The Better You Understand Economics, the More You Realize that Money Isn’t All that Matters

by Don Boudreaux on October 1, 2011

in Competition, Complexity & Emergence, Inequality, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Taxes

This post from September 2006 offers merely one example of the wisdom of the warning found in Harold Demsetz’s line that I ran as yesterday’s Quotation of the Day.

Status Won’t Go Away

by Don Boudreaux on September 3, 2006

in Standard of Living

Alex, Arnold, Greg, and Megan each mention solid reasons for questioning the wisdom of reducing envy by taxing the rich and giving the proceeds to the poor.  (Brad DeLong recently offered such a proposal.)

It bears repeating that monetary wealth is certainly not the only dimension of our lives that matter to us and that we use as a basis for comparing ourselves to others.  Indeed, I suspect that it is not as important as many who champion “redistriution” believe it to be.

Back in April the New Yorker magazine ran this interesting article by John Cassidy in which Cassidy used evidence of social hierarchies in some animal species to suggest that we humans should “redistribute” income.  The specific evidence was that animals low on the totem pole were more likely to get sick and die than were animals in the same group but higher up the social pecking order.

A few weeks later the New Yorker published this letter of mine in response:

John Cassidy bolsters the hypothesis that people’s health is harmed by relative (rather than absolute) deprivation by citing evidence from the animal kingdom (“Relatively Deprived,” April 3).  For example, “dominant rhesus monkeys have lower rates of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) than monkeys further down the social hierarchy.”

Contrary to Cassidy’s suggestion, however, such findings do not support policies to redistribute income.  After all, animals with social hierarchies have no monetary income.  Because status among humans is determined not only by income but also by traits such as political power, athletic prowess, military heroics, intellectual success, and good looks, equalizing incomes will intensify the importance of these non-pecuniary traits as sources of status.  And there’s no reason why persons with low status in these non-pecuniary categories will not suffer all the stress and envy now allegedly suffered by people with low incomes.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

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{ 85 comments }

vidyohs October 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

Learned a long time ago that wealth is what the individual values, not what other people tell him to value. Many a man in history has died wealthy yet penniless.

Mesa Econoguy October 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Put another way, money doesn’t care who has it.

[h/t grandma]

brotio October 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I like your grandma!

:)

JoshINHB October 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

As a hierarchical social species it is impossible to equalize the wealth of individual people within a society, as has been demonstrated by the complete failure of every attempt to do so.

Steve Fritzinger October 1, 2011 at 9:19 am

Envy is a sin. Hard work is a virtue.

If envy is a problem, work to improve the sinner.

Don’t punish the virtuous.

Bastiat Smith October 1, 2011 at 11:45 am

^ I love this. I’ll be stealing it.

Thanks.

muirgeo October 1, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Do you envy the wealthy drug runner? The mafia King Pin? The Wall Street Banker? The Corporate CEO that gets a Golden parachute after destroying a company?

I don’t envy them… they make me mad as hell… as do the dupes constantly defending them as if they’ve contributed to society rather then simply had too little scruples to actually make money by doing something productive.

Yours is a society were the most wretched and unscrupulous will always come out on top at the expense of truly productive people.

What we have seen is massive monetary rewards for people who are not only unproductive but counter productive and THAT is why are economy is in the tank… along with the defense they get for apologist like you.

Dan J October 2, 2011 at 12:44 am

Uh-huh….. And in socialism and beyond it is the corrupt who reign over all. Violence ensures the authoritarians despotic controls. Progressives advocate use of govt and compulsory measures on all, into their schemes. As major democrats are one advocating for less restrictions on govt ranging from suspension of congressional elections to appointments of commissions and communist panels to alleviate elected officials from fear of being recalled or voted out for their actions.

Greg Webb October 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Do you envy the wealthy drug runner? The mafia King Pin? The Wall Street Banker? The Corporate CEO that gets a Golden parachute after destroying a company?</i?

No, but you must. Because without big-government involvement there would be no wealthy drug runner, no Mafia King Pin, and no corporate CEO who gets a golden parachute after destroying a company. And, the Wall Street Banker would not be as powerful or wealthy if not for crony capitalism that is created when the government and business work together to limit competition to enhance profitability.

