Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't Eat The Rich - Bleed Them

Alistair Darling has announced a new top tax rate of 50% for those earning more than £150,000 from next April.

Things we value; a stable society that produces the most happiness (freedom from suffering) for the largest number. Agreed? If not, no point talking. If so, read on.

Equality of opportunity offers the most likely route for the greatest number to achieve freedom from suffering. Concentration of resources in few hands allows them to manipulate systems that affect us easily, aggregating yet more resources in their hands, disincentivising others to challenge them and closing off opportunities for those who have skills to raise themselves up. Redistribution counteracts these centralising tendencies of certain economic systems and increases equality of opportunity throughout our lives. We want systems to be as open as possible with information on those systems as free as possible to allow the largest number to enter and compete in those systems, to produce in turn the most efficient results - all moves against this, whether oligopolistic or monopolistic, are anti-equality and hence anti-happiness.

In the old days, the poor paid taxes to support the rich, who didn't work. Now the middle class support the poor, and the rich dodge taxes. Moreover, the rich (and the middle class) do things that hardly constitute work (gambling with someone else's money) and, at best, do work that is no harder than the work anyone else does. If you argue, as you're likely to, that certain jobs are more _skilled_, I'd argue that it's the luck of the individual involved that they either a) were brought up in a situation that allowed them better education and more schooling or b) they were _genetically_ lucky, in that they had genetic advantages allowing them to prosper better. Neither are virtuous qualities that should be rewarded, but luck. I do believe that mantra "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs."

I don't think we should eat the rich - I think we should bleed the endlessly burgeoning fat from them. They'll still be incentivised to work to maintain their way of life, and just removing that money from them, even if it isn't effectively redistributed, is a move towards equality. America doesn't do that. The UK tries, but doesn't. I hope this change is a helpful move towards equality of opportunity, if not by redistribution, by sapping the fat of the rich.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Oregon Trail iPhone Map

I couldn't find a map online for Gameloft's excellent iPhone conversion of the 1982 game The Oregon Trail. You control a team of pioneers attempting to make the 5-6 month slog across the West to Oregon, battling bears, flooded rivers, broken waggons and , and meeting great names from the opening up of the west. Here's an in-game map I've stitched together myself; click on it for the original size.