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The Almighty Buck Books

Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right 839

New submitter rvw sends word that Bill Gates has posted a review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, an acclaimed book by economist Thomas Piketty about how income equality is a necessary result of unchecked capitalism. Gates, one of the most successful capitalists of our time, agrees with Piketty's most important conclusions. That said, he also finds parts of the book to be flawed and incomplete, but says Piketty has started vital debate on these issues. Gates writes, Yes, some level of inequality is built in to capitalism. As Piketty argues, it is inherent to the system. The question is, what level of inequality is acceptable? And when does inequality start doing more harm than good? That's something we should have a public discussion about, and it's great that Piketty helped advance that discussion in such a serious way. ... I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn't make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital. It will make even less sense in the coming years, as robots and other forms of automation come to perform more and more of the skills that human laborers do today. But rather than move to a progressive tax on capital, as Piketty would like, I think we'd be best off with a progressive tax on consumption.
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Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:44AM (#48159533) Homepage

    Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:49PM (#48160391)

      Without a middle class, there is no real economy. If our current system guarantees the destruction of the middle class, then our current system guarantees the destruction of the economy (the economic experiment over the last 30 years seems to support this hypothesis). Thus, we must tweak our system so that it does not destroy the middle class.

      In the words of Henry Ford, "I pay my workers well so that they can afford to buy my cars."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:44AM (#48159535)

    We charge the people doing the labor (income tax) and then *also* charge them on consumption? The people least able to pay?

    This will end well.

    • by edawstwin ( 242027 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:48AM (#48159579)
      Hopefully (probably?) what he means is that the only taxes are on consumption.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
        I'd go for that, and it would be somewhat "progressive" too...in that rich people tend to buy MUCH more expensive items, and more of them.

        I'd say one extra thing...don't tax food, that way it wouldn't be regressive against the poor which is often the argument for a consumption tax.

        I'd also be for a flat tax too....one simple form, done.

        • by edawstwin ( 242027 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:01PM (#48159749)
          The Fair Tax solves this by giving everyone a subsidy equal to the amount of taxes that would be paid at a certain income level (directly related to the poverty line, I believe). Everyone essentially pays no taxes on necessary food/housing/etc... So it's actually better for the poor than the middle and upper classes. I'm sure that most consumption tax proposals do something similar.
          • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @01:35PM (#48160869) Journal

            Everyone essentially pays no taxes on necessary food/housing/etc... So it's actually better for the poor than the middle and upper classes.

            Better for the poor, better for the rich, worse for the middle class.
            http://www.factcheck.org/2007/05/unspinning-the-fairtax/ [factcheck.org]

            Americans for Fair Taxation rejects the Treasury Department analysis, objecting that Treasury considers only the income tax. By leaving out payroll taxes (which are actually regressive) Treasury's chart makes the FairTax look worse by comparison. We found that including all the taxes that the FairTax would replace (income, payroll, corporate and estate taxes), those earning less than $24,156 per year would benefit. [David Burton, chief economist of the Americans for Fair Taxation] agreed that those earning more than $200,000 would see their share of the overall tax burden decrease, admitting that "probably those earning between $40[thousand] and $100,000" would see their percentage of the tax burden rise.

            Show me an alternative tax structure that doesn't lower the tax burden for corporations or high earners by passing it onto the middle class and I'll support it.

            • by jfengel ( 409917 )

              Exactly. The FairTax is highly regressive, because it taxes spending. The poor spend all of their income; the wealthy don't. It tries to make that less obvious with its "prebate", sort of a guaranteed minimum income, which removes some of the burden from those below the poverty line.

              If the burden isn't on the poor and it's not on the wealthy then it *must* rest on the middle class. Proponents seem to want to play a shell game, but the fact is that if you want to remain revenue neutral, somebody is paying. A

          • The subsidy is the thing I hate the most about Fair Tax.

            It perpetuates the myth that Money comes for free from the Government. Develops even more people that budget their expenses around their government check

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:02PM (#48159765)

          I'd also be for a flat tax too....one simple form, done.

