Friday assorted links

1. The excellent Ben Westhoff on Joe Rogan.

2. A Canadian pro experiences the world and management system of Russian hockey.

3. The Cato study on wealth inequality.  And why did the UK Labour government abandon the wealth tax idea in the 1970s?

4. Kocherlakota argued in Econometrica that optimal wealth taxes should be zero on average.

5. David McCabe at NYT: “The debate can take on a heated and personal tone. At a conference this spring, the soft-spoken legal academic Tim Wu responded to doubts raised by Tyler Cowen, an economist, about whether America has dangerous levels of corporate concentration by saying it was like arguing with someone who believes the earth is flat.”

6. “An inmate claimed his life sentence ended when he died and was revived.

7. Megan McArdle on the historical importance of the Church.


I go to Columbia Law, it's very embarrassing to see that quote from Professor Wu. Lots of economic evidence on both sides.

The Platonic ideal of Columbia Law: clever, confident, flashy, influential, and without much depth or integrity.

I guess you’re someone with too low an IQ to have gotten in then?

Not exactly. I wasn't calling you that Ari – I was emoting my disenchantment with the type of thinking that permeates our school and is represented to the world on our behalf. E.g. The Wu-style, NYT op-ed brand of legal scholarship.

It's a good rule of thumb to ignore anyone who uses the cliche about people who believe the world is flat.

Indeed. And also ignore all references to those who “to the right of Attila the Hun.” With his penchant for means over ends and indifference to human suffering, he was closer to Lenin.

You're going to need a larger thumb.

The ad hominem is only one of scores of logical fallacies.

As in one concluding after reading #5 that it's not only lawyers but law professors are garbage people, too.

To be fair to lawyers, they can be excused for fundamental misunderstandings of supply and demand. They need to know how to manipulate ignorant, gullible jurors and clients.

5. There are some domains that are necessarily adversarial. The courts and law, for instance. Note that in courts, arguments are presented once, and a decision is returned. There are other areas where people take an adversarial stance, even though no judging body may rule. In the worst case such adversarial thinking devolves into a steady state of polarization .. the complete opposite of decision or resolution.

So why do I attach these thoughts to #5?

I think that in this moment strong defences of billionaires and megacorps are adversarial.

They are not solutionist, or even amenable to pragmatic compromise.

Are the strong defences harder, more adversial, or totally different in kind "in this moment" than they were in April 1938?

We weren't around of course, and only see reflected similarities or differences.

But as I've said, I wouldn't like this to harden into a "fascist or communist" choice.

I'd much prefer a return to earlier US norms in top marginal tax/inheritance rate. Of course a true "adversary" would shout back that those old rates were "socialist!"

Old rates were pretty much the same as now

That is not an uncontroversial claim.

Income tax rates were much higher in the past. Capital gains taxes too.

But as far as I’m aware there were NO taxes on unrealized gains as some are proposing now.

Notice, too, how the multi-millionaires proposing taxes on unrealized gains oh-so-conveniently pick a floor that wouldn’t include themselves.

“Don’t tax you, Don’t tax me, tax that guy behind that tree!”

The sheep and the wolf don't compromise on who to have for dinner. I suppose that isn't "solutionist," either. Whatever that's even supposed to mean.

We are all humans, and what's more, Constitutionally abiding Citizens, Jeff.

But no doubt "adversaries" really got off on that wolf/sheep thing.

Sorry to rain on your faux-enlightened centrism parade.

Sure, sure. It's "faux" centrism to support pragmatic compromise, and "non-partition" to tell sheep/wolf stories to ward off that same compromise.

Typical rhetorical trick: "Only I'm being reasonable and anyone who disagrees with me can be dismissed as being adversarial."

They called me mad. They called me insane. They called me looney. They were right!

lol, no.

I'm being reasonable and anyone who disagrees may do the same.

Only in Mouse's addled psyche is he reasonable.

Psyche is a strange word, isn't it? As far as I know the definition is singular....I wrote a piece about fruit, and compared pulling the fiber from lemon to a sexual position, then when I "realized" it was Pulp, I decided that oranges were the key to art. Peeling them. I mean have you ever held orange peel in your hand? Sure beats wax. Yet something about the orange peel made me alienated. What about the fruit itself? But I digress. Well, the fruit of an orange is soft but the bite is hard and requires swiftness. This swiftness is tough to define but it goes without saying its neither healthy nor important.

