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.

2 comments:

grilly said...

isn't a mega tax rate for the rich one of the things that brought about thatcher?

lou said...

Still thinking about this. (I think real slow!)

I mentioned something before about governing bodies being subject to self-selecting bias – even if they are democratically elected they still have to decide that they want to run for election.

Plus there’s Paxman’s discussion in Political Animal – being part of the system of government for too long changes the people within.

I think I said something facetious about picking MPs using a random number generator, but that got me thinking… is it really that crazy?

How about a Second (Third?) Chamber comprising randomly selected Joe Schmoe members of the public? It would be like jury service! Everyone loves doing jury service, right?

Pros & cons:

People would HATE it. They hate doing jury service, and that’s carried out in their hometown, where they get to go back to their own bed each night.

To be effective, they’d have to sit for at least six months, which for most would mean being away from home for an extended period. (I just checked, the Lords sit for less than five months, but I guess not in a continuous run.)

They would have to be housed during this time, given an MP salary, and their employees would need to be paid to cover a six-month sabbatical.

BUT, the average UK salary is apparently £24K (dread to think what the median is, quick websearch couldn’t find it), and the basic salary for an MP is £70K. Would remuneration be a compelling reason to take MP service seriously? (How would it work if someone on a six-figure salary got called up, would they be expected to take a pay cut?)

Proportional representation -– I think random sampling is a pretty good way of ensuring a population is realistically represented, but it means we’re gonna get Yorkshire Nazis sitting from time to time. We *could* get a Third Chamber of 30 Yorkshire Nazis – would it be an issue if we did?

The other issue about random sampling is that not everyone’s smart (back to the privileges of genetics ;-). A quick look at the UK literacy trust is quite shocking – 16% of adults in the UK (5.2 mn people) have a literacy rating of ‘entry level or below’. Entry level is defined as understanding short texts on familiar, repeated topics; obtaining information from common signs and symbols.

Most people struggle to understand legal documents; rarefied language, Latin phrases, etc. Some people apparently struggle to understand road signs – might be too great a comprehensive gap there.

BUT! Why does the running of this country depend on dense complicated language that most runnees can’t understand? If bills could be translated to a level that made sense to our Third Chamber, we would have achieved something pretty damned cool on the whole ‘by the people, for the people’ front.

Whaddya think? Insanely brilliant? Or just insane?