An attempt to prevent and or slow down the eventual accumulation of all wealth by a small group of people that have collected all of it due to countless advantages, schemes, and anything that will add to their wealth.

Obviously, it hasn't worked here in America very well at all, considering, at last count, 1% of the population had more combined wealth than the lowest 95%. This is a warning sign, because it's well known that wealth and power go hand in hand, and if this is not stopped, the division will become too great to prevent the enslavement of the lower class.

The estate tax was designed expressly to help try and prevent such an accumulation of wealth in a family, because they had knowledge of the past.

This 1% that owns so much wealth, and continues to grow it, is fully aware of the fact that it takes money to make money, and the more money you have, the more money you can make. This 1% could probably eliminate poverty here in the United States and still buy their limosuines, yachts, and mansions complete with maids and butlers. But apparently somewhere down the line they lost any interest in helping out people who weren't so lucky as to be born with a silver spoon up their ass.

In statistics the term median is used to define or determine that which is the middle, statistically it is the midpoint (50th percentile) of a large set of numbers.

Accordingly this is the number you would use to find the middle of a series of numbers that are widely distributed (say: number of nodes, income in dollars, price of home, etc.).

It is not "average." Average is the mean.

example:

10, 9, 8, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0. (10 numbers, divided by 10 would give you a mean of 2.8.)

But the median of the same set of numbers is 0, since it is the middle number of that set of numbers.

The US Census Bureau has been using median in place of mean for its income statistics for years. The fact is that the current (1998) median household income for an American is \$38,000. I think it is safe to safe to say that in the US most of the wealth is not redistributed.

The reason libertarians, Conservatives, and Republicans have a problem with redistribution of wealth is that it ignores the fact that every person is an individual, and looks at people as a group rather than as seprate entities, responsible for themselves, since they earned their cash for themselves, and not for the class to which they are assigned by such systems.

communists were fond of saying that the cult of the individual must be destroyed.

"Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all."
(Nikita Khrushchev , February 25, 1956 20th Congress of the Communist Party)

And some quotes that I honestly just cannot resist from people who may very well be communists...

We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."
(Hillary Clinton, 1993)

"We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans ..."
(President Bill Clinton, USA Today, March 11, 1993, Page 2A)

And of course what good would this be if I didn't quote Hitler?

"The main plank in the National Socialist program is to abolish the liberalistic concept of the individual and the Marxist concept of humanity and to substitute for them the folk community, rooted in the soil and bound together by the bond of its common blood."
(Adolph Hitler, quoted in Hitler, A Study in Tyranny, by Alan Bullock (Harper Collins, NY))

...

So, do you think you deserve your own money? Or do you think you should be required to give your money to others so that everyone has the same amount of money, as if you were working for the class, and not yourself.

Ayn Rand once wrote "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."

On the evening news last night, one of the more liberal television stations continued a report that is now a few days old. It's about a fight between City Hall and a gentleman who lives in Beverly Hills. Said gentleman owns a high-rise apartment building which provides low-income housing here in Denver.

In the past few years Denver's economy has been booming and real estate has become quite a hot commodity. Apparently, there was a contract between the two parties involved, in which party B would provide low-income housing for a 20 year period. That time has now expired and party B wishes to profit from his investment. However, Party A has determined that he should not be allowed to do so. They have started condemnation proceedings to force this person to sell his property.

I'm not sure who they wish to have purchase it, but it will obviously be someone who intends to keep it a slum. Is this what we want? Shouldn't we focus on getting these poor people jobs and/or education so that they no longer have to rely on the government to make ends meet? Am I the only one scared by the realization that the government can do harm to an individual as long as the majority of people below the poverty line are protected?
I'm a middle class American.
I've been poor.
Someday I hope to be rich.
I don't ever want to see something like this happen to me. I'll redistribute someone's ass before they redistribute my wealth in this fashion.

