Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Peculiar headline

Numerically speaking, there's something odd about the headline released in hopes of swaying the Davos monsters.

"Report: Richest 1 percent to own more than half world’s wealth by 2016"

The problem of inequality is huge and urgent, but this peculiar phrasing tends to downplay the problem, tends to lose focus. Inequality is dramatically clear and dangerous, and it's been clear and dangerous for at least 10 years. Doesn't matter when the 50% mark will be crossed by one particular dubious measure.

There's simply NO WAY to reach this level of precision. Let's split the world into three groups to demonstrate the problem. The middle group can be measured with some precision, but the top and bottom can't.

= = = = =

Looking at a typical member of each group.....

= = = = =

Top: We'll call him Morris Goldfarb for no particular reason.

What does Morris own? NOTHING. All of the properties associated with Morris are owned by an infinitely complex structure of corporations, companies, partnerships, LLCs, LLPs, Trusts, etc. We might be able to estimate the value of the properties and income sources. It would be a number with at least 8 zeroes. But any attempt to measure would instantly trigger a response in the chain of corporations, LLCs, etc, which would move the properties beyond range of the measuring instrument.

How much tax does Morris pay for this wealth? Dumb question. He pays NOTHING. The sole life purpose of a Goldfarb is to suck in MORE THAN ALL money in the world and pay LESS THAN NOTHING. Like a black hole.

= = = = =

Middle: We'll call him Happystar for no particular reason. Happystar is probably at the low end of Middle by US standards. What does Happystar own? We can figure this with considerable precision and certainty. Maybe not to the nearest dollar, but easily down to the nearest thousand.

One small house: Value \$40k.
Furniture, computers, etc. Value \$1k.
Money in bank: Value \$105k.
Total: \$146k.

How much tax does Happystar pay for this wealth? Last year \$1800, federal and county.

= = = = =

Bottom: We'll call him Mohammed Ogunbukwe for no particular reason. What does Mohammed own? As with Happystar, his property can be listed, but unlike Happystar, his property cannot be neatly quantified in money.

One grass hut: Value 0.
One stick: Value 0.
Three metal pans: Value 0.
One loyal wife: Value INFINITE.
Three obedient children who help with the farmwork: Value INFINITE.

Numerically Mohammed owns zero. In real human terms he's vastly richer than Morris or Happystar.

= = = = =

See the problem?

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Location: Spokane

Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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