I just received the following e-mail from my younger brother, who started Law School last week :
so i have this assignment for class – and i wanted to know your thoughts on this question… Which measures would you propose to limit wealth acquisition? Which measures do you think you can propose to limit wealth acquisition while remaining electable ?
My response, which I wrote in a flurry of smacking lips and wild-eyed eagerness, such was the juicy dish before my hungry mind, is preserved and adnotated below :
Why is it that this question presupposes that limiting wealth acquisition is not only practicable but even possible any more than limiting breathing rates or mental maths are possible? “Hey you ! With the hat ! Stop comparing those two packs of crisps to figure out which one is the better deal !” Really ?
As we’ll do well to recall, the two most prominent socialist states of the 20th century tried and failed in this exact aim, that of limiting wealth acquisition, principally because it’s a fine theory that readily whips up popular support even if it’s nothing less than tragic in practice.
As to the first example, the USSR tried to limit wealth acquisition by creating a totalitarian police state wherein, as a wise man once said, “you pretend to pay me and I pretend to work.” This, by absolute necessity rather than by any particular desire of Good Sir Lenin. As we well know now, the result of the Soviet “experiment” was the complete failure to distribute resources judiciously,ii as any top-down command economy approach must necessarily pale in comparison to the intelligence of a grass-roots economy, if only in practice.iii
As to the second example, the efforts of the Nazis to cleanse the world of Jews and the latter’s offensive and flagrant materialism – those accumulated symbols of wealth that all too readily reminded the German populace of their inferiorityiv – were horrific, morally objectionable, and entirely necessitated by the same flimsy and fantastical echafaudage implied by this question. To suppose that wealth acquisition can be reasonably limited to any degree and that a functional society may result requires the very same mental gymnastics inherent in perpetrators of mass genocide and ethnic cleansing, as the legends of Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, and every other “Champion of the People” are wont to remind us.v
It’s a slippery slope to imagine that there exists “just the right amount of wealth limiting that’s fair” or “just the right amount of redistribution that’s justifiable.” There isn’t. Not for any theoretical or moral reason,vi but for the simple reason that humanity is defined by the best of the best and to limit the best is to limit us all. While our base survival might not hinge on the best among us striving to new heights and, yes, hurting the feelings of lesser men along the way, what defines us as humans and separates us from beasts most certainly does.
This all being a very reliable reading of history, one readily backed by the record, just for fun, to take the second part of the question at face value, in order to limit wealth acquisition while remaining electable, I would find it absolutely essential to limit any and all differences between people,vii this being the ultimate source and cause of wealth inequality. As such, I would find it absolutely essential, in order to take this question to its logical conclusion, to murder everyone in my constituency extant and to replace them with an army of sterile maleviii clones (perhaps with the help of Monsanto because I hear they’re pretty good at this sort of thing), whom will be raised by robot nannies, so as to control for the differences between parenting qualities and styles,ix in the exact same geographical locales, so as to control for differences in climate exposure and the possibility that some clones might become more fit (and thus wealthier) than the others, and at the exact same latitude and altitude so as to control for unfair vitamin D or hemoglobin production, respectively, etc. etc.
Now while I’m skimming over some of the more obvious details of this plan, such as what type of economy we might imagine that would require or even satisfy the abilities of our entire clone army completing the exact same task simultaneously so that none reaps an unfair advantage, such as hazard pay or overtime, that he might unfairly accumulate more wealth than his identical siblings, I think it’s fair to say that an electorate as equal and even as this, even if objectively worthlessx and incapable of any individually defined action or even the pretense of free will,xi would readily vote for you, their Master, Father and Creator. And if they don’t, scrap the lot of them and start over ! It’s not like clones are hard to make in our utopian society :)
I sincerely hope that there are many more such assignments to come! They’re fun!
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- Ultimately, it was the Professor who asked this inane question, so it’s to him (or her) that I throw this fireball in return. [↩]
- Even if, as Stan points out, no one in the 20th century did maffs quite like the Russians, I suspect that this is more of a cultural and linguistic consequence than one of economic arrangements. And not that I’m a historian of mathematicians, but Cantor grew up in the Russian Empire and Euler was educated in St. Petersberg. That’s not nothing.
And neither is pointing out that the Americans are a bunch of refugee morons who couldn’t cut it in the Old World, and that comparing their theoretical accomplishments with so much as Zimbabwe’s is only good for a laugh. Not that Americans weren’t in their heyday capable of considerable practical achievement, such as the Apollo missions and the atomic bomb, it’s just that theory and abstraction have never been their strong suit. [↩]
- Because in theory, socialism rulez man ! [↩]
- This being one of the Lessons of the Shoah. [↩]
- Not that Cher Professeur wouldn’t probably adore Hitler. What utopian wouldn’t ? Unless, of course, I’m completely misrepresenting this King Troll of a teacher. And if I am, holy shit is my brother getting a Grade-AAA education !! There’s actually a positive and non-zero probability of this. [↩]
- Well, at least not in the eyes of people incapably of thinking and reasoning, such as those who would take the question at face value and answer with straight-faced libertardation dripping from their dumb lips, as I can imagine that only too many students do given that the majority are in their early-20s, monolingual, and have little life experience outside of the confines of their LV purses. But perhaps I’m too cynical here. [↩]
- See Terrible Nasty Unfair Evil No Good Money And Its Relation To Net Worth. [↩]
- Why only male clones ? Because if you also had a complementary set of female clones, not only would the two be unequal and therefore Very Bad, but the male clones would in all likelihood and for lack of an alternative means of measuring their success against one another, which they’re hardwired to do given even the slightest window of opportunity, take to treating the women as cattle to be bought and sold. Fo’ realz :
At a past time when the ownership of female humans was the principal method to control capital formation and the political process, the same sort of dead hand fictions proposed that they in fact control the usage of women, that anyone owning a woman does so only as a sublicense from their sovereign ownership of all women, and may proceed only in furtherance of the regulation they emitted as to how women may be used and may not be used and so on and so forth. Specifically excluded from all this – the woman in question. Particularly “criminal” at the time – using a woman in the manner she herself wishes to be used.
- Imagine, some parents neither beat nor shame their own children ! I mean, how much must they despise their own spawn to neglect them so ?! [↩]
- Why worthless ? Because, as MP infers :
The value of all things is predicated on lulz and drama, and nothing else. Even if we discovered this point with bitcoin, it’s really – like all other things we discovered “about bitcoin”, a universal property of reality.
Quite simply, clones who’ve all had the same upbringing and the same experiences can’t possibly be differentiated from one another, much less mud. So no unexpected surprises may result or even exist in this utopian universe, and thus, no humour ! For anyone accustomed to John Oliver, this is surely no profound revelation. [↩]
- See Free will : to surprise and desire, a letter. [↩]