Any transaction is a redistribution of wealth. The \$15 CD you purchase impoverishes you by \$15, which gets redistributed to various individuals in the music and retail food chains. But when a politician or his mark mouths the phrase, it's usually a pile of bunk, designed to equate something with hordes of angry peasants coming over to violently divvy up the master's huge tracts of land, in order to conduct a more economically meaningful existence. The only modern-day vestiges of such a redistribution of wealth comes in the form of the various proposed agrarian reforms in past decades in places like Latin America and, recently, Zimbabwe.

But to single out some government policy as "redistribution of wealth" is dishonest in the extreme; it's all redistribution, not just the policies you don't like. Isn't Social Security, in its current form, a generational redistribution of wealth? (And aren't the schemes to privatize parts of it a redistribution of wealth to the securities industry?) When Ronald Reagan and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress put the country essentially on a war budget, with massive increases in both defense spending and the national deficit (a trend started, actually, in the tail end of Jimmy Carter's term in office), there was a redistribution of wealth away from the unrich, in that among the first places to look for spending cuts was in social spending, grants and subsidies that go to the "poor", as the stereotype goes (Medicare and Medicaid, for instance, but you'd perhaps be surprised at how many middle-class families avail themselves of that "stuff-for-the-poor"), but also to the "common man" (Pell Grants and unemployment insurance, et mucho al). The various cuts were such, that when the Reagan/Bush early-90's recession came along, Bush and Congress had to pass a series of supplemental unemployment-insurance bills to essentially restore the amount of coverage that would have existed prior to the redistribution of wealth to the rich in those Reagan/Bush years. It was either that, or deal with an angered, unemployed peasantry.

And, by the way, aren't high estate taxes a plague of the rich? Aren't they smart enough, savvy enough, to hire the proper tax lawyers to get around all that, much as those who were in the old, rarefied air of the 90% income-tax bracket found it worth their while to retain the services of a good tax lawyer or accountant? Those who should be scared of high estate taxes can afford to work around the scare, while the other (conservative estimate) 95% of the population can rest easy, with the confidence that those peasant hordes won't be coming around to hijack Grandpa's golf clubs after he kicks the bucket.

Taxes themselves are the lifeblood of government "by the people, for the people". If they're too high for your tastes, after all the various tax cuts over the decades, maybe you're just too greedy. Or maybe you should move.

America: Love it, or leave it.

In the melting pot, everyone is out to get whatever they can from everyone else. I can understand why people who suscribe to that view want to have and use guns--its the vision of all those peasants coming over the hill to steal the few acres of land that I cleared from the forest myself.

In the vertical mosaic we can see that there are not only individuals, but also groups, classes, that have interests that sometimes overlap, sometimes conflict.

But even in a melting pot, those who come out on top don't do it in the manner that the American mythology would have us believe. As Kevin Phillips in The Politics of Rich and Poor shows so clearly, the central narrative of our time, is the absolute impoverishment of the lower classes by the upper: 'the triumph of upper America'.

The structure of the society is determined by economic decisions, though this is not believed in economics, though it is by political economy. It is this structure that benefits some, and impoverishes others.

Capitalism, or Hyper Capitalism, is a dialectic that generates great wealth at one end--for some--and great misery at the other--for most. The benefit that some receive from the society, is the direct result of the impoverishment that most receive.

It is the strategy of those who have much to deny this connection. But it is there to see. Always.

From whence does wealth derive?

Creating material wealth is fashioning a product that is, in some way, more usable than the form it took beforehand.

To extract iron from the earth is to make it more usable than it would be if it remained. The miners create wealth.

The steelworker takes the iron, along with other elements, and fashions a more usable alloy. The chromium, iron, nickel, etc. are more usable than they were in raw form. The steelworkers create wealth.
The engineer works with his brain and devises a scheme to extract the ore or create the alloy. The engineer is indirectly involved in the creation of wealth.

Where does the shareholder fit in? He only supplies the fantastic machines that extract and shape the ore. He didn't design or build them; he used his capital and bought them. Nor can it be fairly said that the shareholder coordinates the creation of wealth, because the creators are fully capable of self-governance. He rents the aforementioned creators of wealth, who must join in this relationship because they do not themselves control and cannot afford the tools of their livelihood. (In this case the specialized brain worker, the engineer, is powerless without others that can implement his ideas.) He takes the wealth that is created, doles out a small portion to those who created it, and keeps the rest for himself.