          A flat tax would do almost nothing to simplify taxes. If all your income is W2 salary, your income tax is already one simple form. If your tax is more complicated, because you own a business, rental property, etc. then 99.9% of the work is determining what is your income. Once you determine that, calculating the percentage (flat or otherwise) would be the remaining 0.1%.

        • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:04PM (#48159793)

          It wouldn't do anything to mitigate income inequality though - rich people spend far less on consumption as a percentage of their income/capital gains, so unless you have a *very* progressive consumption tax the poor will still be paying a much larger percentage of their income in taxes. Plus there's all the complexity of trying to impose a progressive consumption tax - Do you try to change from a simple X% sales tax at the store to a sliding scale where more expensive items carry a greater tax burden? *That* would be a huge headache all around. It also likely disproportionately disadvantages those inclined to impulse control and long term planning: The person who scrimps and saves to be able to buy a nicer car/house/whatever ends up carrying a higher tax burden than the person with the same income who pisses their money away on little shit as fast as they earn it.

          • by Zan Lynx ( 87672 )

            Does income inequality actually matter though?

            If Person A makes a million dollars a year but lives exactly the same lifestyle as Person B who makes $100,000 a year, does it matter?

            It seems to me that no one would know or CARE if Person A has $100 million in investments and bank accounts if he lives just like everyone else.

            So it is really more of a lifestyle inequality that makes people upset.

            • It gives Person A 10x the potential socio-economic clout, which undermines democracy for starters.

              You're also talking about a relatively trivial degree of inequality, a mere 10x. At present in the US executives are averaging 300x (500x?) the median income, and they're still "working class" - the people making REAL money don't have jobs, they have investments, and you never hear about them in the news.

            • by TheNastyInThePasty ( 2382648 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @02:50PM (#48161649)

              Demand, people buying things, is what drives the economy. Person A that makes 100x the money that Person B does, doesn't add 100x the demand to the economy. One person can only buy so much. So, then, Person A's extra money is either going to go into savings (not good, that money is lost, as far as the economy is concerned) or the money is going into investing. Investing plays an important role in the system but it cannot be the basis of the economy, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. Workers are hired and businesses are expanded for no other reason than to fulfill demand.

              This is why income inequality is bad. Its growth strangles the economy by shifting money from the masses, who would use that money to drive the economy, to the few who will just put the money into savings when there is nothing worth investing in.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DigiShaman ( 671371 )

          The IRS will not not go away. The tax code is used and exploited for votes and social engineering. It's a source of power that politicians will never relinquish.

          I like the dream BTW.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            The tax code is used and exploited for votes and social engineering.

            It was created specifically for those purposes.

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:33PM (#48160207)

            I'd have to agree. Want to help a campaign contributor? Create an obscure rule that allows the contributor to profit based on their specific circumstances, but that no one else understands enough to object on, unless they are a knowledgeable "special interest". Then shut up the opposed special interests by giving them their own rule to satisfy their own constituency.

            Want to pretend to help the middle class? Create rules that look like they're getting something, only for those rules to be one-time, or quietly dispensed with in the next rule reshuffle.

            The value of an understandable tax code is less about saving the middle class though tax breaks, and more about making it possible for the people to actually understand how much the government is taking and how the programs that our legislators vote on will affect that number.

        • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:12PM (#48159909)

          The rich, depending on how rich, spend ridiculously small percentages of their income. The poor spend every dime. A consumption tax will immediately transfer the bulk of taxation to the poor and middle class. The Ultra rich like the idea of consumption taxes because 99.999% of their money is sitting in long term trusts making 10% and will never ever get spent.

        • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:13PM (#48159931) Journal

          Taxing consumption is stupid. It encourages people to save and hoard till the day they die, which defeats the purpose of money. The rich are the most capable of doing this, which big trust funds and investments. Also, the idea of a progressive consumption tax is mind-boggling. How can a sales tax be progressive? Right now, sales taxes are collected on point of sale, which is a flat (actually regressive) tax. Do you have to fill out everything you buy on some IRS form?