"Cancel billionaires" would of course be the other extreme, another unhelpful adversarial position.

#4 Thank you for this. I'll study this in more depth. As a 'wealthy' person I would like to make the following observations:

1) Many 'wealthy' people have wealth that is not as liquid as the general population usually believes. It can be just as hard to retrieve this liquidity from an asset as a middle incomer with most of their wealth tied up in their home.
2) The 'wealthy' actually already pay quite a bit in taxes. But usually in a lot taxes that are invisible to the rest of the population. These taxes do in fact add up to create some fairly scary sums sometime...and don't forget the liquidity problem I allude above.
3) Wealthy people do work harder and employ specialists to minimize their tax burden. They do this because anyone would do this if they were 'wealthy'. Furthermore, they are giant armies of specialists that do backflips and all kinds of other things to help people like me manage my money. This will not change. Another surtax will also not work to assist Warren capture more of my money. All she will do is increase my level of inconvenience in better managing my money. But I know that it sounds really good using her Cherokee Shaman logic.
4) I don't believe 'wealthy' people should be taxed extra. I also don't believe they should get bailed out. EVER. This is where I feel the crux of the issue comes down where I can actually agree with Warren or other liberals. A BAILOUT LIKE THE ONE THAT HAPPENED DURING THE FINANCIAL CRISIS SHOULD NEVER EVER HAPPEN AGAIN. It definitely damaged trust in the nation, that may never heal completely.

You can make a decent 1-2% living assisting rich people with their tax "problems."

Step 1 is to get them to despise taxes above all else. The rest is easy.

Anyway...bailouts. I was there. The difficult thing is to try to explain to ppl that a systemic failure would have left them worse off and for longer than "bailouts." Now 10 years on everyone has in mind a villain that didn't get punished.

I wish you continued good luck with your tax management schemes.

You find it difficult to convince people that giving up their money is bad? Most everyone I know despised taxes, rich or poor. The rich are just in a better position to deal with it.

Also, you use the word "explain" when you really mean "assert". Just an FYI there.

Impale your sense of early surprise, winslow homer once wrote, inevitably we feel perjury is the cause for joy.

Psyche ist ein seltsames Wort, nicht wahr? Soweit ich weiß, ist die Definition einzigartig ... Ich schrieb ein Stück über Obst und verglich es damit, die Faser von der Zitrone zu einer sexuellen Position zu ziehen, als ich es "erkannte" war Fruchtfleisch, ich entschied, dass Orangen der Schlüssel zur Kunst waren.Peeling sie.Ich meine, haben Sie jemals Orangenschale in der Hand gehalten? Sicher schlägt Wachs.Jedoch etwas an der Orangenschale hat mich entfremdet.Was ist mit der Frucht selbst? Nun, die Frucht einer Orange ist weich, aber der Biss ist hart und erfordert Schnelligkeit. Diese Schnelligkeit ist schwer zu definieren, aber es versteht sich von selbst, dass sie weder gesund noch wichtig ist.

3.a Exaggerated claims of wealth inequality serve a useful function: they encourage nonsense (Warren et al.). On the other hand, claims that wealth inequality is greatly exaggerated serve a useful function: they encourage one to ask if one is to believe the claims or one's lying eyes. Hence, they offset. My concern, often expressed, is that a high level of wealth inequality is destabilizing, creating conditions that risk financial and economic crisis. History is on my side, but this is an economics blog not a history blog. As an economist might say, history is about the past while economists are focused on the future. Or more accurately, predicting the future, about which economists are notoriously wrong. Economists are much better at re-writing the past to support their predictions of the future. What could go wrong?

Related, from the formerly excellent Will Wilkinson:

"Look, a tax on wealth below the average rate of return on capital won't reduce the size of massive fortunes AT ALL if it's mostly invested. Yet the left is *helping* the mega-rich politically by cheering every time a bazillionaire misrepresents it as rapidly draining their wealth"

"Bill Gates doesn't get less rich under Warren's tax. He just gets even richer more slowly. I think a wealth tax is a bad policy, but if you don't, you probably shouldn't agree with the framing immensely politically powerful billionaires opposed to it."

