Part of what has been personally interesting regarding MaidSafe and other promising disruptive communications technologies is the possibility of stripping away the deafening commercial noise. The point of that noise has long been more power for those who already have so much they can’t reasonably be expected to use additional power and resource constructively. In short that noise has an opportunity cost that breaks society apart because it channels ever more resource and power to people who already have their hands full or can’t meaningfully use it and this comes at the expense of everyone else. A key to addressing pressing challenges is technology and policy that can strip away this noise.
During WWII Roosevelt told the wealthy in the US that a wealth ceiling was to be implemented and they would not be allowed to earn more than 50x what a GI who went to Europe to die for them did. They begged for a 98% tax rate instead and the US ended up with a 92% top rate across 30 of its most glorious years. When that 92% progressive tax rate was removed prosperity started to decline. Under that system the wealthy kept control of most of the money that came their way through logical loop holes that ensured that they didn’t abuse people with the power of that money. They went to jail not so much for greed in tax evasion but because not using the loop holes and not paying the tax was proof of abuse of power. This was simple weed pulling that recognizes that overly concentrated wealth is an externality, an over growth problem of sorts, a cancer.
As Thomas Picketty has suggested we would seem challenged to manage a global tax on capital. But a global tax on capital might be aiming too low. Instead we might go with Roosevelt’s initial suggestion but in the modern and more accountable form of an arbitrary (we have to start some where) limit on total wealth (vice income) for both individuals and corporations. We’d say to private citizens if you have more than a billion dollars (in constant real dollars) state divesting through donation or lose it quickly through taxes and check it at the boarder if you try capital flight. And to corporations: if you have more than 50 Billion (in constant real dollars) start spinning off or converting to complete employee ownership and get rid of your interlocking boards or face charter revocation. We’d of course scrap useless WTO type treaties that got in the way and nullify any treaty that wasn’t totally transparent on its face and its its process. Lowest common denominator quality of life conspiracies like the WTO treaty would reap prosecution. We’d work to close down Wall St. and replace it with open source at the quickest rate that would still support keeping the peace- hypothetically (arbitrarily) a 12 year ramp up of capital gains taxes on all Wall St products where waiting until year 12 would result in forfeiture.
A firm so retired would not be interested in mergers or becoming too big to fail. They’d be infrastructure with very long horizons producing products at cost. It couldn’t matter less that smaller firms would compete with larger one almost devoid of the profit motive producing at cost. It just doesn’t matter- as that again would prioritizing the interests of people already far beyond the reach of real need or want.
Someone so retired (hypothetical billionaire) is still qualified and welcome to participate in the overall wealth creation of society on the merits of their voice and effort and even through the use of their remaining private capital but with regard to the growth of the capital under their or name or proxy it would limited by the ceiling and no trust or other subverting technique would be allowed. This recognizes equal opportunity justified by intrinsic equality. This recognizes everyone’s need to be heard and not be drown out. It might overcome some of the counter productive gravitation of wealth and end the glorification of addiction, replacing it with context. It could end the competitive hollowing out of casino games like Wall St. because the score keeping mechanism would be broken.
Conflicts involving ‘capitalism,’ and ‘free markets’ have largely been distractions that keep us from addressing unproductive and oppressive excessively concentrated accumulations of private wealth. This ceiling can help end the bickering over contribution and merit and allow us to address real challenges and even change the basis for economy. Entrenched wealth is like constipation or like oil molecules so clumped together they gum up an engine.