Maybe more than 1 billion is too much

Let’s focus on the US, rather than the world, just to make this tangible. If you get it and like it, maybe you could figure out a way to imagine applying it globally.

Maybe it would be good if the US government were to seize every individual’s real wealth exceeding $1 billion and just destroy it.  I am not talking about trying to transfer that wealth through taxation, because that seems the easy case.  I am talking about actually destroying the wealth, in order to highlight the tougher case.

Such an approach (or one that rhymes) would make everybody poorer, as Tony Yates hinted at in a recent Tweet, which got me thinking about this idea again.  I concede Tony’s point (or what I am imposing as Tony’s point) as the first round effect, again just for the sake of argument.  But does that itself make the idea self-evidently dumb?

Destroying the wealth of the super-rich would reduce income/wealth inequality. This would bring two benefits. First, the lower end would feel less pain of envy, which would be an advance on your utilitarian metric, even though you may be loathe to accept that for ideological reasons that would say more about you than the argument. Pareto optimality is a sometimes-clarifying heuristic, not a Commandment.

Second, it is becoming pretty obvious that the super-rich are a direct threat to democracy.  Consider this dork, as just one example. He thinks what America needs is a second party committed to “capitalism”, and he means to buy it.

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Obviously, taking the wealth of the super-rich and just destroying it is not a first best solution.  It would be better if the Supreme Court didn’t see the right to distort politics as a fundamental speech right or if the median American were a little less easily fooled, etc. And as mentioned, even if you are neo-commie like me, taxation and transfer of real wealth would be better than destroying it outright.

Moreover, there are some downsides to my proposal, even if the alternative is simply not doing it.  Yes, my proposal reduces the freedom of plutocrats and would create a disincentive against accumulating wealth in excess of a billion. All who worry deeply about those put up your hands.

I am not sure if I even buy it myself. I probably do.  But dismissing a concern for income inequality per se as just muddled sentimentality is a muddled sentimentality — one that just happens to be widely accepted uncritically.  The virginal need to present and be accountable for an actual argument.