I too oppose a wealth tax, and like Gates prefer a higher inheritance tax, but I agree with Will that it is important not to misrepresent a tax below the average rate of return.

Look, a tax on wealth below the average rate of return on capital won't reduce the size of massive fortunes AT ALL if it's mostly invested.

That's not really correct. A tax on wealth below the average rate of return on capital will, in fact, reduce the holdings of anyone earning below whatever the tax rate is. Hence the term "average rate of return." Half of investors are earning less than it.

So, "Look, a tax on wealth below the average rate of return on capital won't [on average] reduce the size of massive fortunes AT ALL if it's mostly invested."

No, that's still wrong. Read what I wrote again.

You don't believe that large fortunes, on average, hit average market returns?

I do. I think any reasonably diversified portfolio does.

Even easier if you use, or simulate your own, market return fund.

But either way we are quibbling about a few percent.

You're not comprehending me. Yes, reasonably diversified portfolios hit average market returns, but about half do not. This is the definition of average. Also, keep in mind that a lot of wealthy people do not have diversified portfolios. Jeff Bezos, for example, has a portfolio that is massively overweighted in online retailer stock(s).

At the risk of being sockpuppeted again...

A few percent is a huge difference when discussing investments.

Let's back all the way up to what Warren't proposal actually is:

"Senator Elizabeth Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” calls for a 2% annual tax on households with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion and a 3% annual tax on households with a net worth over $1 billion."

So, some guys are worried about the $50M+ guys not quite hitting 2% real return, and falling below $50M in assets.

Guess what?

That means they don't have a wealth tax anymore.

No, she’s changed her original wealth tax plan.

To pay for Medicare for All she revised the wealth tax percentages. I think it’s 6% now, but I haven’t seen an actual detailed explanation yet. So take that with a grain of salt.

According to this, that only affects the actual billionaire group. And if they fall to $990M, they are back in the 2% group.

She couldn't even stick to the original 2% tax rate for a few months. There's no good reason to believe that the new 6% rate won't be extended (and raised) to mere centimillionaires and then on down the line just like the original income tax.

I don't think it's useful to invent proposals when we have concrete ones to discuss. And these are only proposals, which would have to pass the Congress to become law.

As I've said, that reduces the whole threat, from my perspective.

It would be a very different country that passed a 6% wealth tax on billionaires through the Senate.

Do those hit by the tax then push for higher inflation targets?

Two comments ago, you said "I agree with Will that it is important not to misrepresent a tax below the average rate of return," so it seemed worth pointing out that Will himself was misrepresenting the effects.

The normal rate of return is inflation + 3%. A 6% wealth tax should erode wealth at 1% per year.

I admit that the worst case scenario, where the US Congress passes *both* Warren's wealth tax straight up, and Warren's Medicare for all plan straight up, that changes things.

That might indeed erode wealth above $1B.

But that's not quite the same as cooking Bill Gates in a pot for dinner.

So we should take her seriously, but not literally?

You can take her seriously and literally, and remember that a chief executive can only call on Congress to pass what (s)he wants.

There's a ringing endorsement. Vote for Warren! And pray Congress stands in her way!

If it comes down to actual Trump and actual Warren, we should compare "actuals" on both sides.

Perhaps that would be different forms of gridlock? With IMO less national strategic downside risk with actual Warren.

NATO gets patched up, even if M4A never passes.

Is NATO falling apart? What would patching up NATO entail?

Yeah we’re gonna need more than a French president badmouthing the US. That’s a national pastime for them.

Concrete examples of NATO functionally degrading please. You’ve thought this through and have concrete examples I’m sure.

Also since you’re discussing downsides of ‘actuals.’

To get a better idea of where you’re coming from...

What are the actual Specific downside risks of another 4 years of Trump?

What are the actual Specific downside risks of 4 years of Warren?

Help a Skeptic centrist out. Specifics, not vague generalizations. Specific risks one against the other.

Dude, if you were an actual "skeptic centrist" you would have noticed a little rampant corruption, constitutional crisis, and impending impeachment.

