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, good as their intentions may be, will make mistakes and the scale of those mistakes increases with the scale of the money and power behind them. I don't actually think the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation can be given even that much credit, but that would be fine if they didn't have the power that all that money gives them.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:45 PM on October 24, 2018


> I hear this lame canard all the time. Nobody every tried *REAL* Communism! It was always somehow not the REAL thing.

You appear to be arguing with an imaginary person and pretending that imaginary person is me. Please don’t do that. I’m a real person — an award-winning novelist, in fact — and my real arguments are different than the imaginary arguments you’re responding to.

I listed three revolutionary movements: the Bolsheviks in Russia, the anarchist-led revolution in Spain, and Allende’s political revolution in Chile. You quoted the bit about the first one and then pretended I was talking about “true communism.”

The communists in Spain were the rightmost fringe of that revolution. The people leading it were not communists. The communists went out of their way to sabotage that revolution when it started to get out of hand.

Allende’s government wasn’t communist; it was a social democratic elected government tied to a democratic socialist worker’s movement.

I am not observing that capitalist governments try to murder leftists when those leftists gain power as an excuse for the failure of those leftists. I am observing that any viable leftist movement has to be prepared to face massive counter-revolutionary force should that movement gain power. One cannot ever pretend that the matter is just a bloodless competition between economic systems (as the imaginary no-true-communists you’re talking to seem to believe) it’s war, full stop, and the viability of a revolutionary leftist movement depends much more on its ability to win at war than it does on anything else.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


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