I don’t envy them… they make me mad as hell… as do the dupes constantly defending them as if they’ve contributed to society rather then simply had too little scruples to actually make money by doing something productive.

You envy them. You hate the fact that anyone has done better in life than you have, otherwise you would give away your time and money to help the poor and not be so concerned about what others are doing or not doing. You have no scruples when you constantly complain about something, but then refuse to do anything about it except further complain that someone else should be paying more in taxes. That, George, is simply not productive.

Yours is a society were the most wretched and unscrupulous will always come out on top at the expense of truly productive people.

You mean like the Pelosi Family getting all of those loans of taxpayer money for so-called “green energy” projects that have gone bankrupt because those ideas did not work…again. How about those crony capitalists at Soros, GM, GE, Solyndra, etc. Yes, the most wretched and unscrupulous people using corrupt politicians like President Obama to steal from the taxpayers, the truly productive people.

What we have seen is massive monetary rewards for people who are not only unproductive but counter productive and THAT is why are economy is in the tank… along with the defense they get for apologist like you.>

Yes, George, all the crony capitalists, like Soros, GE, Goldman Sachs, GM, Solyndra, etc., thank you for all that wonderful taxpayer money and favorable government regulations designed to limit competition that the crony capitalists got. And the corrupt politicians thank you too. Because you are the typical big-govenment shill that can only be described as a useful idiot to the corrupt politician and the polticial cronies.

W.E. Heasley October 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

Brad DeLong? Oh, Brad quasi-economist-at-large DeLong! The social engineer on the Fatal Conceit Express. That Brad DeLong!

Methinks1776 October 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

I like Horowitz’s description of DeLong: The poor man’s Krugman.

W.E. Heasley October 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

MeThinks:

Excellent!

Try this one on for size regarding Delong and Krugman:

“For policy, the central fact is that Keynesian policy recommendations have no sounder basis, in a scientific sense, than recommendations of non-Keynesian economists or, for that matter, non economists.” – Lucas and Sargent, After Keynesian Economics, June 1978

Invisible Backhand October 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

or as Dick Cheney put it, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

As Greece is currently putting it… yes, they do.

Invisible Backhand October 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Then your disagreement is with W. E. Heasley, not me.

muirgeo October 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

Call him what you want but the DeLong link is to a 2006 article of his explaining the poor state of the economy. In that same year reading this blog you’d think everything was peachy. It’s all in blog history now and people like Delong showed decisively who better understands economics. But yeah…whatever…make you reality free claims all you want.

Greg Webb October 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

George, you are pretending at knowledge again. Blog history proves that DeLong and you are simply advocates of the same old failed big government policies of the past.

SaulOhio October 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

Of course, the study of monkeys assumes that the poor health was the result of being lower in the hierarchy. Maybe the ones on top got there because they were healthier, and thus better at the confrontations that determine hierarchy.

Don Boudreaux October 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

I assume that the researchers controlled for this factor, but, if not, your point is a very good one.

Josh S October 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

I have found that assuming social scientists understand the difference between correlation and causality is not generally a good one.

Doc Merlin October 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thats a very unlikely assumption, Don.

vidyohs October 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

I think the researchers have it right.

Consider that location in the pecking order is established by young, assuming at the time, healthy monkeys as they mature, and future movement up or down the pecking order will depend a lot on access to nourishment and instruction from elders,. as well as death and replacement of those elder monkeys higher in the pecking order.

If two healthy young monkeys confront one another over position, the losing one will have less access to everything that is shared by the whole community and it is natural to expect that his health and self esteem will likely drop in relation to the one that won, and in relation to every monkey above the winning one.

The losing monkey’s position in the pecking order will automatically be challenged by every young maturing monkey, so his position of weakness makes him a likely candidate to slide farther down the ladder, and this brings him even less access to that which is shared, likely causing his health and self esteem to degenerate even farther.

If a young monkey is unhealthy from the git-go, it is probably true that the monkey will likely never challenge for position and can be expected to remain unhealthy and submissive its entire life.

Methinks1776 October 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

Does social hierarchy disappear if everyone has an equal amount of money? I don’t think so. Money is not the only currency and wealth will never be equally distributed.