I know, I know, that's all "partisan" .. says the Real Authentic Centrist(TM).

And a realistic expectation for Warren would be boring rule following. She's never even bankrupted and bilked investors, students, or charities.

Thanks for insulting me and calling me a liar. As a nonpartisan centrist, I’ll chalk it up to a partisan defense mechanism. Cool? Cool.

Back to my question since there were no specific concrete examples. Help a skeptic out ...

What are the actual Specific downside risks of another 4 years of Trump?

What are the actual Specific downside risks of 4 years of Warren?


This is a funny site, with "centrists" who have completely lost the center, and completely discount rampant corruption, constitutional crisis, and impending impeachment.

Hint: When the president's *second* personal lawyer is himself lawyering up, and the first is of course in jail, actual centrists pick up on it.

They don't demand to know what could be so bad about 4 more years of the same.

So you’ve once again implied I’m lying.

I’ll ask again, with specific downside risks...please keep that in mind..

What are the actual Specific downside risks of another 4 years of Trump?

What are the actual Specific downside risks of 4 years of Warren?

So far you have Trump’s personal lawyer has a lawyer. And a former lawyer is in prison.

Presumably the rest of us 330m Americans are not his personal lawyer.

Thanks in advance

....Nothing ?

That’s your argument to centrists.

It's slow cooking the frog but frog will still be cooked in the end. Her tweet was mendacious and patronizing.

But the normal rate of return presumably includes dividends: won't they be subject to income tax? So things will be worse for Brer Bill than you calculate. Never mind, he can just cut back on all his philanthropy.

I spotted the New York Times article, too (a digital subscription to the Times is a bargain.) The quotation from the article is useful as a guide to whether I have to waste time and attention listening to Tim Wu.

Very on point, my Brazilian friend! I believe only US Representative Tulsi Gabbard knows of this Brazilian State's firm stand against world communism! She will be the beacon of light which will lead the peoples of all the Americas forward into the next decade! Stay strong, my favorite MR commenter!


Off topic but it’s something I still ponder.

One of the more annoying things about the US healthcare system is when you visit a hospital there isn’t just one bill. Everyone and their mother sends you a separate bill. Many of these providers you never met. And the really fun part is when you intentionally go to an in network facility, not all the providers (hi anesthesiologists) are in your particular PPO network. This can cost the patient much more depending on their insurance agreement.

So I was watching a documentary on the Mayo Clinic and one of the things they do is all the doctors are on staff. That way the patient only gets one bill for the hospital visit. *From personal experience I don’t think this is actually true but it was in the documentary.

So here is the question. If there was a regulation in place for hospital providers, that they had to only bill once, meaning all providers in the hospital are considered employees, what are the trade offs? Would the professional fees just be lumped in with the facility bill?

Pardon the run on sentences but I’m doing a little Friday day drinking. Cheers.

#5 Weird how he is referred to as an "academic" whereas Tyler is referred to as an "economist". I personally thought Wu was showing some pretty gap in knowledge of the "academic" debate as well as the "economic" literature in your exchange.

3. If Cato grudgingly admits to it being a bit of an issue that pretty much proves it's a huge issue, right?

Cato argues that the problem of wealth inequality is essentially a fiction.

Did you read the article? They say it might be an issue but it's blow way out of proportion. That's why you know it's a huge issue. If they were arguing it was pure fiction then they might be right. If even they can spin the numbers then you know it's true.

They say: It's not really an issue.

You say: So clearly we can conclude it's a huge issue.

Explain me the logic here.

Not really. That's a heuristic technique if you want to be lazy.

I think it's interesting the utter breadth these two guys take on in 25 pages. Inequality, political cronyism, money in politics, and manage to draw quite concrete conclusions in all on them. It ignores any nuance and reads like a middle school or high schooler writing their first argumentative piece. Maybe it was intentional that Tyler included the NYT article that about Tim Wu. The point I think is there are issues and you do yourself a great disservice by ignoring them. As an academic you have a duty to be honest and take things on that don't fit your model. Otherwise you end up writing things like this Cato piece, which has really interesting facts mixed in with just simple arguments.