Isn't this, too, redistribution of wealth?

(Of course this is a gross oversimplification. I just want to give you something to think about.)
Kurt Vonnegut summed it up in a nutshell:
'Should the nation's wealth be redistributed? It has been and continues to be redistributed to a few people in a manner strikingly unhelpful.'

- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Timequake (1997).

I think what he means by this is that it is disingenuous to speak of wealth-redistribution as if it were the exclusive preserve of governments. The capitalist system, by its nature, redistributes wealth; and overwhelmingly, it redistributes wealth from the poorer sections of society to the rich, because one of the main things that capital is good for is accumulating more capital.

On the national stage, the redistribution of wealth is, as the above writeups make clear, a travesty. But that, my friends, is only the start of it. It's quite a recent phenomenon, but there a signs that the international redistribution of wealth is preparing to get serious.

The international redistribution of wealth takes a number of forms. Most obvious is official international aid - money the governments of rich countries give to poorer ones. Charity, in other words, and what could be more abhorrent than that? The US gives 0.11% of its GDP a year, Europe an average of about 0.35%. For the US that comes to about about \$11b a year. Split between a population of 300m, that's almost \$400 each. The money could pay for 6.5m M14R semi-automatics, or 5b flags, every year, or increase the defence budget by almost 0.47%. So which is more important - protecting our persons with their precious bodily fluids, and celebrating our country, or giving our money to poor little foreigners so they can blow it on food and medicine? Admittedly things aren't quite that bad, since aid money is generally attached to national interests around the world, being used to help keep going friendly governments and as an incentive to persuade them to privatise and open up their markets to our companies, so in fact if you consider the money as an investment we probably suck more out than we pump in, but still... there's a principle at stake here, y'know?

Anyway, aid's only the most obvious problem. Here's another one - debt. You probably heard about the issue from all them liberal "protesters" and "campaigners", those commies who probably haven't done a decent day's work in their lives, and who probably haven't even ever killed a man. Well, yeah, the point is this. Them foreign countries who haven't got a clue what their doing ran up huge debts with us more financially right-on types, and as is the way with these things this means they give us money in interest repayments. They borrowed a lot, so now they're paying a lot. Makes sense, no? Well, try telling that to the pinko liberals. They'll tell you that the repayments are crippling these economies, that many poor countries are paying far more than their education budgets, more than their health budgets. Well boo-hoo-hoo, I say. That's capitalism for you, OK, live with it.

If you make an investment, you expect a return on that investment, and it's your job to try and get as much profit as you can. The whole aim is to suck'em dry. The natural way of things is for "redistribution of wealth" from the poor to the rich. But no, these people have been trying to get the debts cancelled. Just written off. And what's more, some of them have been. Admittedly, rich governments haven't caved in to quite the extent they originally said they were going to, and have in fact managed to systematically back away from the original promises and to tie what debt they are cancelling to privatisation and market opening deals again, but that doesn't alter the fact that some of these debts have just been written off. Just vanished. Imagine if your average independent loan provider did that. Someone owes you a couple of grand, but they're almost out of money, sick, and need what's left to go to hospital. So what, do you just let them off? No! You kneecap'em until they cough up, of course. Ah, it makes me sick, what our governments do in our names.

The basic point is simple. The industrial revolution was ours. We got the technology first. We won the race, they lost. We're the winners, so we deserve our rewards. They're the losers, so they deserve nothing. Those who think developing nations should be assisted with their development at cost to our own are following fundamentally flawed thinking. If you're winning a race, do you slow down to give the opposition a chance? No! You press the advantage, and try to ram them off the road every opportunity you get. Now ok, it is true as I've said that at the moment we're basically only building them up so's we can better exploit them (cheap labour in factories is worth more than cheap labour in fields), but we must be eternally vigilant against those forces which would have things otherwise. Witness the international organisations. Of course, we expect it of such fundamentally immoral institutions as the UN, but recently even the normally trust-worthy triad of the World Bank, the WTO and the IMF have been making noises to the effect that their real aim is eliminate poverty and encourage development. Sure, they haven't actually significantly changed their policies, they're still collecting debt, deflating governments, opening markets and fighting socialism in all its vile forms, but now it seems they're embarassed to admit their true intentions. This is a grave, grave turn of events. Clearly it's time for us to reassert our authority.

