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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: wealth, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 9 of 9
1. Scotland’s return to the state of nature?

By David A. Rezvani


Some observers may immediately recoil at the thought that an entity that is partially independent would have advantages over an entity with a full measure of sovereignty. This indeed seems to be the view of the minority of Scottish voters who intend on voting in favor of Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom during the September 2014 independence referendum. To them, Scotland’s current condition of partial independence may seem like a cup that is half full. By contrast, full independence may seem like an outcome that is always good. This view is however at odds with the condition of nearly 50 partially independent territories throughout the world (like Hong Kong, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico), which tend to be far wealthier and more secure than their demographically similar fully independent counterparts. The per capita GDP of the average partially independent territory (of US$32,526) is about three times higher than the average sovereign state (of US$9,779). The relative wealth of partially independent territories is even more striking when the comparison controls for factors such as population size, geographic region, and regime type. The aspiration for full independence for its own sake also flies in face of our own common sense experience as individuals.

When consumers purchase fruits and vegetables at the grocery store rather than growing it themselves, when we buy clothes rather than learning the art of weaving, when customers put money in banks rather than guarding it themselves, when citizens consent to reliable police protection rather than arming for a state of war―in all of these actions people have ceded what would otherwise be their full independence and instead embraced partial independence. We put our confidence in others in some respects while in other ways retain our own autonomy. This frees us to specialize. It facilitates collaboration, allowing us to build on the work of others. It gives us confidence to take risks. At the citizen level, however, we do not typically refer to this as partial independence―we refer to it as being civilized. Clothing oneself with an animal skin and running out into the wilderness to survive alone in the state of nature may provide someone with a full cup of independence, but it is not the kind of condition that most people want to be in.

scottish parliament building

But this is precisely what Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, and his secessionist Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) colleagues seem to want for their homeland. Scotland’s current partial independence with the United Kingdom provides wide ranging economic, political, and security advantages for both the United Kingdom and Scotland. With the world’s fifth largest economy, the UK provides a larger share of public services per capita to Scotland than other areas of the country. London is also one of the largest financial centers in the world and amidst the 2008 financial downturn―while nearby sovereign states like Iceland and Ireland were reeling under financial strain―Britain’s central bank opened its coffers to Scotland, spending £126.6 billion to prevent local bank failure. Britain, which is the world’s fourth largest military power, also furnishes Scotland’s defense. The UK also has one of the highest levels of rule of law and provides Scotland with credible guarantees for its own self-determination.

And with full control over the elections in its own local parliament as well as control over one-tenth of the seats in the British Parliament―with an occasional Scotsman as UK Prime Minister―Scotland is far more influential with its neighbors and throughout the world than atrophying into a mini sovereign state. If Scotland’s current arrangement is modified with new powers (such as greater control over taxation, natural resources, and foreign relations), its partially independent status stands to deliver even greater advantages.

Choosing full independence would, however, tragically throw away many ― or all of ― the aforementioned advantages. It would take Scotland into the wilderness of international anarchy in which it would have to fend for itself as a sovereign state. Entry into the European Union may mitigate some of the costs of secession and international anarchy, but there are no guarantees of the terms―or availability―of such membership. Indeed, even if Scotland managed to eventually join the EU, it is widely believed that it would need to drop the British pound and adopt the (locally unpopular) Euro.

Whether as a society or an individual, there certainly is a time in which it makes sense to quit the interdependence advantages of civilized life. If (as with war torn regions) one’s security and rights are under threat, or if (as in the world’s numerous weak fully independent states) conditions are so poor that society has lost its preexisting capability to deliver services, or if (as with historic colonies) one is subject to continuous exploitation by a higher power―under such conditions one may be justified in grabbing a rifle, bundling up the family, and heading for the woods. To some extent, some of the later conditions may indeed apply to Catalonia’s association with Spain―but none of them apply to Scotland’s relationship with the United Kingdom. Scotland’s partially independent union with the UK brings substantial advantages that would not be available under full independence.