Oh, no, I am not Brazilian. I am a Texan retail clerk. I just read the news about the competition. It is sad to see that America can't compete on beauty or fiscal prudence anymore. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida.

PS: Representative Gabbard seems to be that rare character: a sane Democrat.

The Mayo Clinic, like the Cleveland Clinic, is a not-for-profit group practice, where everybody, including the doctors, gets a salary. This is very much unlike most hospitals, where the hospital owns the building, and allows or pays various groups and individual physicians to practice and admit there.
At Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, the group practice owns the hospital, and the doctors are not allowed to provide services outside the organizational confines. This means that everyone from the desk attendants to the brain surgeons are aligned around the same incentives, and draw from the same economic pool.

It's no accident that these two hospitals are usually mentioned among the nation's best.

You don’t get the usual fractured care. Services are provided by teams of doctors, nurses and support personnel who are all part of the same economic unit – and are able to send you that single bill

Thanks Faze for confirming the set up at Mayo. My family has still received professional bills from Mayo but this may be an office situation vs an outpatient/inpatient scenario. I don’t recall ever having separate bills for our outpatient surgeries.

If this arrangement does provide better care at the same (lower?) cost, why do not more insurance companies adopt the model for their "in network" coverage? The ones that did, would be able to offer lower premiums.

5. Well, at least Wu didn't equate Cowen with a dining room table. Wu's point, though, is undeniable: it's no secret that Cowen embraces monopoly. Indeed, the academic who established GMU's place in conservative economic circles, James Buchanan, embraced monopoly. More recently, Cowen praised the book, In Defense of Monopoly (2008), by Richard McKenzie and Dwight Lee (as did many other professors at GMU).

Here's Buchanan on Monopoly...
I wouldn't call it embracing monopoly.

And Schumpeter embraced monopoly, attempted and temporary, as the source of our great well being.

It is very straightforward to show the world is round rather than flat. If Wu finds it difficult, then his grasp of the problem is not what he claims.

6. “An inmate claimed his life sentence ended when he died and was revived.”
Bring back the partial death penalty. First degree killers get three minutes of death, second degree only two minutes, and so on.

#4, it's curious that the "correct" answer to corporate taxes and wealth taxes just happens to be zero. That's quite convenient for the powerful firms and wealthy people that finance political campaigns. I do wonder how those corporations and the wealthy would fare once we zero out funding for public education, roads, fire stations, police, and the courts.

It’s more curious why public education, police, fire, roads and the courts depend so much on corporate and wealth taxes to exist. It’s almost like the majority of people wouldn’t find value in these services if they had to pay for them.

Why not a negative wealth tax rate?

Read the article. The result depends on "arbitrarily non-linear" tax on income. Let me hear someone say, "Sen Warren's wealth tax is too high, give me an arbitrarily non-linear tax on income." :)

4. Kocherlakota argued in Econometrica that optimal wealth taxes should be zero on average.
Looking at the abstract, he says wealth is a smooth accumulation of past income and government is a pretty good allocator. Dubious.

Our central government is hardly a good allocator and generally requires the wealthy to bridge the liquidity gap via the primary dealer system.

In fact, AOC just agreed to a primary dealer contract that has her constituents paying the 50 year rate for Reagan's bailout of that Bush kid in the Texas S/L. And her constituents never voted for it, most of them not even born. But her constituents have the right to coin. Violates every one of the Koch guy's assumptions.

Wow, an unusually excellent lineup of links, even by the high standards of MR. Thanks Tyler!

Cause and effect. "WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic." societies changed Christianity into post Christian.

The enlightenment came from a confluence of mixed cultural and religious history.

Christianity and governance in the "west" was influenced more by an idealized vision of "eastern" societies that worshiped many gods, like Athena.

The US is rooted in rejecting the magisterium of the church, not just Rome, but also Westminister, fueled by wars between the two power centers, leading to seeking a "third way" which emphasized the god within each individual.

If each person has their own god, how does society govern itself.

Simple, majority rule by the many gods, the gods within each We the People, who reach agreement on divine just rule.

Who'd've thunk the publisher and editors and hacks at the N. Y. T. would be so science-addled or science-ignorant? (Ditto legal academics inhabiting the DC-to-Boston Corridor.)