Methinks1776 October 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

Huh….didn’t read through carefully enough. Just call me Captain Obvious.

Sadly, the American left has now started to try to equalizing things other than money. Note the number of competitions in school where “everyone is a winner”. Next they’ll be taking razor blades to the faces of pretty girls.

Harrison Bergeron October 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

Next they’ll be taking razor blades to the faces of pretty girls.

Don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see what you let slip there, Methinks1776.

Bill October 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

I hope everyone will read (re-read?) Kurt Vonnegut’s essay, H.B.

Richard Stands October 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Full text here.

kyle8 October 1, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Although I totally agree with the danger that Vonnegut was trying to bring into the light with that story, Unfortunately it was one of the worse written pieces of drek to every become a part of the accepted lexicon.

It also surprised me that Vonnegut would write such a cautionary tale when he, in fact supported some of the most far left ideas and people.

Stone Glasgow October 1, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Kurt is a genius.

Stone Glasgow October 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

In a 2003 interview Vonnegut said, “I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka ‘Christians,’ and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities…”

Stedebonnet October 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Vonnegut, though left-leaning philosophically, wrote other books speaking out against government imposed equality. The short-story “Welcome to the Monkey House” comes to mind as another.

The guy definitely believed that equality endangered individuality.

Becky Hargrove October 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

When we say that money is not the only important dimension in our lives, that however can be a slippery slope in the present, as finance has done a really good job of bungling money…a process that still could undermine banks. The task is to show how people can actually prosper who have little money, so that in the event of financial calamity, people are not convinced to give up on money altogether. It is possible to support the use of money, and support economic access that does not depend altogether on money at the same time.

Methinks1776 October 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

as finance has done a really good job of bungling money

What does that mean?

muirgeo October 2, 2011 at 1:00 am

Maybe she means how they (finance) created billions… no trillions and trillions of dollars where there was none with their genius unregulated invention of complex financial derivatives.

Maybe she is referring to those wizards of Wall Street who get paid gazillions of dollars to properly allocate resource and reduce risk who basically blew the lid off the global economy allocating resources into the most unimaginably risky things you could imagine. Like doctors who were supposed to amputate a right leg but cut off the left arm and still got paid billions and were exempt from all legal action….maybe that’s what she’s talking about.

Methinks1776 October 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

Moron.

Stone Glasgow October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The office of a hedge-fund manager is like a science lab in 17th century Massachusetts.

muirgeo October 2, 2011 at 8:42 am

From The Big Picture, By Barry Ritholtz

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/10/there-are-no-rogue-traders-there-are-only-rogue-banks/

“Paul Volcker, arguably the greatest central banker in history, has persuasively argued that proprietary trading should not be part of the insured depository banking sector. I utterly agree with Fed governor Thomas Hoenig, who has described the banking sector as “more akin to public utilities” than independent entities. Want to be independent to pursue proprietary trading? Let’s drop their FDIC insurance and see how far their reputations carry them.”

Slocum October 1, 2011 at 10:48 am

But…equalizing wealth (and thereby reducing its importance) would mean a significant relative status *boost* for prominent academics. They don’t like the being outshone by people who should be recognized as their intellectual inferiors but who have gained status through financial success.

None of them, you will note, EVER propose redistributing academic status. None suggest redistributing citations or opportunities to publish in elite journals or to teach at elite institutions. None would propose accepting students or awarding grants (or tenure!) by lottery. Prominent left-leaning academics seem untroubled by being the big, ‘deserving’ winners in the academic status competition. They’re feted at conferences as invited speakers (with expenses paid). Their achievements and brilliance are extravagantly praised by those introducing them (and whom they heap praise upon in turn). How do they think all that makes the unknown, academic ‘little people’ from directional state U feel?

But they don’t seem to spend much time worrying about all the inferior ‘losers’ toiling away in obscurity as poorly-paid itinerant lecturers or with heavy teaching loads at 3rd-tier institutions (let alone those who tried and failed to hang onto the bottom rung of the academic ladder at all). When it comes to the status dimension most important to them — where they’re the big winners — it’s meritocracy all the way, baby

Dallas Weaver October 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

When going to academic dominated meeting, conferences, boards, expert panels etc. as a business owner, I have found that the main value of my Ph.D and P.E. license is not having to take any nonsense from the academics. I deal a lot with environmental “scientists” and the pecking order is very pronounced, but I don’t get much pecking.

