The Corner

Regulatory Policy

Going Medieval

( IronHeart/Getty Images)

Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Smith gives more than a nod to Peter Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction (or, as Smith neatly relabels the phenomenon, “elite over-competition”) as a cause of the current wave of turmoil in the West, something with which I would agree but, I think, more emphatically.

Quite what can be done about this problem, I don’t know, but, while I can see the logic behind Smith’s suggestion that “wealth taxes on the greatest fortunes” could be one part of the answer, it is an answer that ought to be too retrograde to be considered.

To take a step back, I’ve always thought that real-estate taxes (other, perhaps, than when levied at a low level in absolute terms) were undesirable for a number of reasons, but one of them was that they make a mockery of the idea of freehold. In essence, they transform all homeowners into tenants of the state.

And a wealth tax represents a variation on the same theme. As I tweeted yesterday, a wealth tax is a sophisticated, lighter touch derivative of feudalism, but the core of it is undeniably the same: The state (‘the king’) has, theoretically, a call on everything you own. And if you think that wealth taxes will always be confined to the very richest, I have an income tax to sell you.

There are many other arguments against wealth taxes, but one that is often overlooked revolves around privacy. Even if a wealth tax is initially (and it will only be initially) confined to the very richest, everyone else will, in all probability, have to confirm to the IRS that they do not fall within that category, and the wealthier they are the more they will have to disclose, another step forward for the panopticon state.

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (conference calls, social-media groups, etc.). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going. Consider it?

If you enjoyed this article, and were stimulated by its contents, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.

LEARN MORE

Most Popular

Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More
Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
Elections

The Burning Times

Welcome to The Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, pedantry, partisan pyromania, and suchlike. The Right loves a factional brawl, and the past week brought a pentagonic crossfire between Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, Charlie Sykes, Ramesh Ponnuru, and David French, five right-leaning ... Read More
Elections

The Burning Times

Welcome to The Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, pedantry, partisan pyromania, and suchlike. The Right loves a factional brawl, and the past week brought a pentagonic crossfire between Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, Charlie Sykes, Ramesh Ponnuru, and David French, five right-leaning ... Read More