WAKE UP, folks: physical cosmologists have been telling us for DECADES already that the geometry of the Universe is flat: physical cosmologists put much credence in the findings of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the Planck spacecraft. (Whether the Universe's flatness is that of a Mobius strip remains to be discovered.)

However facetious I might be here, imputations of "flat-earthiness" to intellectual adversaries begin looking problematical the moment you begin taking contemporary cosmology at all seriously.

The fact that most public discourse today (including pop science discourse) is ONLY two-dimensional offers explanatory power of its own.

If optimal wealth taxes average 0%, isn't the implication that there must be (in a weighed average sense) equal negative and positive wealth taxes.

What's a negative wealth tax? Quantitative easing?

7.Why do Jews have all the money. That's not true, but it's the perception. Many fall from faith because of the suffering of the innocent. What's the explanation? For Christians, it's that this short, transitory life is followed by eternity in paradise. That's nice. For Jews, it's because of sin: if any Jew sin, all Jews may suffer. Well, that's not very individualistic. Then why do Jews have all the money, while most Christians are wretches. It annoys many Jews for Christians to have the temerity to interpret the Hebrew Bible. I stick to the Christian Bible, myself.


Historically Jews weren't allowed to own or even work land. As a result they were forced into other occupations like being a banker or merchant. As a result of this there was extraordinary evolutionary pressure that selected for those who could excel in those careers. That pressure resulted in both a familiarity with business and a high level of cognitive ability.

So the tribes of Israel that didn’t evolve into bankers or merchants went extinct? Evolution sure is tough.

5. TBH, I've been thinking that you've become a bit less interesting/ more predictable, but I'd attributed that to my having read MR for a long time and perhaps also to your being stretched a bit by your BV column, CWT, public speaking, etc. But let's assume McCabe is on to something--how might a reader establish that you've become inflexible, as opposed to predictable or overworked and therefore lazier in your writing. The first few approaches that come to mind are... 1) Do you post fewer laudatory reviews about books and films than in the past? If so, perhaps fewer things interest you than in the past. 2) "This has been a bad year for X" in the end of the year posts. Have these become more frequent? 3) Do the "contrarian" takes increasingly follow predictable patterns? 4) MR has sometimes spoken of "regional thinking," but are there other contexts that you subscribe to that now overly shape your responses? Regardless, it's OK for things to be good enough sometimes. Good luck.

As Jakob Burkhardt noted long ago, the key factor in the western Christian church‘s profound influence on modern western society was ... the breaking of the power of the church over society.

Except if you read the comments following, it appears our self-styled elites equate Christianity with a bunch of evangelical clods trying to be the bosses of all the really good people.

I was raised Catholic. Boiled down, here are the basic civic requirements of that faith as I understand it:

1. The essential dignity of all humans. (I think a famous guy wrote something like that in a declaration of some kind once.)

2. That, given 1., all should practice humility in dealings with all others.

3. That, when an individual sins, as all do, redemption is available if s/he repents sincerely and does the utmost possible to correct the damage done.

These strike me as decent organizing principles for people in any community. Nobody is required to adopt them, of course, but having a certain cluster of the population who do try to live by them is not the worst thing that could happen.

WEIRD psychology is primarily due to wealth. We know this because wealthy East Asian countries show a trend towards similar WEIRD values despite no history of Catholicism. Meanwhile, less developed Catholic countries (Poland for instance) do not seem to have WEIRD values; rather WEIRD values arose in places that got rich like Holland and England and then spread to other places as those developed too.

Do Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan really show individualistic values? I am quite skeptical. Maybe they are more individualistic than they used to be, but are they anywhere near as individualistic as the West?

It's the sort of thing that if you've visited these places, you could never give an answer like Zaua. Are the Japanese inviting millions of Muslims in? Are their elected officials wearing Hajabs?

I don't agree with Zaua on convergence (though I think values do relate to wealth somewhat) but I can't say that immigration is a great proxy for individualism.

Gulfers today import huge numbers of South Asian laborers without being particularly individualistic, as did ancient Romans in their day, and as largely motivates migration to Western countries today.