Stone Glasgow October 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Money falls from the sky; educations are earned. Duh.

Becky Hargrove October 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

Methinks,
At a time when our government could have focused on growing our economy, it instead has to focus on continually propping up the excess valuation of the housing market.

Sam Grove October 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm

At a time when our government could have focused on growing our economy, it instead has to focus on continually propping up the excess valuation of the housing market.

The former expectation is what led to the latter activity.
Politicians and many others believed that they were the same thing.
Spending is spending in the view of the money masters.

vidyohs October 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Wow, the housing market is not a part of our economy! Who knew it was separate and distinct?

Methinks, m’lady, did you know you could grow the housing market and not be growing the economy at the same time?

Amazing insight Becky brings to the table.

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 11:15 am

The government does not grow our economy – government creates redistributions and regulatory barriers which businesses that do grow our economy must endure. The U.S. government has no Constitutional authority to “continually [prop] up the excess valuation of the housing market”, nor did they have the Constitutional authority to meddle in the housing market in the first place.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNqQx7sjoS8

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 11:15 am

@ Becky Hargrove

vikingvista October 1, 2011 at 11:47 am

Nor in growing our economy.

Becky Hargrove October 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

Sweet Liberty,

True, I was just trying to keep it simple. However, the Fed did no one any favors with its decision to focus on long term bonds. As to the regulations national government imposes on its citizens, have you checked the zoning maps in numerous small towns across the country? One quickly notices that the only commercial sites exist in places where no land exists for sale, or people are expected to renovate old buildings which should be demolished.

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I’m not surprised that zoning regulations are less than ideal. Just another example of government “helping” its citizenry.

Krishnan October 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

The redistributionists’ aim is not just to take from those that have and give to those that demand.

They also seek to GIVE to those that have a significant dose of misery. If for example those that have willingly give up what they have (OK, most of what they have) and are happy – the redistributionists will say “They still have too much with them because they are still happy – We need to take more – it is still not fair”fur

To them, “fair” means giving a dose of misery also to those that have.

Ayn Rand explains this very well – Atlas Shrugged contains several examples. The one that comes to my mind is James Taggart’s attempts to make John Galt scream in pain and beg for help and forgiveness – Taggart cannot stand the sight of a man that does not apologize for what he has and seems impervious to the pain that Taggart wants to inflict.

Krishnan October 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

That did not stop the tyrants and does not today. There is almost nothing we can say to such redistributionists – anything other than what they consider “fair” is unfair. Oh, of course as long as THEY get whatever they demand and get – after all, they “mean well” and “want to help”

The wealth/income disparity is indeed greatest in the very systems that claim to take and give – since they take, keep a lot for themselves and dribble some out to the riff raff

Becky Hargrove October 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

When we focus solely on the haves and have nots, we lose sight of the growing numbers of those who want to be responsible for themselves and yet have no way to do so. The object is not to make all incomes the same, the object is to provide the greatest amount of economic access possible in this world.

Economic Freedom October 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Devil’s Advocate response:

Economic access is increased to the extent that wealth is redistributed and incomes equalized.

Refute it.

vikingvista October 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Yep. Financial wealth is only one of many things people envy. Eliminate one cause, and the envious just focus on the others. And attempts to redistribute the others may be considerably uglier; in the case of character, self-defeating.

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

You are spot on concerning character. It’s one thing to ask for charity when you are in need, it is quite another to demand redistributions from you fellow citizens because you are “entitled”.

Gordon Richens October 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

“Indeed, I suspect that it is not as important as many who champion “redistriution” believe it to be.”
I suspect that the “redistriutionists” fail to consider the possibility that if you change or remove incentives, people are apt to change their behaviors.

g-dub October 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

They think they know how people should behave, and so command it. Incentives don’t count in their alternate universe.

Richard Stands October 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Reminds me of the old “You have two cows…” joke list:

* Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
* Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then sells you some milk.
* Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
* Naziism: You have two cows. The Government shoots you and takes the cows.