Let's nuke someone. Who can we nuke?

Every writeup involving the estate tax that I've read so far has used at most two different figures for the rate at which this tax operates; the first writeup here uses the figures of 37% for estates over \$625,000 and 55% for estates over \$3,000,000. However, having looked at the actual legislation, it seems that there are actually several figures on a sliding scale, the lowest of which is 18%.

The table available at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/2001.html, which is a transcript of Title 26, Subtitle B, Chapter 11, Subchapter A, Part I, Section 2001 (yeesh) of the U.S. Code Collection, shows the scale on which estates are taxed. As far as I understand it, the figures on the left are the amounts by which the estate exceeds the exempted amount, which Rook has pegged at \$675,000 as of 2000 and, according to this (http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/2031.html), has increased by \$200,000 since then.

Also, having been moved by dannye's grim account of the plight of the American farm owner, I looked up a recent statistical report on the average value of farmland in Kansas (found here: http://www.nass.usda.gov/ks/landval/landvl99.htm). Apparently, the average value for farmland is pegged at \$580 per acre. Another interesting figure (found at http://www.nass.usda.gov/ok/bulletin99/page053.htm) puts the price of cattle at \$65.30 per 100 pounds. So, I suppose if you owned a 1,250 acre farm (about 2 square miles) with some 150,000 pounds worth of cattle, you might be getting close... that is, assuming you owned all of this property outright, instead of relying on bank loans.

Anyway, so much for factual argument. What bothers me most about rants like dannye's is statements along the lines of "tax is theft, especially when the money goes to the poor."

Money is a largely imaginary number granted to you by anonymous strangers - which is not to say that it can be treated as such.

The reason it's hard to take seriously the proposition that it's a lack of "initiative or will" that characterizes people with low incomes is that, while some highly demanding jobs pay extremely little, the people who make the most money get paid, by and large, for having lots of money. Examples of the former case are easy to find - for example, the cutoff for the earned income tax credit (mentioned in Kill the poor) for people with one child is higher than the salaries of some teachers (check for yourself at http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html and http://www.oldham.k12.ky.us/TeachSalary.htm respectively). Examples of the latter should be apparent even to the most hardened Objectivist - after all, when the good heroic entrepreneur goes to pull him/herself up by the bootstraps, armed with nothing but ideas and a will to power, he/she is going to need a hefty loan from the bank - on which the bank will collect, regardless of success or failure.

Another irritating assumption is that the rich do more for the government than vice versa. In fact, all too much of government policy has been geared towards accomodating the wealthy at the profound expense of others. A particularly scary example came when the United States government attempted to sue Brazil for distibuting generic AIDS medication to HIV-infected patients (http://europe.cnn.com/BUSINESS/programs/yourbusiness/stories2001/wto.drugs/). The doctors who developed these drugs aren't paid any more or less depending on how many people use them. The people who end up being rewarded by patent laws benefit solely on account of having had the money to put up in the first place - and it is these people whose rights the government protects, more often than not.

As of 1999, 40 percent of Americans held only 0.5 percent of their country's net worth (http://www.gristmagazine.com/citizen/citizen041999.stm). In light of numbers like these, you can see why Marx wanted to just cut the rich out of the loop entirely and start over. Of course, that hasn't worked very well in practice. However, if we're going to instead settle for incremental and for the most part ineffectual programs that at best give the appearance that some concept of fairness may at one point or another have briefly flitted through our leaders' minds, you would think that the privileged few would at least have the good grace not to bitch quite so much about it.