Japan and Korea have had the good fortunate not to be either part of huge empires with tight interlinkages with foreign populations, nor culturally close to places that were. The US will probably continue to be a destination for immigration if it keeps its wealth, even if it loses its status as a country with founding ethnic groups under the Church. Collectivist societies can end up with huge migration, if the state or business powerfully agitates for it.

7- People (including Ms. McArdle) should read their Carle Zimmerman. The end stage is known, and can be accessed simply by asking- why were the Church Authorities working with Barbarian tribes? The answer was that the Roman empire had suffered population collapse and the tribes were taking over. It is not just the tribal vs. domestic model of the family. The third stage is the atomic model, with non-sacred marriage leading to easy divorce and very small families -- too small to replenish the population. The State then tries to facilitate immigration to keep up the economy. The Romans had moved to that third stage and collapsed. The Barbarian tribes took over.
That is why the Davos Crowd is pro immigration and open borders. They are the modern version of the Roman elite (and the Greek elite before them).

Except in border lands where they had long predominated the invading barbarians were a drop in the bucket, demographically. Even in Britain the Anglosaxons contributed just 10% of the modern English genome (though this varies across regions - more in the east less on the west). Roman population levels were falling, but Germanic population levels were much lower to start with (the north of Europe was unable to support large populations). And it's worthwhile to note that throughout western Europe Latin survived, in its daughter languages, everywhere it was spoken as a primary language. The barbarians bolstered Roman culture, adding elements of their own, but they did not replace Roman culture.

Personally, I care a lot more about before and after tax/transfer income or consumption inequality than "wealth" inequality. If there were no reason to complain about the income flows that go into making up wealth, I see little reason to complain about the sum of those flows.

1. Wealth inequality has risen in recent years but by less than is often asserted in the media.
Lots of problems can be “less than is often asserted in the media” and still be worth dealing with. Climate change will probably NOT lead to the end of civilization but why not prevent the damage it WILL do?

2. Wealth inequality data tell us nothing about levels of poverty or prosperity and thus are not useful for guiding public policy. Wealth inequality may reflect innovation in a growing economy that is raising overall living standards, or it may reflect cronyism that causes economic damage.
Pretty much what I say about income/consumption v wealth, except that if one disagrees with the policies that generated the income/consumption, then "wealth" is the sum of those disagreements.

3. Most of today’s wealthy are business people who built their fortunes by adding to economic growth, and some have created major innovations that benefit all of us.
The argument for progressive taxation does not rest on the belief that high incomes (and their accumulation as wealth) are evil. This is a straw man. One CAN argue over whether and by how much higher taxation on high incomes will reduce efforts that “add to economic growth” or “create innovations that benefit us all.”

4. Cronyism is one cause of wealth inequality, and it has likely increased over time as the government has grown.
Cronyism is bad [although some of the examples are just about mistaken economic policies – ethanol subsidies, not “cronyism,”] but the article does not have any evidence that it has increased as government has “grown.” [Most of the “growth of government in the last 50 years or so has been in income-consumption reducing transfers.] But IF it has this would be and argument to tax high income/consumption more.

5. The growing welfare state has increased wealth inequality. Government programs for retirement, healthcare, and other benefits have reduced the incentives and the ability of non-wealthy households to accumulate savings and thus have increased wealth
If this means the percent of wealth held by the top x% or some such measure, the article does not have any evidence for its claim. If it means only that people need to accumulate less “wealth” not to be impoverished in old age, let’s hold the welfare state “guilty” as charged. For me, this is just another aspect of looking at “wealth” inequality instead of before and after-tax income and consumption inequality. [This is not to say that there are not progressive ways to encourage non-wealthy people to save more for retirement such as finance SS/Medicare with a VAT rather than a capped wage tax and encourage 401K-type savings with partial tax credits rather than tax deductions.]

6. Research shows that wealthy people do not have homogeneous views on policy and do not have an outsized ability to get their goals enacted in Washington.
Probably true. (But why isn’t “any,” not just “outsized” bad?) and doesn’t this contradict the earlier complaint about crony capitalism?

#4. Hurrah! To derive an optimal wealth tax of zero we need an "arbitrarily non linear" tax on income. [Too bad the model was based entirely on returns to skills and ignored the issue of taxation on income vs consumption.]

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