I always thought a libertarian version might be:

“You have two cows. You think you neighbor might have some cows. But then again, it’s none of your damned business.”

Caleb October 1, 2011 at 2:11 pm

*like*

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Or the “progressive” version…

You have two cows. The government fairly distributes cow pieces to everyone. No more cows.

Gil October 2, 2011 at 3:13 am

Or you have two cows and the government knocks on the door and you shoot them dead.

Jameson October 1, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Doesn’t government-controlled fiat currency ultimately solidify our sense of envy toward the rich? Imagine if people’s incomes weren’t even quantifiable using a standard currency. Perhaps then it would be easier to see how foolish it is to compare.

vikingvista October 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm

And the central planners would be deprived of input for their models. It would be wonderful.

Stone Glasgow October 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm

There is always a most-liquid asset in any market in which prices and incomes and debts are denominated.

muirgeo October 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm

“The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”

Adam Smith

THAT JUST HAPPENED! Actually it happened around 1776 but yeah it happened.

It’ NOT a matter of envy but one of economic efficiency. The Market Fundamentalist are left wanting when asked to explain the two worst most catastrophic economic periods of our history coinciding with the greatest disparities of income and wealth.

If they could provide evidence to the contrary I and most would be ALL for massive economic inequality. But the economic fundamentalist is more concerned with pure principle and theory than with results or real world truths…. And that’s why they deserve the title of fundamentalist.

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Ah, the dulcet tones of class warfare. You sing it so well and so often, almost as if it were the only tune you know. Let’s see if we’ve got this straight… Rich, bad. Poor, good! By Jove, that is an easy tune to learn! And the good news – economics isn’t any more complicated than that! Robin Hood er, Muirgeo to the rescue!

muirgeo October 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Are you talking to me or Adam Smith?

Are you talking to your feelings or to real world pragmatism? Because I didn’t see in that response of yours a explaination for the correlation of wealth disparity and and economic collapse.

If the God of truth could prove to you that too much concentration of wealth IS indeed economcally ineffeceint would you cede that policies to decrease inequality and improve effeciiency should be adopted? Or are you SO stuck on principle that real world results and pragmatism do not matter…ie we should live a “pricipled life” even if that makes us poorer…because YOU believe your version of a “princpled life” is the right one?

SweetLiberty October 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm

All you have to do to prove it to me oh God of Truth is to define “too much concentration of wealth”. What is the precise dollar value that is “too much”?Then, we can simply make sure no one ever exceeds that value by stealing their wealth and letting you redistribute it and *poof*, the economy is fixed!

So simple.

muirgeo October 2, 2011 at 1:13 am

OK so you WOULD argue with God. Wow Dude a little perspective please… a little respect.

Anyway the proper concentration of wealth lies somewhere between the massive amounts that occured with the two great depressions and the 70 years in beween them when we had less concentration of wealth, a more robust growing economy and NO major comparable crashes.

http://www.demos.org/inequality/images/charts/top1percent_thumb.gif

SweetLiberty October 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

Ah, Muirgeo, to live in such a simple world as you. Your little chart does not account for unsustainable bubbles largely created by the government and Fed, it doesn’t account for poor public education or lifestyle choices resulting in smaller households, it doesn’t account for technology advancements which place greater emphasis on high-end skills, it doesn’t account for the influx of low end immigrants (legal or otherwise), etc.

Your solution is to tax the rich even more to support your unconstitutional spending spree which is unsustainable no matter how much you steal. But I’ll tell you what, you can have my full support to increase taxes on the rich IF you support those libertarians who wish to roll back government spending, adhering strictly to the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution. Of course, adhering to the Constitution wouldn’t require nearly the level of taxation we have today, so the point would become moot.

Dan J October 2, 2011 at 12:49 am

Did you beat your monkey for superior pecking order?

Ken October 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

“Because status among humans is determined not only by income but also by traits such as political power, athletic prowess, military heroics, intellectual success, and good looks, equalizing incomes will intensify the importance of these non-pecuniary traits as sources of status.”