          A better idea is to tax wealth. That will encourage people to spend, and drive the economy forward.

          • It encourages people to save and hoard till the day they die, which defeats the purpose of money.

            So, if it encourages people to build up some capital, it's a bad thing, eh?

            Yes, I'm aware that current economic theories pretty much rely on most everyone spending their money as fast as they make it.

            And then bitch about the fact that they don't set aside money for their old age, or to deal with bad economic times, etc....

        • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:51PM (#48160409)

          I'd go for that, and it would be somewhat "progressive" too...in that rich people tend to buy MUCH more expensive items, and more of them.

          Whoah! We need to go back ot the drawing board here. This is supposed to end up with me paying less taxes,

        • by ClintJCL ( 264898 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <todhsals+lcjtnilc>> on Thursday October 16, 2014 @02:54PM (#48161687) Homepage Journal
          Flat tax is bullshit because money's value to an individual is logrithmic, not linear.

          Taking 50 percent from Bill Gates reduces his power almost by 0. Taking 50 percent from that single mother? Her kids are homeless. The same tax level is not simply the same for all people. Flat tax is an idea for the rich, by the rich, disguised as an idea for the people, by the people. Like *most* American politics.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:56AM (#48159683)

        Still wont solve the problem.

        A tax on consumption hits those hardest who consume the most: the middle and lower classes.
        And it does nothing to stop or slow the growth of wealth accumulation.
        Consumption taxes only feed wealth accumulation.

        Whereas on a tax on capital, on wealth, does precisely that: it targets wealth inequality directly, reducing the top heaviness of the system.
        You may not be able to run a country off it (which is why income or consumption taxes across the majority of society will still be important), but thats not its purpose.
        It's purpose is to keep the system stable so it doesnt run off the tracks. It's one of those necessary restraints on capitalism to it from its own self destructive tendencies.

        • A tax on consumption hits those hardest who consume the most: the middle and lower classes. And it does nothing to stop or slow the growth of wealth accumulation.

          To be clear, the middle and lower class do not consume the most. The wealthy do. Their consumption is just not as high a proportion of their wealth or income. I don't think it would be a good idea to tax wealth, but it doesn't matter what I think because politicians will always build in some loophole that allows the truly wealthy to hide their money.

        • A tax on consumption hits those hardest who consume the most: the middle and lower classes.

          Real sales/VAT/consumption taxes are almost never implemented with a flat rate. Necessities are usually exempted, which disproportionately benefits lower incomes. Many jurisdictions also implement a personal or household threshold, so you get a flat refund, which makes a bigger proportionate difference to lower income households.

          Consumption taxes are not perfect, but they are both more progressive and have less harmful consequences than the tax system we have now. Taxing payroll is very regressive, and d

        • To be fair, he does say a progressive tax on consumption, presumably meaning every additional dollar spent would be taxed at a slightly higher rate. You could lay that out to mean everything from hitting the poorest the hardest all the way to no one paying taxes on the first $100,000 they spend every year, it's all in how you lay out the numbers.

          • Progressive consumption taxes don't typically try to tax additional dollars at higher rates. Instead, they tax different goods differently, generally with no taxes at all on staple foods, basic clothing, low-end housing and transportation, etc., then higher rates on more luxurious items. Deciding where on the necessity to luxury to extravagance continuum a given item falls gets pretty political, but it could be done.
    • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:52AM (#48159635)

      If you had read the summary at a minimum, you would have noted that Gates was advocating 1) moving away from a 'labor' tax to a 2) Progressive 'consumption' tax.

      It is ok to disagree, but at least disagree with what he actually said.

      • The sticking point is the "moving away" part. Can anyone seriously think with as hooked on spending as the government is that any form of tax would actually go away? It's far, far more likely that a consumption tax would be an "also" and not an "instead of".

