How Much Greed is Good?

Paul Graham believes a wealth tax would act as a disincentive.

He’s since revised his post several times to remove some indignation. But I’m surprised Mr. Graham left some arithmetic as an exercise for the reader after calculating the cost of a hypothetical wealth tax. Let’s review the case for a wealth tax by looking at the person who would lose the most money to one.

If this hypothetical tax took 95% of Jeff Bezos’s $205,602,264,589 he would only have $10,280,113,229 left, which is not much more than pocket change—barely enough to live on! One can certainly see how hoarding only $10 billion dollars would be a significant disincentive to attempting to monopolize all retail.

I fail to see the difference in incentive between 10 billion and 205 billion.

A more difficult problem is enforcing a wealth tax, since capital is flighty. The wealthy can live anywhere and have no loyalty to any place.

The thing is, currency issuers don’t need to tax in order to spend. One does not need to address vast disparities in wealth to provide for the needs of the people. Those can be separate projects.

But a user of the currency does. And New York might find it should take a larger piece of the action on Wall Street. What’s that saying about gambling? The house always wins?

Graham Greene on Bullshit Jobs

“It’s a living,” she said.

“It’s not a real living. All this spying. Spying on what? Secret agents discovering what everybody knows already…”

“Or just making it up,” she said. He stopped short, and she went on without a change of voice. “There are lots of other jobs that aren’t real. Designing a new plastic soapbox, making pokerwork jokes for public-houses, writing advertising slogans, being an M. P., talking to UNESCO conferences. But the money’s real. What happens after work is real. I mean, your daughter is real and her seventeenth birthday is real.”

“What do you do after work?”

“Nothing much now, but when I was in love… we went to cinemas and drank coffee in Expresso bars and sat on summer evenings in the Park.”

Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (1958)

The Days Grow Short

Lily is an old cat now: fifteen years. Her littermate brother gone this past year and a half. She eats little and sleeps much. It seems an uncomfortable sleep, troubled by labored breathing and punctuated by the slightest noise. Yet she purrs.

The kittens are too much. They stalk her tail and move too fast–where can a lady rest? No longer in my lap; I stand too often. Outside, then. Or, when my sons are here, in their cave.

Does she sense the end? I see too many parallels with her brother’s final days. I’m selfish: I want to stay with her, to be there when the time comes–she can’t die if she’s not alone. She came and comforted me when I was left in the depths of despair. She wiped away my tears. She reminded me: I have responsibilities still.

Again tomorrow I will set out food and water, and change the litter box.

Lily, Sleeping

Earplugs Removed

I turned off the air-conditioner and opened the windows letting in the air and sounds from outside. The day grew warmer and the house grew hotter, until at nightfall I went to sleep outside with the insects. It was not cicada which kept me from sleep, but automobiles. They are tucked safely in garages now, put to bed for a day of rest.

This Sunday morning all is quiet and soft. Breezes blow and rain falls upon leaf and roof. In my kitchen, only the hum of the refrigerator now that ham and eggs have fried, but I can barely hear a thing over its roar.

No lawnmowers today: mourning doves, crows, and jays.

When the machinery stops, I feel my sense restored. I wasn’t deaf, exactly, but cut off and dumb, ears and mind too full. Now I am here, all around surrounded with sounds.