Recommended, Regressive Left

Gates Derangement Syndrome

Is it immoral to be a billionaire? That was the motion before the Oxford Union in a debate held last September, emphatically proposed by the journalist Anand Giridharadas. Billionaires, Giridharadas argued:

…find clever new ways to pay people as little as possible and as precariously as possible. They avoid taxes illegally and legally, with trillions hiding offshore, as we’ve heard tonight. They lobby for public policies that don’t benefit the public interest—in fact, cost the public interest but enrich them. They form monopolies that asphyxiate competition. They cause social problems to make a profit: obesity by selling sugary drinks; the opioid crisis by selling OxyContin; the housing calamity by speculating in dodgy mortgages; climate change by selling fossil fuels.

After outlining all the ways in which billionaires are marauding thieves and parasites, Giridharadas explained that they “then use philanthropy, some of the spoils of dubiously gotten wealth, to whitewash not just their reputations, but to actually create the ability to keep doing what they are doing.”

In many cases, this bleak and cynical view of billionaire philanthropy is probably justified—of course some wealthy people are more interested in carving their names into buildings and getting sycophantic receptions at art galleries than helping people in need. But Giridharadas didn’t mention any names in his speech at Oxford—particularly names like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. It’s one thing to offer a token donation to your elite alma mater, but it’s something else entirely to pledge to donate 99 percent of your vast fortune to effective causes or set up the largest charitable foundation in the world.

When the organizers of the Oxford debate asked the philosopher Peter Singer to participate, they probably assumed he would join Giridharadas in proposing the motion. Ever since the publication of his 1972 paper “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Singer has been one of the most vocal proponents of what’s now called effective altruism—the idea that we should use our resources to do as much good as possible in the world. “If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening,” Singer wrote in 1972, “without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.” Considering the fact that billionaires could give away hundreds of millions of dollars (at a minimum) and still have far more than they need, it seems clear what Singer’s position would be.

But Singer spoke against the motion: “If you vote for this motion, you are condemning all people who are billionaires … You’re saying that Bill and Melinda Gates are immoral, despite the fact that they set up the Gates Foundation,” an organization which has “undoubtedly already saved several million lives.” Between 1994 and 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates personally donated $36 billion to the foundation, which has issued more than $50 billion in total grant payments since its inception.

A glimpse of what that money has accomplished: The Gates Foundation was a founding partner of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), pledging a five-year commitment of $750 million which launched the program in 1999. Since 2000, Gavi has immunized more than 760 million children to protect them from rotavirus, meningitis, polio, measles, and many other deadly diseases. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that Gavi has saved 13 million lives since its inception. After providing the seed money for Gavi, the Gates Foundation continued to support the program with billions of dollars—$4 billion to date, and $1.5 billion between 2016 and 2020 alone, around one-fifth of all donations. And this is just one of the programs the foundation supports—in 2018, it spent more than $4.3 billion on global health and development. When Singer credited Bill and Melinda Gates with saving several million lives, it was almost certainly an understatement.

So, when Giridharadas accused philanthropic billionaires of using “some of the spoils of dubiously gotten wealth” to “whitewash their reputations,” would he make an exception for Gates? On the contrary, Giridharadas considers Gates a prime example of what he has has called “one of the great pretensions of our age”:

But the mask, according to Giridharadas, has finally slipped. He cites an interview at the New York Times DealBook Conference in which Gates argued that Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax is too extreme: “I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I’d had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.” Giridharadas quoted this portion of the interview and then observed: “When you start to come after his wealth, even Bill Gates gets cagey.” Neither Giridharadas nor the Mediaite article he cited bothered to report the lighthearted tenor of these remarks, or that Gates immediately followed them by admitting, “I’m just kidding.”

Giridharadas isn’t the only one who took Gates’s joke literally—Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Of course, if Gates spent that money on international health and development over the next few decades, it would have a much greater impact, but Sanders has an election to win.

It isn’t really Gates’s “caginess” that upsets Giridharadas—it’s the fact that he’s allegedly “vacillating on the clearest moral choice of our time.” As he announced to his 541,000 Twitter followers: “Bill Gates, the great philanthropist of our age, is so attached to his own wealth that he refuses to rule out voting to re-elect a white nationalist demagogue over Elizabeth Warren.” What’s the evidence for this claim? When Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Gates what he would do if Warren ends up as the Democratic nominee against Trump in 2020, here’s how he responded:

I’m not going to make political declarations. But I do think, no matter what policy somebody has in mind, a professional approach—as much as I disagree with some of the policy things that are out there—I do think a professional approach to the office, whoever I decide would have the more professional approach in the current situation probably is the thing that I’ll weigh the most. And I hope the more professional candidate is an electable candidate.

