Wealth-building is a behavior.
Laws are made to control and/or punish behaviors that prove detrimental to their societies.
So far, wealth-building has been a sacred cow that has gotten a pass on legislation controlling it, despite the obvious harm it does to societies and the planet. Project uncontrolled wealth-building into the future and what do you see? I see men and women without understanding, wedded to the need to see their wealth grow perceptibly, demanding more and more austerity from everyone else as their collective demands outstrip the planet's productive capacity. One billionaire seeking an annual 4% or better wealth increase is sustainable, perhaps, but a thousand of them, competing ferociously to be top dog, is most definitely not.
According to a recent UN study, as of this year, some 1,224 individual billionaires control some $4,600,000,000,000.00 (yes, that's trillions) worth of the global wealth supply. Their wealth has grown at an average rate of 4% per year for the past two decades. That means that this year's openly acknowledged take for them will be some $184 billion of the world's GDP of $70 trillion, that 4% exceeds the growth rate of the global economy, pegged at 3.5% for this year, forecast for 3.9% next year. The UN has suggested a "billionaires' tax", which I see as a poor half measure doomed to discussion, shelving, and failure.
What happens when this insane desire for more than can be possibly used productively meets with new life-extension technologies? I fear we will see the emergence of a very long-lived elite and a short-lived underclass. In two or three generations, the long-lived will undoubtedly assume the position and perogatives of gods, and the underclass, having known the same people in power as their parents knew, perhaps even their grandparents, will be exceedingly vulnerable to the manipulation of history. It will become a new dark age of psychopathy.
So I submit that since the super-wealthy lack the ability and inclination to "know when to say when", it is our duty to help them stop their destructive behavior before the entire globe is ruined by their greed.
I propose a global wealth cap of $1 billion. Why a billion? Mainly because it is emotionally accessible as a stopping point: far more than an individual needs to ensure a good life for themselves and their families. It's hard to argue that one billion is somehow not enough.
So how do we move from theory to practice?
Give the super-wealthy who are over cap four years to divest themselves of their excess, allowing them to choose what to keep. Allow them to give gifts tax-free to existing non-profit, non-violent, non-political entities up to a maximum of $50 million each, and allow any such entity a maximum of five seperate gifts for a total of $250 million. Allow them to endow a new entity with up to a maximum of $100 million, such new entities are then eligible for the five $50 million gifts.
Allow them to give up to $10 million to individuals, all tax-free.
Once down to cap, they are economically retired and can no longer earn or accumulate any further wealth. All shares of stock they own become a new class of stock entitled : "Mature Shares". Mature share price is frozen at the average price of the stock over the prior two years from inception of law. Mature shares carry no voting rights. Let them enter a new phase of their lives, perhaps exploring what it means to be committed to their families rather than wealth-building, or allowing them the leisure to tackle some of mankind's more interesting problems. Allow adjustments to the cap every four years for inflation.
Sufficient forensic auditors would be needed to ensure that the limits are respected. After the four-year period, allow a two-year grace period to finish the process if necessary for orderly economic transition and sufficient progress had been made. After the six years, intentional attempts to violate the limit would result in a lengthy prison sentence and seizure of all assets. The death penalty for such behavior may be to extreme, but then again, since the stakes are so high, it may not be out of line.
I am certain that if such a plan were implemented, humanity would experience a golden age unlike anything ever seen before. The global economy would get a rocket assist and many of the world's most distressing problems could be tackled and solved quickly.
No human being has the inherent "right" to unlimited wealth. Wealth-building is a behavior and as such it is just as legally susceptible to control as murder, hunting, fishing, driving, house-building, marriage, sexuality, and a myriad of other behaviors we control for the good of society. An added benefit to capping wealth is that it would probably expose the psychopaths for who they are, as any non-psychopaths would likely embrace a limit if it were fairly and equally applied. Psychopaths would try to find ways to cheat.
An argument can be made that all billionaires support terrorism: if you are so wealthy you don't know exactly how much you have at any given time, and can't be personally aware of all your money is doing, then you can't say for sure some of it isn't funding terrorism. A billion limit would almost certainly dry up most terrorist funding and make it far easier to track who is supporting what.
If the billions of the general populace can be asked to surrender personal freedom to travel, to be secure in their persons and homes to fight terrorism, is it too much to ask a few thousand to give up the idea of unlimited wealth-building? A cap on wealth would not materially impact them: they would not lack for shelter, food, healthcare, or entertainment. It would impact them strictly in two areas: their egos and their power.
It is past time we told the super-wealthy: you are addicted to a behavior that is causing harm to the rest of your human family, and you obviously can't control it and don't know when to say when. Like any other behavior taken to excess yours has become destructive to all around you. You are sick with a mental (or is it spiritual?) illness.
It's time for an intervention.
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