The Golden Haves

If the top nine income earners in the US donated their earnings, it would be the equivalent of about three months income for the world's poorest billion people. But, rather than punitively taxing wealth, globalization strengthens the case for shifting to a flat tax on income (or better yet consumption) with a moderately high exemption.

CAMBRIDGE -- Lately, I have been trying to explain to my eleven-year-old son Gabriel the astronomical differences between people’s income.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates first penetrated Gabriel’s consciousness a couple of years ago, when his father served as a warm-up act to Gates at a large conference sponsored by the Danish government. Ever since, Gabriel has been fascinated by the seemingly infinite possibilities of having $60 billion.

For example, whenever I tell Gabriel that something is unbelievably valuable (even, say, a great painting in a museum), he invariably says, “But Bill Gates could buy it, right?” Yes, Gates could buy the whole museum. But then he would just turn around and give it back so everyone else can see it, so there is no point. Gabriel is not entirely convinced.

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