Gates’s repeated use of the word “professional” makes it almost impossible to imagine he was talking about Trump. And his use of the word “electable” suggests that he wants the Democrats to nominate a candidate capable of defeating Trump. Finally, Gates specifically said he isn’t interested in making “political declarations,” about which he has every reason to be wary.

The Gates Foundation works closely with U.S. foreign aid agencies. Would it really make sense for Gates to openly antagonize a vindictive president who’s already deeply hostile to foreign aid spending? The Trump administration tried to cut State Department and USAID funding by 28 percent in 2017, which would have meant dramatic cuts in global health and humanitarian assistance. In a 2017 report, the Gates Foundation lamented the fact that “Congress is currently considering how to deal with the big cuts to foreign aid proposed in the president’s budget.” In March 2017, Gates met with Congressional leaders to discuss foreign aid spending: “In his Capitol Hill meetings,” according to a report in the Hill, “Gates stressed the potential impact that budget cuts could have on programs backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

Unswayed by any of the obvious explanations above, Giridharadas pressed on with a 16-tweet indictment of Gates as a man willing to watch the country burn if it would save him a few bucks. Having declared that Gates is “open to voting for a racist, misogynist, lawbreaking tyrant,” Giridharadas arrived at this terrifying conclusion:

The suggestion that we ought to be suspicious of Gates’s work on global health—work that has saved millions of lives—because he made a slightly ambiguous comment about U.S. politics is not only absurd, it is also pernicious. What makes this vitriolic scapegoating even more gratuitous is that Gates repeatedly expressed his willingness to pay higher taxes in the interview. A few examples: “Both Warren [Buffett] and I are glad in whatever way to pay a fair bit more in taxes”; “Should rich people pay more in taxes? The answer is yes”; “I’m all for super progressive tax systems.” He also called for increasing the estate tax, potentially taxing “people who’ve sat on huge gains for, say, ten years,” taxing contributions to private foundations, and “treating capital income the same as labor income.” However, Gates still argues that philanthropy “plays a role that neither the private sector or the government are able to do in terms of various innovative approaches to, say, malaria or nutrition or trying out new models of education through things like charter schools.”

Giridharadas clearly disagrees, but isn’t this a debate worth having without an avalanche of bad faith and scornful remarks about how we “can’t even trust Bill Gates to put his desire for a better world above his self-preservational plute drive” or how “one by one, these plutes are revealing themselves”? When a person has given away tens of billions of dollars and plans to give away billions more, you’d think he’d have earned the benefit of the doubt about his motives. But it’s inconceivable to Giridharadas that Gates genuinely disagrees about the effectiveness of Warren’s wealth tax—his disagreement must be evidence of his unquenchable greed and his “paramount need” to protect his fortune.

After a Recode journalist tweeted Gates’s joke about paying $100 billion under Warren’s wealth tax (again without mentioning the fact that it was a joke), Warren responded: “I’d love to explain exactly how much you’d pay under my wealth tax. (I promise it’s not $100 billion.)” Two days later, she tweeted a New York Times editorial entitled “The Billionaires Are Getting Nervous” along with a picture of Gates, adding:

In the editorial, the New York Times describes Gates as a “perturbed plutocrat” and argues that the “alarm bells are out of all proportion with Ms. Warren’s plan. Describing his concerns on Wednesday, Mr. Gates at one point suggested he might be asked to pay $100 billion.” You’d think that editors at the New York Times would be capable of comprehending the words “I’m just kidding,” but apparently not. The editorial goes on to lecture Gates, who can “demonstrate that he’s serious about tax increases by setting aside the hyperbole and engaging in principled and factual debate about the details.”