True nationalists do not seek a political alternative (like full or partial independence) for its own sake or because it is an article of faith. Rather, they seek out alternatives that best fulfill the economic, security, political and other interests of their nationality. They refrain from needlessly throwing advantages away. It may however still be the case that SNP leaders have a winning strategy. If pushing for a self-damaging divorce with the UK is merely a ploy to win even greater powers as a partially independent territory, they may in fact have a strategy that could validate their nominally nationalist credentials.

David A. Rezvani, D.Phil. Oxford University, has taught courses in international and comparative politics at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT, Trinity College, Boston University, and Oxford University. He is a visiting research assistant professor and lecturer at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Surpassing the Sovereign State: The Wealth, Self-Rule, and Security Advantages of Partially Independent Territories.

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Image credit: The modern architecture of the scottish parliament building in Edinburgh. © andy2673 via iStockphoto.

The post Scotland’s return to the state of nature? appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Millennials ARE Green & Politically Conscious, Despite What The Media Says

In the past week, the media has been captivated by a study on Millennials by San Diego State University’s Jean Twenge, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Twenge has conducted research among students for the past few... Read the rest of this post

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3. Used to be is the reason …


There used to be a middle class, strong and upwardly mobile, many house holds only needed one bread winner and divisions between the classes were blurred most times.
This system did many things good for our nation, it gave the poorest of our people a thought that there was a way forward and out of their poverty by degrees. The fact that they may not be instantly rich was tempered by the fact the a comfortable life was attainable and they didn’t have to be a Basketball star or drug dealer ( these days one in the same some times) to get out of the slums and grip of poverty. With no middle class the view from the bottom seems imposable unless you go for the only channels left for you to advance in with no middle resting place. Greed will, it seems , always be with us and lead to gang mentality among the rich as well as the poor if there is no buffer. Them or us leads to gangs on one side and hired mercenaries on the other for protection, neither of which is a healthy way to live, just ask them in Iraq or Afghanistan, Mexico, you name the country.
With no middle class there becomes a giant pool of potential soldiers with no other options and a dangerous environment.
Creating and maintaining a large and stable middle class is the best way to stabilize societies in my view. Giving them enough wealth so that one person in the partnership can physically stay with the children and raise them in communities where all the parents have a say and control of their lives and know that values are taught not from the school where you send them but at home with a parent there to provide support and strength when children go astray. A society where it doesn’t matter if God is taught in school because he is taught at home by parents who have the time to watch their children and instill the values they want their children to have. Schools need more wood shops, home economics classes, metal shops , all the classes that teach ways to work. They need art and athletics as well to keep their students well rounded and give more opportunities for them to find things that they like and do well in that are constructive.
Government needs to stop the well-fair state mentality and start the work ethics again. Stop regulating safety and make it the responsibility of the people as individuals. We may have some stupid mistakes made and innocent people hurt now and then but we will not have to have a camera on every corner or prisons overflowing with poor that had no place to advance. Government will naturally shrink with no need to legislate rules when the people are given adequate room to live lives that have meaning and attainable realistic goals.
Just my thoughts.
dsc_0813-copy

1 Comments on Used to be is the reason …, last added: 4/16/2009
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4. Martian Happiness

Peter Singer, in an interview with Christine Smallwood at The Nation:

You're a utilitarian. Utilitarianism tries to maximize the net surplus of happiness over misery in the world. What if billionaire Larry Ellison's yacht makes him really, really happy?

This is what some call the utility monster argument. We would have to assume that Larry Ellison actually has capacities for happiness that are vastly greater than anyone else's. Ellison's yacht cost $200 million, and if we assume that $400 can repair an obstetric fistula, that means that the suffering relieved by 500,000 obstetric fistula repairs is not greater than the happiness that Ellison gets from his yacht. That, I think, is not physically possible. But if we ever encountered Martians who could convince us that they had a vastly greater capacity for happiness than we do, then it could be a problem.

Then the moral position would be to let the Martians colonize Earth and make us their slaves.

Yes, that does seem to be the implication of the theory. A lot of people do think that's a damning objection to utilitarianism.

