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

It’s Cerys

‪I heard Cerys Matthews first on the audiobook edition of Robert McFarlane’s The Lost Words: A Spell Book (2017) 📚, and needed to hear her voice more, so I’ve been listening to her show on BBC Radio6. Every week she brings forth a wonderful world of discoveries: music, and poetry, and interviews. I love it. It’s hard to pull out highlights from her playlists; they flow.

Apparently she’s famous. Who knew? I just like the way she reads poetry.

Frankly, I don’t understand why the response to “police must not kill people” has reflexively been to make excuses rather than “OK.” Heck, my youngest even knows to say “OK” when he means “No.”

Budgets are Statements of Values

[A]usterity remains a political choice. … Beneath the narrow debates about how debts can be repaid reverberate larger, as yet unresolved questions about what kind of society we want to have, about who will pay for certain kinds of social provisions and whether we will have them at all. At the end of the day, these are inescapably political questions, not accounting ones.

This week’s book is Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, by Kim Phillips-Fein (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017) 📚. Seems like it may be appropriate for the current financial climate.

Leading Questions

No. 2 Son, 12, has always been curious about how things work. He’s currently fascinated by computer operating systems. Yesterday he asked which was the worst version of Windows.

Which led me to talk about how difficult it was to get people to upgrade from Windows95, tools that are good enough, planned obsolescence, creation of demand for useless things, tailfins on cars, fast fashion, and the insanity of an economic system that relies on creating wants and cannot satisfy needs.

Good times!

in which Mr Cox is a stodgy old man

When will publishers once again have the courage to publish footnotes instead of endnotes? At least Eric Asphaug’s When the Earth had Two Moons (Custom House, 2019) 📚 has proper superscript notations instead of vague page references in the notes. Anyway, with all this back-and-forth I’m still only on page 5. Good book, so far, and good notes; and, no, electronic media would not help.