Monday, February 08, 2016

Enough To Do Anything

I don't like the idea of hereditary privilege. Warren Buffett describes it as selecting the Olympic sprint team based on the times of their parents. He says a rich person should leave their kids 'enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing'. The question lies in how much is enough?

Hereditary privilege used to, and in many place does, extend to non-financial authority and responsibility. Leadership of a group of people. This also rankles. Surely there should be a meritocratic approach? Surely the best leaders should lead?

When something is hereditary, the game changes. The planning horizon changes. When you look after your day to day needs, living hand to mouth, it is difficult to think beyond the needs of those immediately around you. Storing some up provides breathing space. You can start to think further ahead. Eventually, perhaps you can put enough aside and get it working so that it can work instead of you. You can build a muse that frees your time. If you add transfers to the next generation, you can start to build a muse that frees up the time of those who follow you. This is incredibly powerful.

The most powerful investment tool there is, is time. If you build capital sustainably, i.e. more goes/grows in than you take out, it can reach a point where it can provide 'enough to do anything'. You are a custodian, not a consumer. Activity ceases to be constrained by whether or not it can make money. Other incentives drive what is done. 

Stripping away the ability to build for the next generation would put a restraint on the capacity to de-monetise incentives. The real issue is it doesn't seem fair. What about others? When there was hereditary title, those in charge would be thinking for a group as a whole. The good ones at least. The Benevolent DictatorsThey would be able to build towards creating societies with broader freed potential. They felt tied in to the system by blood, and so could think long term.

There are non-hereditary examples. Singapore has had one party in charge since 1959. This allows a long term planning horizon. Once a competent government is in place that people support strongly, they can start thinking far into the future. Singapore has free elections but a number of restraints on dissent. This authoritarian/democratic hybrid leaves the same liberal distaste as hereditary wealth and title. But it does offer a similar upside. It allows long term planning.

I like the idea of Sovereign Wealth Funds. These funds can do for large groups what rich families do for the family members. Everyone becomes a custodian. You don't consume. You build. In my Utopia, there would be several Global Citizen Wealth Funds generating a Universal Basic Income that provides the 'enough to do anything' to everyone.

It is difficult to justify the geographic and family lottery where some have enough to do anything, and others are held back from having any options at all. Enough is less than we think. We can get to the point where there is enough to go around. Enough for us to move on to more meaningful questions. Together.
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