        • The sticking point is the "moving away" part. Can anyone seriously think with as hooked on spending as the government is that any form of tax would actually go away? It's far, far more likely that a consumption tax would be an "also" and not an "instead of".

          Just tie any consumption tax legislation to the repeal of the 16th Amendment (in the U.S., of course).

        • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

          VAT in the UK was intended as a replacement for income tax, didn't work out that way since someone forgot to abolish income tax. Now we are forced to pay both.

        • Absolutely. You know why? Efficient taxation should result in more tax money coming in. If they can't do so, that's a fault of putting out inefficient taxes.

    • We charge the people doing the labor (income tax) and then *also* charge them on consumption? The people least able to pay?

      This will end well.

      The point is to STOP taxing labor and only tax consumption but also to do it progressively.
      Luxury taxes and sin taxes are great examples of this. There would be plenty of other
      ways to do this. Taxing private jets, taxing first class travel, taxing electricity or water
      usage progressively, carbon taxes for the individual, taxing gasoline progressively, etc..
      Inequality isn't a problem because rich people MAKE more than poor people. We should
      encourage people to create as much wealth as possible. Inequality

      • by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:20PM (#48160033)
        Inequality isn't a problem because rich people MAKE more than poor people. We should encourage people to create as much wealth as possible.

        This is a semantic misdirection I can't help commenting on when I hear it.

        Rich people don't "make" more money than poor people. Rich people "get their hands on" more money than poor people.

        Getting money and creating value correlate very weakly.

        How would you rank these in terms of a) actual creation of value, and b) income?

        1. A CEO
        2. A lawyer
        3. An engineer
        4. A scientist

        Now rank them in terms of income.

        However one falls on the question of what is most appropriate to tax, and to what level, clarity on the factors of production, consumption, and taxation is critical. "Making money" being used synonymously with "receiving income" is one of the more intractable social barriers to this, IMHO.

        Incidentally, this seems to be one of the main problems with recent STEM and "learn to code" efforts. Corporations aren't doing as well with obscuring the basic premise they want more productive work done (and admitting where it comes from is unavoidable in this case), while receiving the majority of the income from that value produced, by the STEM students they wish to "encourage". People aren't, in the main, buying it.
    • by JMZero ( 449047 )

      We charge the people doing the labor (income tax) and then *also* charge them on consumption?

      From the summary:

      I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn’t make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital.

      So he wants move away from taxing labor. Less tax on labor. That will mean less tax for people doing labor. Less labor tax. And to replace that tax, he wants a progressive tax on consumption. Progressive means rich people pay more th

    • Consumption taxes are inherently regressive. A poor person has to spend (consume) all his income, a rich person can afford to use it to get more money instead. Not to mention that when time comes to consume it, the rich guy can buy his yacht in New Zealand, or wherever they don't have a consumption tax on yachts.

      It would also be horribly intrusive/impractical to make an increasing consumption tax, they would need to keep track of everything you buy.

      The charitable interpretation is that Bill Gates doesn't ha

  • Overrated... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:45AM (#48159545) Journal
    Piketty did little to advance the debate on income equality; that debate was already alive and well before he published his book. The only thing it did was to supply some intellectual ammunition to those in favour of greater equality, but there are very few (if any) new arguments brought forth. I read his book and I agree with some of the ideas within, but as a whole this book is vastly overrated.
    • Re:Overrated... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:56AM (#48159677) Homepage Journal

      There only idea that matters is the core thesis that r>g.

      Everything else comes down to framing that. And Gates' consumption tax idea kinda does the opposite of addressing that. It's regressive as hell to tax the people who need things more than those who can just sit on their money and let it grow. You buy the land, and eat marginal gains on laborer/robot creation. And those laborers are going to lose out since their own budget is mostly going to things that are consumption taxed, leaving them with very little to invest in their own capital.

      Every long-term 21st century economic policy needs to look at r>g and find a healthy stabilization point where r=g that allows free flow from labor to investor and back and work towards it.

