random memes }

Another take on the class system

Reading about the British class system, was surprised at one aspect. Pretty much anyone who reaches a notable level of achievement can get knighted. The class system in Britain - across generations - is not static.

We have an unresolved problem. At the start of life and career, we want rough equality of opportunity. But ability is not equal. What each citizen could achieve, and will achieve ... differs. If great achievement brings great wealth ... I think that is right. For each guy who added much to society's real wealth, given wealth, the odds are good that guy will do interesting things with that wealth.

On the other hand, some acquire great wealth without doing anything particularly constructive. Great wealth acquired but not productively invested leads to leads to huge instabilities in the economy - as in our present trouble. There is some sense in having a recognized "class" system - but only if the averaged result rewards real productivity (in any various sense).

For a long-term stable and productive society, we do not want vast unearned wealth passing between generations. There is only a slight chance the next generations will be as productive the first wealth-acquiring individual. This suggests that - as a society, and in the case of great wealth - we must limit the amount of owned wealth that can be passed between generations.

(Yes, a "death tax" - so colorfully named - makes sense for massive wealth.)

On the flip side, I do not especially trust government - or any large organization - to control or direct the economy. Central planning does not often work. The intelligence of a committee tends to sum up to an average of the individual participants ... or worse.

So how do you reward those of a different "class" (in terms of real achievement), tax those of great wealth (and no achievement), while using the least amount of "government"?

Perhaps the British approach to creating new "peerage" is a clue.

In the usual case, and as our society and economy is currently organized, we want great tax on great wealth. As currently organized, only a very small proportion is able to acquire great wealth. Of that portion that gathers great wealth, only a small portion can put that wealth to good use.

We need another filter - something that separates passive-rich from the worthy-rich.

Could we use something like the British peerage system? Those publicly recognized as exceptional should get a lower (or no) tax rate. Recognition could come from the government, or from a small number of entitled organizations. The number of entitlements should be limited, and some measure put on the organization (including and especially government agencies) allowed to grant entitlements.

An interesting exercise would be to express this notion in terms of a series of empirical measures. A healthy sum would include both individual or group judgment in granting economic privilege.