But Gates isn’t the one engaging in a dishonest debate. According to Giridharadas, “When critics like me argue that philanthropy is no substitute for taxation and a fairer set of social arrangements, billionaires like Gates fire back: Yes, I support higher taxes. But we don’t have them now, so I need to do this philanthropy.” But Bill and Melinda Gates didn’t, in fact, start their foundation because they think taxes are too low in the United States—they started it because they discovered that millions of children die every year from treatable and preventable illnesses or a lack of food and water. In 2018, the Gates Foundation invested roughly 90 percent of its program funding in international health, development, and advocacy, with the remaining 10 percent allocated to programs in the United States.

There’s a good reason why Bill and Melinda Gates focus on international programs to alleviate poverty and control infectious diseases: That’s where their fortune can do the most good. There are still 736 million people living on less than $1.90 per day, while half the planet lives on less than $5.50 per day. Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, “In 2018 an estimated 6.2 million children and adolescents under the age of 15 years died, mostly from preventable causes. Of these deaths, 5.3 million occurred in the first five years, with almost half of these in the first month of life.”

Aren’t Warren, Sanders, Giridharadas, and members of the New York Times editorial board supposed to care about inequality? Or do they only care about inequality in the richest country in human history? Giridharadas is thrilled that there are “major proposals to take away a big share of Gates’s wealth in order to build a more equitable society,” but a big share of that wealth is already being used to build a more equitable world. Does anyone really think the $50 billion the Gates Foundation has spent on addressing extreme poverty, disease, and the worst forms of inequality on the planet over the past two and a half decades would have been put to better use by the U.S. government? I suppose we could really use a few more Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers at $13.1 billion a pop.

But you aren’t going to see an indignant rejoinder from Gates on the New York Times op-ed page pointing all this out—his work speaks for itself. While Bernie Sanders furiously tweets about the “billionaire class” and Warren staffers sip coffee out of their “BILLIONAIRE TEARS” mugs, Bill and Melinda Gates will quietly get on with saving millions of lives.

 

Matt Johnson has written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, the BulwarkEditor & PublisherAreo MagazineArc DigitalSplice TodayForbes, and the Kansas City Star. He was formerly the opinion page editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjj89

Featured Image: Bill and Melinda Gates during their visit to the Oslo Opera House in June 2009 (Pic: Kjetil Ree)

Comments

  1. When will people on the Left stop basing their thinking on the lump fallacy. The revolution in thinking within Europe, precipitated by The Wealth of Nations, proved for all time that wealth is mutable and can be grown- even if the Left may be right that infinite wealth from finite resources is a fairytale- with labour, resources and the limits of human imagination probably capping future wealth, with current technology, at around 1,000 percent of what it is today. This may seem like bullshit, plucked from the air, but when one considers the role of emerging economies and the opportunity to maintain at least some degree of wealth inequality through the growth of our own wealth, it quickly becomes a more rational figure.

    But on a more solid note, consider the fact that between 2000 and 2012 over a billion people were raised out of absolute poverty. This was not due to the actions of Government and foreign aid, the Government approach was tried, and failed for nearly fifty years, and, beyond providing a certain amount of useful infrastructure, was a singular failure. Build a well in Africa, and the only thing which guarantees that it will still be serviceable in 20 years it whether or not it’s functioning is linked to the economic prosperity of the village- otherwise when you return to the village it will be broken, and women and children will be back to carrying water from the local germ-infested river.

    What did change the circumstances of the developing world, beyond China and India, was innovation in the field of financial services and extending the reach of global capital beyond its existing markets, allowing investors to provide resources, in the form of lending, and the smaller scale microloans. It has led to the most rapid increase in human dignity worldwide, in human history. Overall, Capitalism has raised 85% of the world’s population out of poverty, but, in most cases, the process has been much more painful and laborious.

    When it comes to Wealth taxes the only systems that are proven to work, without causing mass capital flight, are those of countries like Switzerland, whose system of Cantons sets Wealth taxes at between 0.3 and 0.7% per year and exist largely as a replacement for those who are able to avoid taxes on income and capital gains. In this Elizabeth Warren would do well to listen to her fellow Democratic Candidate, Andrew Yang. Wealth taxes set at this much lower level, could account for revenue around $180 billion per year, for an economy the size of the America’s- and this is taking the Laffer Curve into account.

