I love people like this. Seriously.

7 04 2010

…in fact, I nothing would please me more than building a career out of mocking them.

I’m talking, of course, about wealthy people who feel like they should be taxed more.

Yes, they do exist.  Secretly, we all know they’re publicity whores who will leap at any attempt to appear magnanimous.  Particularly when they can afford good tax attorneys who can make money disappear into the Caymans or municipal bonds.

I shouldn’t generalize, though—there’s an outside chance that some of these types are sincere.  Like “millionaire entrepreneur” Jeffery Hollender, who gushes:

“I would with pleasure sacrifice the income.”

Looks like you really don’t need intelligence to become wealthy.  I looked into Mr. Hollender’s background.  Turns out he was the co-founder of Seventh Generation Inc., a company that makes eco-friendly, biodegradable diapers and other cornerstones of the consumer products market.  He was also loaded growing up, which probably gave him a decent head start in the business world that he wasn’t too ashamed to take advantage of.

I can’t begrudge Hollender’s ability to carve out a niche market and profit tremendously from it, but I can begrudge him for being economically illiterate.  Offering green goods at competitive prices (when compared to name brands; generic laundry detergent, it seems, costs about half as much as both Tide and Seventh Generation) is great, and shows that capitalism is working.

Yet if Hollender had been born without wealth or disposable income, how would he have started (and/or expanded) his business?  Unless the government were to finance him, which seems unlikely, and unless he was to build his enterprise from the ground up, he’d probably have to get a loan at some point.  A loan from an evil bank.  An evil bank that determined that a loan for his business would be a relatively non-risky allocation of assets…drawn from a pool of cash deposited by individuals, some of whom are wealthy, some of whom are of average means.

So it stands to reason that the more money there is in banks (or otherwise invested instead of spent), the more opportunities there are for the little guy to get started.  That’s how economies grow organically.  Even a Vermont resident (doesn’t that explain everything?) like Hollender can’t object to organic economic growth!

Even Warren Buffett has fallen victim to this short-sighted, foolhardy mentality.  A few years ago, he was griping because the US tax system meant that he paid relatively less in taxes than his secretary.

I agree that his secretary was paying too much in taxes.  So why not just advocate lowering her taxes?  It doesn’t follow that, because she pays relatively more taxes, we should increase top marginal tax rates to “level the playing field.”  Rather, decrease all tax rates.  Problem solved.

It is incredibly frustrating, and dangerous, to see successful people calling for the suffocation of the economic system that made them wealthy in the first place.  Remember that wealth doesn’t necessarily mean broad economic wisdom—in fact, I’d argue that the success of someone like Buffett shows that he has a great deal of wisdom in a very narrow sector of the economy.  It just so happened to be a sector that he could exploit deftly.

I’d like to commend the civic-mindedness of individuals who amass a great fortune and then, realizing they can’t spend it, give it away.  It would be wonderful to be in that position, and I don’t need the government’s help in my philanthropic efforts, thank you.  Buffett has given away billions to various causes.  So has Gates.  So did Carnegie and Rockefeller—this isn’t exactly news.

A tainted Karnegie Korporate library—one of a disturbing number scattered across the nation

Hollender and those like them should put their money where their bleeding hearts are donate all of their “excess” income to charitable causes.   They should not presume that they (or the government) knows how to spend anyone’s money but their own.

And if they really believe that the government knows how to burn through allocate resources better than the private sector, they can send their check directly to the IRS.  Pick any office nationwide; I’m sure they’ll cash it.

But as the Washington Post article reveals, this isn’t about doing what’s right for the sake of doing what’s right; for some, it’s about assuaging their own guilt over their privileged upbringings.

Why anyone would feel guilty about success (inherited or not) is beyond me.  That’s an individual’s prerogative.  Demanding that the government relieve an entire economic class of some large portion of its wealth so a few concerned ninnies can sleep soundly is head-bangingly ludicrous.

Oh, and I stole this article from Ace of Spades.  What, you think I actually have time to find interesting stuff on my own?

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