      • Re:Overrated... (Score:5, Informative)

        by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @01:01PM (#48160501)

        The founder of Capitalism was very clear that the failure of Mercantilism was due to unregulated monopolies which resulted in a 2 class system. The upper class could, and did, fix prices to maximize profits creating false scarcities and reducing wages in the labor pool. Capitalism was intended to be regulated to prevent a two class system, yet we have seen large reductions in our regulations over the last few decades. Hence, we are moving further toward yet another two class system which will end in predictable results if not checked.

        I kind of agree with you, but don't agree that you have only two variables. Capitalism is supposed to have a third variable which can move toward either end of the scale. The mobile variable is supposed to increase productivity and allow class mobility. The stability factors are supposed to be the top and bottom ends, primarily due to what Socrates discussed with the Artisan and economics.

        Paraphrasing Socrates pretty heavily here, but the logic will remain. Jobs paying too little result in a labor shortage and hopeless class of society. Jobs paying too much result in not just a lack of productivity by the wealthier class, but frees the same people to meddle in everyone else' affairs to gain until the point at which revolt is necessary to balance society again. The Government's job is to ensure that people are secure, which having no caps on wealth does not allow.

        As we have seen deregulation occur, we have also seen wealth disparity change drastically in favor of those who already have wealth. Meanwhile the middle class has been reduced drastically and rates of poverty have increased dramatically in the US.

        Before anyone claims "but that is unfair to rich people" Consider that up until Nixon, anyone making 1,000,000 a year in personal pay was paying 90% income tax (true since income tax was implemented). In 1968, making 100,000 a year was a very healthy wage, many times the average and very few making 1M/yr complained. Reagan reduced taxes further, so any wealthy person paying into the tax system paid a lesser rate than the average worker. Today, we have a guy admitting to make millions and pay 9% tax(Rupert Murdoch), compared to a person making 100K paying 30% tax. (It should go without saying that the income tax incentive was not just to prevent massive personal wealth, but to ensure that profits from companies went back into the company instead of a person's pocket).

        Nixon promised that reducing taxes on the Rich would stimulate the economy, and Reagan claimed the same thing. Yet we have not seen any such stimulation and wealth disparity has moved in the exact opposite direction as promised.

  • by jthill ( 303417 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:48AM (#48159575)

    a progressive tax on consumption

    Not sure how that's going to promote demand for goods and services. It looks to me like a recipe for rewarding not-spending. And not-spending is exactly what's sucking the liquidity out of the economy now, locking it up in the vaults of the wealthy, who refuse to spend at all unless it means that they wind up with ever more in their vaults, and construction of the (was this term ever more apt?) vicious cycle is complete.

    • Yup, exactly. Taxing consumption would disincentivise spending, and when people aren't spending, businesses aren't making any money and hence going out of business.

      • We already tax consumption at the state level. You could argue that having a higher available spending budget from not taxing labor would increase the spending power for many even after consumption tax is added, but it all depends on what is taxed and how much.

        I think the greater concern for consumption tax approach is that it could driven the emergence of a huge black market. But, since that might mostly include lower end items and benefit lower income folks, it might be an acceptable flaw.

        We either
  • Taxing consumption comes down to value-added tax, which is a relic from times where income was difficulty to assess and tax.

    Also, for people with low income, taxing consumption is actually worse than taxing income, since the lower your income, the higher the percentage of it you must spend on consumption in order not to starve or freeze.

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @11:56AM (#48159687)

    Brilliant idea. That way, instead of spending their money on things that people have to make, the wealthy will invest in owning a larger share of the world by way of financial instruments which produce more income.

    This will, obviously, reduce inequality.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:18PM (#48159997) Journal
    Piketty's most important point was that capitalism is causing, inescapably, greater inequality. A good portion of his analysis went to proving that inequality has increased.

    Contrast that with what Gates wrote:

    thanks to the rise of the middle class in countries like China, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Thailand, the world as a whole is actually becoming more egalitarian, and that positive global trend is likely to continue.

