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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Nature's Way

Nature's Way

It's April again. That time when Mother Nature puts her chartreuse pantaloons on and starts dispensing the best colors from her room service cart. After the long winter recession life is booming again. The trees flaunt their brand new clothes and that lawn which seemed so hopelessly brownish just last week is suddenly an exemplar of green.

The thing that fascinates me most about this annual miracle is the equal opportunity with which it showers all participants. No piece of lawn, no standalone tree is forgotten. When you look at a meadow, there are no "rich neighborhoods" in it that would be greener than the others. It is as if the last growing season was forgotten and everybody got a fresh start. All the assets and liabilities of the past have been wiped away. The world has a clean slate.

This made me wonder if there was a little lesson there. Maybe humanity would have thrived better if we had forgotten the past every so often and given everyone a fresh start. Utopia? Sure, but let's think about it.

Some of us are born with a silver spoon in mouth and some with ankle weights of poverty. As a result we have many dull but wealthy scions festering in expensive private schools with nothing to their credit but crooked character and sallow imagination. On the other side of the tracks, we have lots of bright kids whose minds are sentenced to atrophy in the boredom of poorly run inner city schools. And the question we should be asking ourselves is - can we really afford to waste capable minds? If we codify this continental divide, we will never unlock the hidden treasures of our human resources. I have tremendous respect for those who earned their lifestyle through their toil and expertise. Not so much for those whose only source of income is derived from the trust fund set up by their industrious grandpa.

Recently I heard that all tuition at US universities (public or private) comes to about $70 billion. Compared to various wars we are waging that seems like a chump change. Surely there must be a way to help sharp and crisp minds reach their full potential without going deep into debt. We already have a burgeoning SAT industry - so identifying those minds should not be a problem.

To help fund this program, I'd include a heavier tax on inheritance, because that is the point where the wealth flows into possibly less effective branches of the global skill market and the accompanying power gets wasted. That does not mean that silverspooners should give away their whole family fortune. After all, some projects require an effort of multiple generations. We should just place certain constraints on how much wealth can be transferred onward automatically.

The revenues from such tax would be used exclusively for education - just to make sure that some "well meaning" politician would not find use for them in bureaucracy or military spending. Let's say half of it would go to salary increases in public schools and the other half would fund stipends for the most worthy students. We don't want to lose the next Einstein, Jobs or Carnegie because they drowned their talent on the street.

This is not to propose some vulgar form of egalitarianism, Marxist or otherwise. The economic fate of the Soviet Empire showed clearly the Achilles heel of redistributing the wealth too equally. People simply won't put up their best effort if they know they will not be adequately rewarded for it. And we do want our elite to be the best this generation has to offer, don't we? Leadership is a task of great responsibility. It should not fall to someone just because their daddy had the most powerful Rolodex. In other words, we want to make sure that everyone with a true talent has a fair shot at it.

Equal opportunity. That's the nature's way.

cc

Comments:

Comment from: fran [Visitor]
Dear Honza:

I feel unworthy....will speak with you later about your thoughts and writings. This note is to let you know that I got on while I have a couple minutes at the libarary.

Fran


PS Sorry I do not use the above email address, but your site requires one.
Permalink 06/28/12 @ 12:43

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