    Under Warren’s proposal Bill Gates would have to pay an annual tax bill of $13 billion, once one takes into account her proposals on Capital Gains. This would quickly rob the world of the far greater good the Gates Foundation does, than any Government in human history- and this is before one considers the potential to kill the Golden Goose, because it wouldn’t be long before such Capital funds were depleted. And this is where politicians like Elzabeth Warren run into the real flaw in basing their ideas on the ravings of idiots like Thomas Piketty- because although rentier economics is a problem once capital expands to the extent that there are no longer more productive uses in which to invest Capital, and land speculation can adversely effect the housing industry, it is precisely the natural tendency of Capital to accumulate in the hands of those most able to use it, that is the driver of all wealth, all social stability and the painful human progress that strips labour out of processes, and allows us to ultimately pursue occupations with inherently greater human status and dignity. Otherwise we would all still be riddling potatoes come October and November…

  2. Too many people in the world conflate inequality with poverty! As Steven Pinker pointed out in “Enlightenment Now,” the world’s life spans, education, and wealth has been dramatically increasing and it isn’t through policies of wealth confiscation. Wealth must be created before it can be redistributed. Market economies can be tweaked, for example treating all income the same, whether wages, interest, or capital gains, actually enforcing antitrust rules, and eliminating a variety of subsidies. Billionaires are an anathema to wannabe intellectuals; as Orwell pointed out, it isn’t the love of the poor that propels these people, it is the hatred of the rich.

  3. A thorough examination of the issues at hand. Thanks, Mr Johnson.

    Giridharadas uses the old ploy of condemning an entire group for the fouls of individuals and uses a scatter-shot shoot-from-the-hip approach, for example to pin the blame of so-called climate change not on the users of petroleum products and coal, i.e. all of us, but on “the billionaires.” This is Alinsky’s rule #13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

    Whether a low-income earner or a billionaire dodges tax, the rule of law addresses the crime of the perpetrator and not those of the same means or class. It’s the government’s job to find those who are evading tax and prosecute. Giridharadas appears to have forgotten presumption of innocence applies to all. How could this be? Because in his world view profit is plunder.

    What is money? Yes, it’s a tool, a store of value and a medium to facilitate the exchange of goods and services so we no longer have to barter. But it’s something more than that too. It’s a representation of one’s labour, whether manual, mental, or both, of one’s time and effort taken to perform those tasks, and the risk undertaken not only of those but also by investment. It’s also a representation, but not the sole representation, of what others’ value of us, be it a payment for something we made, a service we provided, and even a gift from a relative such as an inheritance. Unless we’re a thief or fraudster, the money is given to us by the consent of the giver. In part, money represents what you’ve done with your life - you can’t carry every automobile you built and every patient you saved in your wallet. Yes, this idea makes some people uncomfortable because many have conflicted ideas about money. That some people are able to maximise the rewards of their time better than most others was not due to special Bill Gates-only lanes on the motorway to the shops’ shelves and exclusive Bill Gates-use of other taxpayer funded services and institutions.

    Did Gates, like a viking or pirate, raid our homes to steal our valuables? Indeed not. He simply sold a product that scales extraordinarily well as well as is easily and cheaply distributed around the world. Gates is a billionaire because unlike most of us who provide goods and services to some people, Gates was able to maximise his reach to millions if not billions of people. “But he used the infrastructure. And the utilities!” Indeed he did, just like everyone else. And he paid for their use, just like everyone else.

    No government dictated that we all use Windows. Moreover, given the high rate of software piracy, Gates and those who own Microsoft shares were crime victims - yes, they should be wealthier. Further, this theft robbed the employees of wages and governments of tax. The study Engines of Growth: Economic Contributions of the U.S. Intellectual Property Industries, published in 2005, estimated the total costs to the US economy of copyright piracy of films, music, business and entertainment software, and publications to exceed $58 billion in lost output, 373,375 lost jobs, $16 billion in lost employee earnings, and more than $2.6 billion in lost tax revenues. That’s just one year. Imagine how much was lost in the years prior to and after the study and tally that. Yet, when I mention this, often this crime is waved away because Gates has “too much”. OK, but by refusing to recognise Gates’s rights out of spite or envy, workers and the state treasury, i.e. you, are penalised as well.

