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

World

A Shattered City

On the menu today: Unraveling the mystery behind yesterday’s devastating, jaw-dropping explosion in Beirut; reports suggest that Joe Biden’s vice presidential search isn't going well -- although one report suggests his list is down to two contenders; and yesterday’s primary leaves one less thing to worry ... Read More
World

A Shattered City

On the menu today: Unraveling the mystery behind yesterday’s devastating, jaw-dropping explosion in Beirut; reports suggest that Joe Biden’s vice presidential search isn't going well -- although one report suggests his list is down to two contenders; and yesterday’s primary leaves one less thing to worry ... Read More
Elections

Ilhan Omar’s Got a Little Competition

Ilhan Omar, the Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, has been described as a “rising star” of the progressive movement and as President Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare.” So she surely did not expect to face much opposition during her reelection campaign. ... Read More
Elections

Ilhan Omar’s Got a Little Competition

Ilhan Omar, the Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, has been described as a “rising star” of the progressive movement and as President Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare.” So she surely did not expect to face much opposition during her reelection campaign. ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More
Business

Dell’s America

Amid all the current gloom, it was refreshing to read this in a New York Times interview with Michael Dell by David Gelles: The first eight years, we grew compounded 80 percent per year. The six years after that we grew about 60 percent per year. Any number you start with, if you put that into your calculator, ... Read More
Business

Dell’s America

Amid all the current gloom, it was refreshing to read this in a New York Times interview with Michael Dell by David Gelles: The first eight years, we grew compounded 80 percent per year. The six years after that we grew about 60 percent per year. Any number you start with, if you put that into your calculator, ... Read More