The monetary monster
by Tom Sullivan
All the 1% complaints about being "vilified" for their wealth miss an essential point: their getting impossibly richer eventually destabilizes the planet.
Donald Trump and his allies argue that if you don't have borders, you don't have a country. The subtext is about keeping non-white people from emigrating to the U.S. and diluting white sovereignty. But capital flowing unrestricted across borders? No problemo.
Eric Levitz addresses the issue of capital flows and wealth taxes for "Intelligencer." Economists and billionaires themselves argue the country would be unable to enforce the sorts of wealth taxes supported by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and 60 percent of Americans. Wealth taxes would simply incentivize more tax-dodging by the super-rich and/or moving their wealth offshore.
This argument asks Americans to accept a stark limitation on their nation’s sovereignty. It stipulates that in a world of globally mobile capital, the effective limit on top tax rates is set by our superrich, not our democratic polity. Why this diminution of the nation-state’s authority should be acceptable — even as a minuscule amount of undocumented immigration is regarded as a crisis of the rule of law — is difficult to explain.Well, not really. Steeply progressive taxation is politically untenable "because of the outsize political influence (and innovative unlawfulness) of the cosmopolitan elites who bankroll the Republican Party."
Among the terrible B-movies from the 1950s is one called The Magnetic Monster (1953). Except, there is no monster. A scientist, naturally, creates a marvelous new something that is neither marvelous nor even visible at first. It quickly gets out of control, naturally again. But Jurassic Park this is not. The "monster" here is not alive, but a new isotope that grows, doubling in mass every 11 hours by sucking in energy and matter from around it. This script arrived before "black holes" had agents, but that's the idea. If other scientists cannot "kill" the stuff in time, it will grow massive enough to throw Earth out of its orbit and hasta la vista, baby.
Here we have massive fortunes growing ever more massive. Wealth concentrates itself in the hands of a tiny segment of the population as the middle class shrinks. The more high-minded billionaires can't even give it away faster than the piles swell. And in the roles of frantic science geeks trying to keep expanding piles of money from throwing the planet out of its orbit we have Warren and Sanders. Naturally, they are opposed by skeptical wealth-o-philes and Cold War dead-enders who condemn them as socialists who want to punish success.
In the 1950s, we knew who would prevail. Today, that's not a sure bet.