DHH @dhh Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp, NYT best-selling author, and Le Mans 24h class-winning racing driver. May. 28, 2019 1 min read

Here’s the thing about being rich: You don’t have to personally be a saint with how you spent your spoils to see that the economic system in the US is badly broken and getting worse. And upon seeing that, advocate for change and heightened scrutiny of wealth.

I’ve spent my fair share on frivolous luxuries. But meaningful change isn’t in asking rich people to voluntarily “give back” at their complete discretion, whims, and mercy. That’s charity, and it’s nice, but it’s utterly insufficient to address the situation. Only taxes do that.

It’s lovely to see a billionaire pay off some student debt. Truly. Good on both parties. But that’s a human interest story. The truly interesting human story is advancing society to a point where there is no student debt.

Yes, isn’t it nice to hear that some rich person donated the children’s cancer wing to some hospital? Sure, that’s nice. But rather than selling vanity plates, maybe we could also just tax economic activity at a rate to pay for universal healthcare.

None of this is radical public policy! All the Western countries that the US should be benchmarking itself against collects a far, far higher share of GDP in taxes. It’s been done for decades. Civilized policies like affordable higher education and healthcare for all demands it.

But it’s hard to get there while venerating rich people for the brave risks they took, as though that’s some magic justification for the exact rates’n’regimes of the status quo.

Again, signed a rich person who took SOME risk (but nothing heroic), and got paid back big.

For more on why taxes is the answer, please read Piketty’s amazing Capital in the 21st Century. For more on philanthropy as a cover for the status quo, please read @AnandWrites’s excellent Winner Takes All. For more on bullshit human interest stories, listen to @CitationsPod #23.


You can follow @dhh.



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