    Some of you live in countries that permit freely the movement of money globally. These countries understand that this is your property, an asset you spent a large part of your life working for, and you have the right to move it where you wish, often to countries that welcome inbound investment. It may be to invest in the financial markets, buy a parcel of land, or create a company. If we still understand that countries have sovereignty to include the right to craft their own laws, they are allowed to enact their own taxation legislation. That Britain’s income tax rate is x% and Bermuda’s is y% is no different from Canada permitting people to smoke cannabis whilst this is illegal in Britain or Americans driving at 16 whilst Singaporeans have to wait until they’re 18. A Canadian tourist may not smoke cannabis in the UK and 16-year-old American may not drive in Singapore whereas a Brit visiting Toronto may smoke pot and 16-year-old Singaporean may drive in the US.

    Opponents of capital movement often see your money as the state’s money; this includes the idea that it’s “the people’s money” that they want to grab “for the people.” It upsets them that some of your money is taxed lower in a different country though there are some risks to that - there’s always risk. They wish to impose capital controls alike those in heavy-handed countries that impose many more restrictions and centralise management of the economy.

    The IMF published a working paper of the capital controls applied in 100 countries. Based on their controls, or lack of, and how applied, countries were defined by the author as open, gate, and wall. The latter two being case-by-case controls as deemed necessary by the government (though it may not have the surveillance tools and knowledgable workforce to do so) and long-standing restrictions, respectively.

    Employers, whether they own a t-shirt shop or Microsoft, negotiate pay with workers individually or collectively, in the case of unionised labour. Yes, some workers are more valuable than others. Most of us are mediocre. We’re still needed, but individually we’re not irreplaceable. Employers pay prevailing rates (yes, just about everyone thinks they’re underpaid), and often the state stacks the deck in favour of workers by imposing minimum wage and closed-shop laws. No employer can retain his workforce if other employers including his direct competitors pay a higher wage - they’ll migrate to greener pastures. Moreover, many people neglect to calculate their non-pay benefits, which is a significant portion of their earnings that are paid for by their employer. In the US, employer-paid benefits improve wages for private industry workers by 46.6% ($11.50 average benefits costs for average wages/salaries of $24.72 per hour). Most of these employee benefits are not taxable to the employee. If you were self-employed, you’d have to earn more than 50% more per hour to pay your own benefits costs plus the employer’s share of payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare). That’s assuming you could get similar pricing on medical and dental insurance, which is unlikely.

    I think the better question is: Are progressive taxes immoral? There’s much hay made about equality, yet why are progressive taxes, which are not equal, accepted? “They have more.” The government didn’t award them this. They used the same services and institutions available to everyone else. There is no government official guarding public libraries, bridges, and parks denying access to anyone: “Sorry, you paid a lower income tax rate so you only get access on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” The progressive rate entails the majority laying an additional tax on the (wealthy) minority and exempting themselves from that tax - this is might-makes-right mob rule rather than governing a country according to equal justice.

    “The rich should pay their fair share.” Notice how the common call for equality evaporates. These words sound reasonable; however dollar for dollar, the wealthy paying an “everyone’s equal” flat tax rate would still pay many times the average contribution. What they really mean is the rich, simply because they are rich, should be plundered. “We decided you have too much.” They’re able to withstand it. This has nothing to do with justice and equal protection under the law and everything to do with expediency and perhaps ugly and bigoted sentiment. No one articulates exactly why higher-earners supposedly owe the government a higher percentage of their higher earnings. “They took more from the system.” Really? How much more State Department can one consume? Do they get concierge service at the DMV? Are they shitting 25 times more per day?

    The sole purpose of taxation is to fund the government, i.e. services provided to all paid for by all - the common good. Therefore, it ought not to be progressive, e.g. the rate of taxation on a high-earning taxpayer’s last $1 of income should be no different than the rate of taxation on a lower-earning taxpayer’s first $1 of income.

  4. I support copyright and patents, but not for the number of years permitted in the US. Certainly those who invest in intellectual property, whether it’s film, software, medicine, or GMO, ought to be afforded protection to prevent piracy and theft of the IP as well as to ensure others continue to invest in new IP products.

    I also agree that nations ought to include IP in trade talks. In the case of India, where IP protections were very lax, they simply copied medicine not only for domestic consumption but also for export. Coincidentally, this created a number of billionaires - ones who invented nothing yet reaped the rewards. If you’re concerned about rentiers, then this ought to be on your watch list.

  5. Demonizing the rich quickly turns into plans to confiscate their wealth. This is the gist of Warren’s proposal of wealth tax and tax on imputed capital gains. Under her plans billionaires will lose most of their wealth within 10 years. Then who is going to pay for all her programs?

