Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Freedom from economic tyranny

In my previous essay I ranted about our incoherent attitudes towards work. Furthermore, DBB exhorts me to describe what I would do as "dictator". Here's my answer.

(Full disclosure: I learned of the basic concepts of this article from the work of science fiction author Mack Reynolds. I get a lot of my ideas from science fiction, so sue me.)

Create a government-chartered corporation. Acquire, by dilution, 50% of the common stock of all the public corporations doing business in the United States. End corporate taxation and this action will be revenue neutral. Create twice the adult population of common shares of this corporation. Give each adult one share, and he or she is entitled to the derivative dividends. Split the stock as necessary to keep the value stable and to translate greater capital wealth to greater dividend income. (This plan has the added benefit that we can base the dollar on something tangible, instead of the creditworthiness of the government.) The government will keep a quarter for its own income, and sell a quarter on the open market to establish a value. Create legal and financial incentives to minimize large private corporations.

Put industries that produce necessary goods (food, shelter, electricity, transportation) under partial or complete government control; electoral control is sufficient to guarantee performance, and these industries operate so close to margin anyway that private control doesn't offer much benefit to efficiency.

Tax income for consumption on a sliding scale. Do not tax income at all that is reinvested into productivity, but tax all consumed income equally regardless of its source.

As our productivity increases, people will receive more and more of a dividend until an equilibrium is reached between the desire for leisure and the desire to work for luxury.

It really is as easy as that.


  1. There are any number of tweaks we could add. For instance, we might require that everyone not otherwise occupied (and paying taxes) spend 4 hours a week (or one week or one month out of ten) working for the common good: sweeping the streets, maintaining the parks, constructing playgrounds, or suchlike.

  2. That's an interesting proposal. I did a little reading about Reynolds, and his books sound interesting.

    It is too bad we can't simluate an economy set up that way to see how it would play out. Sci-fi is a great source for ideas like that.

    I wonder if the systems we have are so entrenched that radical change like that is not possible for generations. Sci-fi has an answer for that as well - colonization of other worlds - start fresh somewhere else and you can set up a new economic/government system from scratch.

  3. Why have and income tax at all? As you can see from our history that once a governing body has the right to tax income, it will expand that power as soon as possible. The original promise that sold the American people on income tax was a 1% tax on anyone who made more than 250k(in todays dollars) and a 7% tax on anyone who made more than 6mil(again todays dollars). But the amendment that made this legal just gave the government power to tax all income, with no limitations within the amendment itself.

    Alternativly, a sales tax could generate just as much revenue, but without the invasion to privacy. Also there would not be less room for corporations to lobby to government for favorable tax legislation.

    I mean if your a dictator, why not go for a more efficient and less beauracratic approach than income tax.

  4. Anon: A graduated income tax encourages wealthy people to reinvest their earnings instead of wastefully consuming them.

    Plus, I think all people should contribute somehow to their society.

    Ian: If you'd like to post a brief argument for a flat tax, you're welcome to do so; I don't permit blatant advertising, even noncommercial. Since it is somewhat on topic, I'll let you post a link or two.

    Keep in mind, however, that the details of individual taxation is peripheral to the main topic of the post, which is a particular scheme for the redistribution of wealth.

  5. I wonder if the systems we have are so entrenched that radical change like that is not possible for generations.

    Even if it is, we have to start somewhere.

  6. True, we have to start somewhere, but then, what is step one? Or two?

  7. Step 1, I suppose, is to talk about the idea.

  8. Ok, we're talking. What's step two? I ask because I'm a practical bastard, which is another way of saying that you can talk about bridges and such all you want, but eventually you need to start laying the pilings and build a bridge, otherwise you'll just be standing on one side of the river, having a picnic, instead of making the means of crossing it.

    I like the idea you posted, though I think it does need more of step 1 (talking about it to iron out the details). My other concern is the non-economic aspect - economics is only half of the reason I lean libertarian - the other half is civil rights / I don't trust anyone with any power. Because first, power corrupts, and second, power attracts people like Bush and Cheney. Checks and balances are nice in theory, but in practice, not so much, as recent history has demonstrated. I'd rather have iron-clad constitutional rules preventing any of the branches from having much power rather than trying to rely on them to keep each other in check. Any government that has the power to give everyone a living also has the power to take it all away.

  9. DBB: Ok, we're talking. What's step two?

    Step 2 is always "raise money". Step three is probably to pass a Constitutional Amendment.

    My other concern is the non-economic aspect - economics is only half of the reason I lean libertarian - the other half is civil rights / I don't trust anyone with any power.

    To some extent, liberty requires some degree of organized power and authority (although not authoritarianism) because many liberties are dependent on enforcement of social contracts. One of the things that makes life... interesting... is that simple strategies are rarely optimal.

    It's not that I don't like what big-ell Libertarians have to say. What pisses me off about them (present company excluded) is their dogmatism and religiosity and their elevation of some moderately good ideas to The One True Faith.

    There are no iron-clad guarantees. There is only the aggregate of individual effort and the pitiless and inescapable constraints of evolution: Fuck up and die.


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