Cue Diana Moon Glampers….

indianajim October 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm

First, there is little reason to doubt that people, like other primates, consider status relative to a peer group of a number far fewer than the entire population of other like-species primates. These socialist engineers are overgeneralizing in the extreme. Secondly, relative position in one’s peer group is just one argument, absolute wealth/income matters as well. Monomaniacal focus on relative wealth/income coupled with the aforementioned over-generalization add weight to Don’s critique.

KD October 2, 2011 at 1:36 am

Taxes are absolutely a means of redistributing wealth. Government takes from millionaires and gives to millionaires. It also takes from billionaires and gives to billionaires. Redistribution of wealth. Gotta love it!

steve October 2, 2011 at 3:51 am

One of the real genious elements of a free society is the freedom of association. Can’t compete with Bill Gates. Don’t fret about it, you don’t really have to. Start a restaraunt, you can be top dog. Don’t have a head for business. Fine, join a softball team where you can be the short stop. Not athletic and no head for business? Still fine, go into politics. Ugly too? How about engineering. Your not smart either? Then try your hand at online mmorgs. Your hand is deformed as well? How about starting a club for handicapped people. And so on ….

Basically, if you can’t find some hierarchy where you can feel important and wanted, then you are not trying. If you absolutely must be top dog, then keep trying it might take some work with that deformed hand and all.

Besides, if hierarchy is so important that those at the top of the money pyramid must be brought low, then why aren’t they saying the same thing about the political pyramid. Presidents make me jealous. I want them to be less important not more important.

Randy October 2, 2011 at 4:11 am

If it were possible I would tax only the powerful. Afterall, it is they who benefit from the existing political structure. The rest of us would do what we do regardless. But it isn’t possible to tax the powerful – in fact, a good definition of the word powerful is an ability to collect taxes in one form or another. And as it is not possible to tax the powerful, all taxes must ultimately be paid by those against whom the power is applied, so I am opposed to all taxes.

JS October 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

So you would tax the unions, for starters?

Randy October 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

Absolutely.

g-dub October 2, 2011 at 10:21 am

One might think that the most powerful, or the most rich, would have the most to lose in a territorial invasion or “local” attacks on property. (Every person, rich or poor, would seem to have a more or less equal interest against attacks on their body/person.) Thus it would seem that the rich/powerful would need to pay the most for defense, territorial or local. They would also be the ones most capable of paying.

Our question is the avenue for which it is paid: government/state (via taxes) or private. One might wonder if a monopoly supplier would overcharge, or bias the charges, and scoop up more monopolized “services” as time went on.

vikingvista October 2, 2011 at 4:21 pm

“One might wonder”? One might also wonder if the sun will rise tomorrow.

Might one count you among the Molinarians?

g-dub October 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

“One might wonder”?

lol! I am practicing my understatements and leading comments in case I ever get onto Survivor. You know, get others riled up via subtle suggestion so they end up “thinking it first” and get the blood on their hands rather than me. Hah, my fantasies!

Might one count you among the Molinarians?

What would make you ask that?

I’ve been over to Rodrick Long’s Molinari Institute site, but not a lot. I don’t have time for much leisure reading. I do this site, a little FB, a little bit of research (and skim reading), and little more. I just don’t have much time these days.

To answer your question: “One might not”; I am not a Molinarian and couldn’t describe what that is. What is it?

vikingvista October 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I was referring specifically to his short essay, “The Production of Security”, which your post seemed to follow from. You can find it free at Mises.org, if you are interested, and have an hour to kill.

JS October 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

No one is really interested in equality, but it serves as a useful excuse to help one up the economic ladder if they stand on a lower rung. Once they reach higher levels, they no longer need ‘equality’ as their excuse. At that point, they switch to ‘liberty’ to at least preserve their holdings.

As in the Gilbert &Sullivan lyric said…… “If everybody were a somebody, then nobody would be anybody.”

ArrowSmith October 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Those people who feel they are losers in the capitalist system want to tear down anyone more successful then them. The quality of the gutter appeals to their green-eyed monster.

Russell Nelson October 3, 2011 at 12:55 am

This is exactly why beautiful women need to have sex with me more often. Why should only assholes get to screw beautiful women?

ron October 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

You screw beautiful women (plural) but not as often as you would like. Have you tried becoming a bigger one, since you seem to have the basic idea down pat.

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