    Well, ok, so that's the exact opposite of Piketty. He then attacks directly Piketty's point that wealthy people increase their wealth. He suggests that the also spend their money, both on consumption and philanthropy, and that rentier families tend to lose their money. To back up his point, he looks at the Forbes 400:

    About half the people on the [Forbes 400] are entrepreneurs whose companies did very well (thanks to hard work as well as a lot of luck). I don’t see anyone on the list whose ancestors bought a great parcel of land in 1780 and have been accumulating family wealth by collecting rents ever since.

    Finally he goes on to give his own ideas about taxation. In other words, Gates is using this book as a stimulus for his own ideas, and he found it very stimulating.

    And now I've done a review of Gate's review. I feel so meta.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:39PM (#48160275)

    $640k/year should be be enough for anyone

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@nOsPAm.carpanet.net> on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:49PM (#48160393) Homepage

    Was a video I saw that addressed the degrees of this issue. That is, they started showing a graph of what people polled thought income inequality looked like in terms of relative distribution of wealth. They showed what people thought it should be, people of different ends of the political spectrum. Then they showed what people thought was a healthy or acceptable distribution..... and then the real one.

    The thing is, everybody seems to agree that some inequality is ok. Everybody seems to agree that there is more inequality than there should be. Everybody also underestimates how much inequality there is, showing the real numbers were as far removed from what people thought it was as what they thought it was was from what they thought was ideal.

  • by KarlH420 ( 532043 ) on Thursday October 16, 2014 @12:54PM (#48160439) Homepage
    There is a TED talk from the author of the book Bill Gates is commenting about at https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] pretty good watch
  • I'm not claiming to be an economist, but I'd imagine there are some big problems with taxing consumption as well. As people will point out, taxing something often has the effect of discouraging it. Depending on how you structure the tax, it could encourage a pack-rat mentality, where people just stuff their money away. That's not all bad, since it serves a purpose of encouraging savings, but when you cut consumption, you have the potential of also cutting economic growth. In addition, a tax on consumption might hit poorer people, since everyone has a minimum amount that they must consume. For example, poor people and rich people both need to spend a minimum of $[X]/year on food just to survive. As the amount of income increases, that $[X] becomes a vanishingly small percentage of income for rich people, while it remains a substantial amount of money for the very poor.

    Taxing consumption could also (again, depending on how it's structured) simply drive money out of the US. In its simplest form, it would become much cheaper to make money in the US (since income and capital gains wouldn't be taxed) while making it much more expensive to spend money here. The "smart thing to do" would be to make your fortune here and spend it elsewhere, where the tax is not on consumption.

    And that also doesn't begin to confront the source of a lot of the problem: wealth and power represent a self-reinforcing cycle. To oversimplify a bit: Poor people have no power to promote their own interests, while rich people can use their economic power to develop other forms of power, which they can, in turn, use to reinforce their economic power. The obvious example of this is that they can contribute money to politicians, supporting politicians who will support their economic interests. Those politicians can change trade policy to benefit the wealthy person's business, or rewrite the tax code to allow the wealthy person to avoid paying taxes.

    If we started taxing based on consumption, how long do you think it would take for an exception to be written into the tax code for private yachts?

    And this immediately raises the question in my mind, how to we anticipate tracking "consumption" and deciding what should and should not be counted as "consumption"?

    Now, I'm not ruling out the possibility of someone developing a plan that deals with these issues appropriately. But I've heard the suggestion of taxing consumption before, and I've never heard an adequate explanation of how all of these things would be addressed. It seems a bit... I don't know the right word-- silly? creepy? Well, it seems noteworthy to me that Bill Gates starts and finishes his argument by talking about how rich people should be treated differently based on how charitable they are. It suggests that his main motivation is to argue, "I'm one of the good ones. You should leave me alone and let me keep more of my money. Yes, yes, by all means, tax rich people more to deal with this income inequality issue, just so long as you don't tax me."

Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.