Notes from the desk of peace activist Polly Mann (b. Nov. 19, 1919)

‘Capitalism in the 21st century’

Years ago, I read a glowing review of Thomas Piketty’s book “Capitalism in the 21st Century” and I tried to read it. I read about a fourth of the first chapter and gave up. Now he’s written a new book, but I know better than to try to read it. However, it sounds great and I found an encapsulation in an article from In These Times so you can appreciate my interest. Here it goes.
Following are the five proposals to reverse extreme concentration of wealth and enable a new era of participatory socialism.
1) TAX INCOME. In the 1950s, 90 percent of top tax rates on the highest incomes prevented runaway executive pay. We must return to that, with high taxes of up to 90 percent, not just on salaries but on all income, including capital gains, dividends and rents.
2) TAX WEALTH. We tax wealth today—the property tax—but it’s a “flat” tax averaging 1 percent on only one kind of wealth. To restrain the largest fortunes that are now growing at up to 10 percent a year, we must make the annual property tax “progressive” too. That means higher rates for those with larger holdings, and it means taxing wealth in all its forms, not just land and buildings.
3) TAX INHERITANCE. Invent an app or star in a movie that makes you a fortune? Good for you, but no just society can let that result in opulence for all time among your descendants. We must return to the 80 percent tax rates we had in the ’50s and ’60s on the biggest inheritances.
4) GIVE WORKERS A SAY. It’s unjust when those who own have all the say and those who labor have none except in the smallest firms; workers should elect half the board members as they do in the largest firms in Germany today.
5) CAPITAL FOR ALL. Ever heard of land reform—redistributing large estates to smallholders who’d work the land? Proceeds from the wealth and inheritance taxes could be used in another way—to give a universal capital endowment of $140,000 to every citizen when they turn 25.

There’s no way, of course, that all these proposals could occur simultaneously, but it should be possible to start—possibly with giving workers a say and having worker representation on the board. It definitely is something we should be thinking and talking about.

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