    The Bolsheviks tried this in Russia in 1917, Mao tried it in China in 1949. They discovered that confiscating wealth does not achieve equality by raising up the poor, it achieves equality by reducing everyone to the lowest level.

    The current crop of western socialists plan to do it less violently (I hope) but there is little reason to expect that the results will be any better.

  6. The bottom 50% of American earners pay no net taxes, so your emotional appeal about buying shoes is inappropriate. If you really want to help low-income people, avoid parasitizing the high-income people that create their job opportunities.

  7. Equality of outcomes has been attempted, many times before, and has failed everywhere. What you’re missing is the fact that in Western societies the rich provide the poor with opportunities to improve their circumstances. In Socialist societies, the governments provides everyone the opportunity to to make do with less.

  8. That statistic is accurate, unless you’re arguing that sales taxes are progressive as well.

    Your fixation on yachts reveals that concern over the poor is secondary to resentment of the rich, which is the actual reason progressive taxation exists. The rich put their money to far better use than buying a bunch of yachts, notably employing poor people. This is a better deal for them than government handouts.

    Progressive taxation also hurts the middle class, making it uneconomical to work overtime, night shift, or a second job in some jurisdictions. The punishment of greater productivity is not limited to the super-rich.

  9. One of the first tax dodges was the Joint Tenancy where the owners held a undivided interest in the property. Under a Joint Tenancy when one of the owners dies according to deed and estate created the surviving tenant becomes the sole owner. Since the property passed by the terms of the deed and not by inheritance, it was not subject to inheritance tax. The point being due to the convoluted nature of laws, wealthy people can generally find legal ways to avoid the full impact of taxes. This is not gaming the system but rather playing within its rules. The only way to prevent tax avoidance is to have one flat rate that applies to all. If income is tax at disparaging rates either based upon the earner or how the income is earned, taxpayers, especially wealthy taxpayers, will seek the lowest classification allowed by law, just as air migrates from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure.

    There was a time when Democrats and Republicans alike could agree on basic economic principles. In his address to the Economic Club of New York in December 1962, President John F. Kennedy explained that the best method for stimulating economic growth was to cut income tax rates. Kennedy also called for the cutting of corporate tax rates to incentivize investment. https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfkeconomicclubaddress.html

    So what changed? Priorities. One party became more about collectivism and redistribution which produced the switch from sound economic arguments to arguments about how the money should be distributed. Those in the U.S. arguing against tax cuts are by extension arguing against the unprecedented unemployment the Trump tax cuts have produced. Furthermore they are arguing against the demonstrated fact that economic growth has followed cuts in income tax rates as JFK predicted. It is not about helping the less fortunate as the evidence corroborates tax cuts help the less fortunate become employed.

    It is all about greed. What is more intoxicating than wealth? Ans. Power. I will never earn as much or be as materially successful as Bill Gates. But what if I could dictate how much Bill Gates earns or keeps? Those who are willing to set limits on earnings are unwilling to set limits on power despite protestations to the contrary. The redistributionist believes he is better suited and able to determine how Bill Gate’s money should be allocated. Those arguing for confiscating and redistributing Bill Gate’s Money despite claims of philanthropic motives are simply advocating for more power for themselves and their milieu.

  10. Also the people employed building yachts are evil oppressors as is the salesman, the guy charging the mooring, the cleaning crew. It is much better that all these people be unemployed and get a UBI funded from the remaining tax payers.

  11. Voilà!

    I said the same thing in my very first comment.

    (Emphasis added is mine.)

    This was the very first point of my criticism.

    How do you substantiate this?

    That’s not gaming the system. It is the system as it is designed. In other words, it’s the feature and not a bug. I presume such a strong defender of the free market as there can be would know this.

    The free market has little to do with the intrinsic value of Windows. Consumers liked it and bought it (or stole it) for a variety a reasons. That enough of them did so enticed many investors to buy Microsoft stock, thus making Gates, and a few others such as Balmer, a billionaire. Many times over.

    It’s amusing that you accuse me of not comprehending. Again, projection.

    You demand that I provide a defence of certain people. I’m not your research assistant.

    1. I found the incongruity of your assertion of being as strong defender of the free market as there can be with the attack on one of the pillars of the free market to be alluring. I wanted to see what other wonders to behold you’d write.

    It’s been a treat.