1 Comments on Martian Happiness, last added: 5/18/2009
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5. Interesting 1500’s Trivia


Image Source

Have you ever thought about how things were in the 1500’s compared to now?  Here are a few facts you may not know about.

  1. Where did the saying “dirt poor” come from?
  2. How did the saying “bring home the bacon” get started?
  3. I am sure you have heard “raining cats and dogs”, but where did it originate?
  4. Where did the tradition of brides carrying a bouquet of flowers at a wedding come from?
  5. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” sounds peculiar right?  Well how did this saying get started?
  6. What do you think their food customs were like?

Now, let’s see if you got the answers correct!

  1. “Dirt poor” was when poor people had dirt floors.  Those that had money were able to obtain something to cover the dirt, but those that were poor were stuck with the dirt.
  2. The more wealthy people were able to buy pork, and when visitors would come they would hang up the bacon to show off.  The owners of the meat would cut a little piece off to share with their guests who weren’t as financially endowned.
  3. In houses that had thatched roofs, they had straw piled up high with no wood underneath, is where they kept their animals.  When it would rain it would become slippery and the animals would sometimes fall.
  4.  Back in the 1500’s, people would take a yearly bath.  A wedding would usually take place in July because the bride would take her yearly bath in May, and so by July she would not smell too horrible.  To help cover up the smell, the bride would carry a bouquet of flowers when they got married.
  5. When they took their yearly bath in the 1500’s,  they took them in a big tub filled with hot water.  They would not empty the water out until everyone was finished.  The man of the house was first, followed by other males and older sons, then the women and children.  They kept the babies until the end, when the water was at its dirtiest.  It was said to be so dirty that they could lose someone in it, and there was born the saying.
  6. The wealthy people were able to buy plates made of pewter.  Food with lots of acid would cause some lead to get into the food, which caused lead poisoning.  Needless to say, for about 400 years, tomatoes were considered poisonous. 

Another interesting fact about food:

Bread was divided by status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the bread.  Family members got the middle of the bread.  Guests got the top, or the upper crust of the bread.   

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6. Interesting 1500’s Trivia


Image Source

Have you ever thought about how things were in the 1500’s compared to now?  Here are a few facts you may not know about.

  1. Where did the saying “dirt poor” come from?
  2. How did the saying “bring home the bacon” get started?
  3. I am sure you have heard “raining cats and dogs”, but where did it originate?
  4. Where did the tradition of brides carrying a bouquet of flowers at a wedding come from?
  5. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” sounds peculiar right?  Well how did this saying get started?
  6. What do you think their food customs were like?

Now, let’s see if you got the answers correct!

  1. “Dirt poor” was when poor people had dirt floors.  Those that had money were able to obtain something to cover the dirt, but those that were poor were stuck with the dirt.
  2. The more wealthy people were able to buy pork, and when visitors would come they would hang up the bacon to show off.  The owners of the meat would cut a little piece off to share with their guests who weren’t as financially endowned.
  3. In houses that had thatched roofs, they had straw piled up high with no wood underneath, is where they kept their animals.  When it would rain it would become slippery and the animals would sometimes fall.
  4.  Back in the 1500’s, people would take a yearly bath.  A wedding would usually take place in July because the bride would take her yearly bath in May, and so by July she would not smell too horrible.  To help cover up the smell, the bride would carry a bouquet of flowers when they got married.
  5. When they took their yearly bath in the 1500’s,  they took them in a big tub filled with hot water.  They would not empty the water out until everyone was finished.  The man of the house was first, followed by other males and older sons, then the women and children.  They kept the babies until the end, when the water was at its dirtiest.  It was said to be so dirty that they could lose someone in it, and there was born the saying.
  6. The wealthy people were able to buy plates made of pewter.  Food with lots of acid would cause some lead to get into the food, which caused lead poisoning.  Needless to say, for about 400 years, tomatoes were considered poisonous. 

Another interesting fact about food:

Bread was divided by status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the bread.  Family members got the middle of the bread.  Guests got the top, or the upper crust of the bread.   

