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comment by mk
mk  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The billionaires are angry

IMO the system that creates them is worse, and that the wealth tax is a treatment of a symptom, designed specifically to pass the buck and oversimplify for political reasons.

b_b  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I actually see nothing wrong with billionaires as a thing. I visit the Henry Ford museum with my kids very regularly, and that type of weird shit just isn't possible without the superrich. And I think when we look at a lot of our cultural institution that we value so heavily, we have to also admit that many of them were made possible by the largesse of the Gilded Age barons. I see nothing inherently morally wrong with wealth, even a lot of it. I see a lot wrong with stock speculation, and I see even more wrong with it when it's being perpetuated by the company execs themselves, which is basically every company these days in the era of hyper-financialization. I'm not arguing that the little guy get cut out of the market, nor that there shouldn't be rich people in the world. I'm arguing that there need to be stiff costs for making stock instead of making a product. Maybe the bubble collapses on its own. But I've thought that since about 2013 and there's no end in sight. While this mechanism may not be optimal, I haven't seen a tax proposal from anyone that looks better. Maybe make it illegal to use company stock as collateral for a personal loan?

spencerflem  ·  183 days ago  ·  link  ·  

On principle, it's undemocratic for so fantastically much power to be held by unelected individual people. And with basically all productivity improvements going toward lining their pockets, with wages trending downward even before inflation, with their short-sighted destruction of the environment, the American economy, privacy, etc...

It seems like basically every bad thing that's been happening in this country is a direct result of billionaires. When companies gut themselves, lay off all workers, outsource, and make a good brand garbage, some billionaire is getting rich. The billionaires lobby and oppose pro-worker legislation, are almost uniformly conservative, and after decade after decade of hoarding essentially all of the rise in GDP, flaunt their wealth with pointless and extravagant vanity projects.

Not to mention that it's billionaires who own the oil companies that have been ruining the environment for the last 50 years. And the same billionaires that conveniently bought all the good real estate in chilly Canada.

I hate them so much. And they only exist because we, as a society, allow them to. You can't get that much wealth by working. You get it by capturing the value that would be going somewhere else. Jeff Bezos didn't make all of Amazon have two day shipping. His army of underpaid and overworked wharehouse employees do that, for none of the money or benefits. The "heros" are actually doing the labor while bezos earns another hundred billion in the middle of a pandemic that (surprise) only benefits the billionaires.

If they stopped existing (taxes or otherwise), maybe the 6 Trillion the government printed would have gone to real people instead.

Their wealth in corporate stock only exists because we say it does. Hell, private property only exists because we say it does. So why the hell do we as a society say that one Jeff is allowed to hoard the entire GDP of some goddamn countries while people starve in the streets.

veen  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You really don’t think there is exploitation at play after amassing a certain amount of wealth? Or an immoral shirking of responsibility?

What I’d do is to tax the ever loving shit out of anyone holding onto more than 10 million, and make it incredibly easy to avoid those taxes by investing it into strictly regulated funds aimed at innovation/science/the arts/nature.

b_b  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't know where you draw the line. I have no problem raising taxes on rich people, even aggressively so. But I also have no problem with being rich, per se. The company I work for is funded by a billionaire, and I see very little other way that my type of business could operate in its early phase, since there's no way to make money making medicine for at least 10 years from founding, and that's with sunk costs that range into the hundreds of millions. No government grants are going to solve that problem. Some investment funds may be able to, but really what's the difference between owning a piece of an investment fund and having any other type of asset. You're still equally as rich.

Obviously big companies could be a lot more aggressive in their pursuit of R&D. I mean, how many Nobel prizes did Bell Labs win back in the day? But that was before we let the shareholder revolution destroy any public company's ability to think further than 2 quarters into the future.

I think what we need is a rolling back of the shareholder revolution, to create space for companies to plan and to disincentivize gigantic pay packages that are so often stock- or options-based. I'm not educated enough to know how to do that.

mk  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Maybe make it illegal to use company stock as collateral for a personal loan?

A perfectly reasonable solution.

spencerflem  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The government can make weird and fun things too, like all the national parks. Having societal decisions made by people living in a different plane of reality just isnt healthy, even if we occasionally get a Carnegie Hall or Gates Foundation.

Imo, if more people can afford to be artists, that would be the biggest improvement to culture

Also, totally agreed that there is a distinction between making value and financial engineering

mk  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Imo, if more people can afford to be artists, that would improve culture the most.

I hope you are tracking NFTs, because it is going to make the arts a real profession for the masses. In fact, I expect that in 10 years, many billionaires will be artists. In 25 years, most will be.

spencerflem  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I hope so, they'd be more fun at least. I really don't see how though, who has the money to drop millions into art except people who are currently billionaires?

NFTs don't seem to solve a problem other than a more efficient and creator-friendly way to let rich people speculate without the overhead of auction houses

(I really am earnestly trying to understand NFTs, I've read kleinbloo's very thoughtful comment earlier, and the take on how it avoids taxes makes sense but not why I as a normal person would want one)

mk  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I am not talking about fine art, but the art that we all consume, literature, furniture, film, music, decorations, etc.

Currently the market for creators is abysmal, and rent-seekers typically capture >95% of profits. The disintermediation of the markets for creative goods is going to realize the value creatives bring to society. In addition, by increasing the sheer numbers of creators, there are going to be knock on effects.

spencerflem  ·  183 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Totally agreed that the artist market is terribly skewed against creators, and anything that improves that is great

I'm still not sure why I, as an fan, would want an NFT, though. What I'm excited about is the actual movie or book or furniture. And for artists, how is an NFT more helpful than supporting them directly on Patreon?

kleinbl00  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You go to war with the army you have.

spencerflem  ·  185 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I completely agree, but treatments can be helpful too