Election time, when we all think about economics.
I've posted on Tribal Economy before & this is an amplification of that idea.

The thing is, I want to tell you that I've found this miraculous elixir of prosperity. It's potent, it's everywhere, it's abundant.  Not infinite, no, but there's enough to go around.  It's oil, stored sunlight.  You can light the darkness. You can turn it into plastic, melt rocks to make iron, and maybe best of all, power tractors made from iron and grow a hundred times (I'm sure it's more than that) the crops you could otherwise.

So we have a largess, an inheritance, a trust fund to guarantee our leisure.  If you accept that homo sapiens is a viable species, that we could build huts and dig for potatoes and worms, bring down the occasional buffalo, then we're well enough equipped to survive.  With the great power amplifier that is energy (whether oil, solar, nuclear or wind, animal) coupled to our talents, we're sure to live easier than hunter-gatherers.

Olde Tyme economic policy held that there "should" be full employment because of this.  I can produce more than I need, so my production lifts us all, and why wouldn't we want that: some equitable arrangement is surely possible.  Keynes said it's a complex dynamic system and can get stuck in miserly caution where the positive feedback of productivity needs a kick-start.  (Hayek said, "watch out it's too complicated so don't meddle.") So where do we come down on the argument?  This year's election is sometimes cast as a referendum on that question.  I think it's a little different; it's not about a kick start.

I say the essential point is whether somebody, anybody, wants me to work or not. Of course that want is expressed indirectly through desire for what I could produce.  Well, what about satiety?  What if nobody wants anything.  Somebody's already running the tractor so we've got 99 slackers and the farmer ain't one.  So what is the problem? We started with me wanting work. Presumably I'm no just dedicated to watercolors because I'm not part of the tractor deal.  Maybe a few guys have formed a tractor collective and they won't share the fruits of their labor:  "We've got 5 of us, that's enough to drive this thing full time, so go looking elsewhere."

But what will they do with 95 unneeded rations?  That's none of your beeswax. "Store it up for the kids, maybe.  Or make likker, or iPhones, who knows?  We'll think of something and the point is, it's ours."

So ownership has altered situation on the ground hugely away from the mathematical average. Plainly it's a critical factor.  Before you all jump to the conclusion that I'm gonna go all commie on you, I'll say I agree the guys who built and drive the tractor need to get something for it, to motivate them to do that work. We can't all lay in the hammock or nobody eats. I get that. However, if they get it all, all the crops, then I'll still be a hunter-gatherer, elevated only very slightly by virtue of sometimes selling them a bit of pottery in exchange for a rare fine dinner.  Alternately, we could ALL work, just as hard as we used to farm, and create more value for everyone, but if just a few have all the wealth, and are sated, then the elixir of prosperity's bottled up and can't get out into the economy.

This is my nutshell argument for high capital taxes. Not capital gains, well those too, sure, but capital itself is what I'm after, perhaps through the mechanism of inheritance tax. We need to reward work, but we also need to get value out there, coursing through the economy. Our presupposition of ownership is just that, a premise.  It doesn't have any natural reason to be the baseline. "Check your premise" is a phrase bandied glibly: I'll adopt it.

In an age long gone when power flowed from the strength of your arm, it was awarded blindly by genetics, perhaps unjust but ephemeral as life. In an age of property ascendant, power is similarly unjust but indefatigable.  Even I at first said "law" there instead of "property," falling prey myself to the pervasive bias that property is a God given right.  I say this part of the constitution is too strong. We need to engineer enough turmoil into the system to make it possible for anyone to climb the mountain, and untenable to stand casually there forever without toil.

So I don't want a kick start, a jolt, an encouragement, a troubled asset relief program.  I want a fundamental change in the angle of repose that controls how steeply wealth can be piled. I think that can be found in IP law, capital gains and inheritance taxes.  We need to turn those knobs, a little, and for a long time.  That will control the system to a new and more broadly joyful setpoint.

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