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7. Childrens Writers and Illustrators of British Colombia

Check out the CWILLBC...Childrens Writers and Illustrators of British Colombia.

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8. Feel My Pain: The Federal Taxpayers’ Subsidy of Bill Clinton

Edward A. Zelinsky is the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He is the author of The Origins of the Ownership Society: How The Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America. In the article below he looks at the Clinton’s federal tax returns.

President and Senator Clinton’s federal tax returns provide much fodder for commentators who are debating a diverse set of questions in light of those returns: Has Mr. Clinton understandably maximized his post-presidential income in our celebrity-crazed culture – or has he exploited the presidency for unseemly financial gain? Does the Clintons’ private foundation reflect a worthy model of charitable giving – or the federal fisc’s subsidization of Senator Clinton’s presidential candidacy? Was Mr. Clinton financial relationship with Yucaipa appropriate for a former president – or for the spouse of a prospective president?

The Clintons’ tax returns raise one further issue which also requires public discussion: The federal subsidy the Clintons have received over the last seven years while earning in excess of $100 million. Mr. Clinton’s aggressive pursuit of post-presidential income is incompatible with the extensive public support he has received from federal taxpayers since leaving office. That public support was designed to preclude the nation’s chief executives from facing financial hardship after their terms of office. It was not intended to subsidize the aggressive pursuit of a post-presidential fortune.

The federal taxpayer’s subsidy of Mr. Clinton has several components. First, as a former president, Mr. Clinton is entitled to receive, for the remainder of his life, the salary of a cabinet secretary. That salary is today $191,000 per annum. In addition, as a former president, Mr. Clinton also receives, at taxpayer expense, “suitable office space appropriately furnished and equipped.” Mr. Clinton’s office in New York City costs federal taxpayers over $700,000 per year to lease and operate. Federal taxpayers also defray the salary and benefits for office staff and some of Mr. Clinton’s travel outlays. The General Services Administration currently budgets for all of these costs a yearly total of $1,162,000 for Mr. Clinton. The equivalent annual figures for former President Bush and former President Carter are $786,000 and $518,000 respectively.

In addition, Mr. Clinton is also entitled, at taxpayer expense, to Secret Service protection for the remainder of his lifetime – even though, as president, Mr. Clinton signed legislation limiting Secret Service protection for his successors to the first ten years after they leave office.

For most Americans, Mr. Clinton’s package would constitute a heady lifestyle. For President and Senator Clinton, however, this post-presidential package merely provided a tax-financed base for the aggressive pursuit of unprecedented financial gain for a former chief executive.

Mr. Clinton has apparently treated as tax-free much of the federal largesse he has received. While the Clintons’ federal tax returns report as taxable income his cabinet-level salary payments, he has apparently elected to exclude from his taxable income the other benefits he receives, namely, his federally-financed office, staff, travel costs and protection.

If the Clintons had treated these items as taxable, they most likely would have been reported on their Forms 1040 on line 21 for “other income”. On the Clintons’ 1040 for 2006, line 21 is blank, suggesting that they did not include in income the office, staff, travel costs or protection provided to them by federal taxpayers.

The tax-free treatment of this federal subsidy of Mr. Clinton makes it particularly valuable for him.

This post-presidential package and the federal subsidy it represents were not intended as a conventional deferred compensation arrangement. They instead reflect the judgment that former presidents should not be required to hustle in the marketplace after they leave office.

The story of an impoverished Ulysses Grant, financially-impelled to write his memoirs as he was dying of cancer, is an iconic image of American history. From this tragedy, the world received one of the great military autobiographies of all time. However, most Americans would prefer that the nation’s former leaders not confront the kind penury which plagued Grant at the end of his life.

The immediate stimulus for the modern post-presidential compensation package was the report that former president Truman lacked the resources to return his mail from the American public.

This post-presidential package was designed to preclude Grant’s and Truman’s successors from experiencing the financial problems they confronted. It was not intended to serve as a federal subsidy for the aggressive pursuit of a post-presidential fortune.

