Are the Authoritarians Winning? by Michael Ignatieff | The New York Review of Books is a disappointingly vapid piece by Michael Ignatieff in which he reviews a number of recent books about the global situation.
Authority is just a matter of effective control – which always resides somewhere. Any government is based on a claim of authority and the only difference about a democracy is that the authority is claimed by the electorate. To limit the scope of its authority is merely to reassign that authority to individuals – which in a “liberal” democracy means to the wealthy.
Ignatieff’s most telling comment is this: “While the liberal state was never intended to enforce distributive equality, it was always supposed to keep the power of big money from suffocating competition and corrupting the political system.”
The opening conditional adverbial clause of that sentence is the key. Contrary to Ignatieff, distributive equality (properly defined) is, in my opinion, the only fair goal for any state or government. Anything else is just the facilitation of theft by attempting to mitigate its consequences. So how is distributive equality to be defined and achieved? My answer is as follows:
First, it does not mean that everyone always has the same access to comfort regardless of effort. And while talent is not earned it may take some time for people to accept that it does not somehow justify increased reward, so I am not going to make having reward independent of talent be an objective at this time. But in the meantime we should at least be able to get majority support for the idea that, although luck might also be a factor, it should not be actively enhanced by the state. So inheritance of property should ideally be out as a source of inequality. Everyone should receive, at an appropriate age, an equal share of the then current national (or eventually global) wealth as their rightful inheritance – perhaps by choosing between either three equal instalments at ages 15,25, and 35 or a single lump sum at age 21. This should be paid for by a combination of 100% death duty with a simple uniform tax on wealth and wealth transfers (including gifts) – to be adjusted as necessary so as to meet the needs for financing the legal system, protection of persons and property, publicly funded infrastructure, and social services for those unable to make a go of it on the basis of their inheritance, as well as to provide the ongoing provision of inheritances to those attaining the relevant age(s). The wealth tax should cover at least all costs of the legal and property protection systems (including “national” defense). And the transfer tax should apply to all exchanges of property and labour, including gifts. Both should be based on declared values with no item of property to be either insurable or protectable via the law for more than its declared value – perhaps with a forced exchange to the state at the declared value as a possible consequence to discourage under-valuation, and the transfer tax should be applied to the greater of the declared values of the two sides of the transaction. The transfer tax might also include a progressive element based on the total of all transfers to or from an individual over a standard time interval (eg a year, as with current income tax).
This is simple effective and will work. I will allow 48
hrs yrs for the submission and consideration of suggested changes, but at the end of that period it will need to have been put into effect globally – or I will be forced to express my severe annoyance.
Remember, you have just 48
hrs yrs, so get any comments or objections in as soon as possible!