    PS, your fundamental flaw is to condemn the very many without providing substance for each one’s fouls. You cite a few individuals and wildly extrapolate for everyone else. You’re very much like the metoo over eggers and other catastrophists.

  12. We all pay for public parks. If I use them daily and you never use them at all, it’s not my fault that I am getting more out of them than you are, and I don’t owe you anything.

  13. There’s a line on a street of Communist Budapest. The beat cop walks up to the first man in line, and says:

    • Good day, comrade, what’s going on here?
    • Good day, comrade policeman, I was walking down on this here street, I felt a bit lightheaded, so I leaned against the wall and by the time I came around this line formed behind me.
    • So why don’t you carry on, comrade?
    • Are you mad, comrade policeman? I’m the first in line!
  14. I think there is probably room for nuance in the discussion. There is a difference between being wealthy or aspiring to it and giving the finger to the middle class.

    Ultimately there are conflicting priorities, which is why society continually struggles with the problem of income inequality. And not only capitalist societies, they just happen to be better at creating wealth - the Pareto principle applies across time and cultures. One priority is to maximize freedom and innovation. The other is to maintain a stable society, which is essential to allowing that freedom to exist.

    Personally, i think you would have gained more headway if you took an approach that respected the first while raising concerns about the second. I think you might well be worried about the latter, but your hatred of the rich is palpable and is manifest in this diatribe. That is like going to the plate with 3 strikes against you already. Just sayin’

    I think it a legitimate to be concerned about the power of the elites as manifest in the media, government.and corporate America. Tangentially this is connected to money and the power it brings, but there are other factors in play. Nothing in the real world is univariate.

    I am very leery, as are the people responding, to accept more government as the solution to this problem. Part of the reason for where we are today is that government has assisted these oligopolies in dominating the market. Giving them yet more power, seems to me like drinking cyanide to cure cyanide poisoning. What I would entertain is any and all regulations that allow small business to flourish and complete with the large corporations. I would see any and all constraints on Quillette, for example, and other bastions of free thought be removed. I would certainly see the teachers’ unions broken and parents allowed to take the money to the school of their choice. I see less government and not more as a primary solution.

    The other issue you raised was the need for social programs. It seems to me you are correct in thinking that the right often sees them as only propping up those that are unwilling to produce or making people dependent upon the government to ensure they vote for those that support them. But no one on the right has ever told me that they aren’t for helping people that want to help themselves. It is the cliched difference between a hand up and a hand out.

    The reality though is that some people are unable to work. We have mentally ill people walking the streets that should be in treatment. We have drug addicted people that need help. These are the people who I personally would not mind paying taxes to help. Others may be more hard line.

    The people between are the hardest of all for me. They are the ones that are intellectually challenged (alright - not too bright). Intelligence has always been an asset, but as we move into the information age and manufacturing jobs decline, the opportunities for them to obtain anything but low paying service jobs is in steep decline.I would have all people willing to work be paid a wage that allows them to raise a family. But though we likely share this concern, we likely differ on the solution. I would first try keeping all low skilled immigrants out of the country before anything else. That should drive their wages up while giving them the dignity of work.

    Anyway, I have written too much and I am going to bed.

  15. I have been reading your posts on this thread with interest. It seems to me that like a lot of middle class people of some intelligence you are pissed off with the fact that a few people have been lucky enough to gain vast wealth. But what’s more interesting is that it is clear that you really don’t understand how that wealth was made and of what it consists.The zero sum fallacy is at the heart of your plaintive cries against billionaires. Wealth is not a static, finite thing. It is all based on trust and market forces. If you reduce the worth of billionaires you reduce the value of their holdings. You thus remove the thing which you want to tax.
    This is why taxation systems are never simple. They have to preserve value in order to tax it. A tax system that tries to force social changes as well as raising revenue will end up doing neither.
    I don’t think there are many conservatives who think that the government should not collect taxation for use in providing those public services that only the state can provide efficiently. Our problem is that for ar too long governments of all ilks have been subject to mission creep. They thus require more and more revenue. At the same time a whole lot of ignorant middle class swots, in which camp I’m going to have to place you, have decided that the tax system also needs to increase income euality. As I noted above, this is because most of these swots are just jealous that people whom they think are philistines have more money than the swots. But it also stems from the fact that the swots are ignorant of the workings of finance and commerce.

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