President Clinton is not required to accept all or any of the proffered subsidy from the federal Treasury. He can also make a payment to the federal fisc reimbursing it, in whole or in part, for the costs of this subsidy. Such reimbursement could, for example, be geared to the taxes Mr. Clinton would pay if his post-presidential benefits were treated as taxable income.

The federal taxpayers provide post-presidential benefits so that former chief executives will not replicate the unfortunate financial history of Grant or even the more moderate financial discomfort in which President Truman found himself. We do not subsidize former presidents so that they may pursue lucrative private sector careers. As a federal taxpayer subsidizing Mr. Clinton’s lifestyle, I hope he feels my pain.

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9. Tax “Old” Wealth By Abolishing the GST Grandfather Exemption

By Edward Zelinsky

In light of the Democratic party’s control of both houses of Congress and the White House, it is probable that the federal government will continue to levy an estate tax when affluent decedents transmit their wealth to their descendants. The most likely possibility is that Congress will continue to exempt decedents’ estates valued less than $3.5 million while it taxes estates exceeding that threshold amount. In light of President Obama’s statements on the subject, it is also probable that such excess will taxed at a 45% rate when a decedent dies and leaves his wealth to his descendants.

Important details remain to be determined, e.g., whether the $3.5 million federal estate tax exemption will be adjusted annually for increases in the cost of living; whether various estate tax planning techniques such as family partnerships will be curbed or eliminated.

How ever these matters are ultimately resolved, the legislation perpetuating the federal estate tax should contain a provision subjecting to federal taxation all large intergenerational transfers of family wealth. Specifically, Congress should repeal the grandfather exemption from the federal generation skipping tax (GST) for irrevocable trusts established on or before September 25, 1985. This exemption unfairly immunizes from federal taxation transfers at death of “old” wealth while economically equivalent transfers of new wealth are taxed.

As an historic matter, the federal estate tax was often avoided through the use of so-called generation skipping trusts. When a decedent established such a trust, the trust continued for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with no further federal estate taxation being due whenever any of these lineal descendants themselves subsequently died.

The term “generation skipping trust” was a misnomer. The trust didn’t skip any generations. The tax did. Families could continue to enjoy and grow inherited wealth in trust without paying federal estate taxes.

In 1986, Congress prospectively outlawed this planning technique by imposing the federal GST. The GST backstops the federal estate tax by assessing a tax on a death-related transfer of wealth in trust whenever an equivalent transfer outside of a trust would trigger the estate tax. Thus, with the GST in place, families can no longer use trusts to avoid taxation on intergenerational transmissions of large fortunes. Rather, federal taxation must be paid at least once in every generation.

However, Congress grandfathered from the GST transfers of wealth from trusts which were in existence and irrevocable on September 25, 1985.

This exemption creates for federal tax purposes an unfair and unconvincing distinction between new wealth (think Michael Bloomberg) and old wealth (think the Kennedys and the Rockefellers). Because of the federal GST, families inheriting new wealth now pay a federal estate tax or its equivalent at least once every generation. However, families inheriting old wealth live estate-tax free by virtue of the grandfathered status of tax-avoiding trusts established by such families’ patriarchs and matriarchs on or before September 25, 1985.

There are respectable arguments for and against federal estate taxation. However, if there is to be an estate tax, there is no convincing reason to treat differently old wealth from new wealth.

If, as the President Obama and the current Congress apparently believe, federal estate taxation represents sound social and tax policy, there is no warrant for continuing to exempt from such taxation some families simply because they had the good luck to make their fortunes before 1985. As part of its legislation continuing the federal estate tax, Congress and the President should eliminate the immunity from generation skipping taxation for intergenerational wealth transfers accomplished by irrevocable trusts established on or before September 25, 1985. For federal tax purposes, all inherited wealth should be taxed the same, whether it is “old” wealth or “new” wealth. The GST grandfather exemption should be abolished.


Edward A. Zelinsky is the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He is the author of The Origins of the Ownership Society: How The Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America.

2 Comments on Tax “Old” Wealth By Abolishing the GST Grandfather Exemption, last added: 2/11/2009
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