A common goal of Marxist and other socialists is to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. Is there a practical way to accomplish this that isn't already being done?

  • We already have an estate taxthat is as high as 40%.

  • We already have a progressive income tax, as high as 39.6%.

  • We already have sales taxes, property taxes, etc., which amount to large amounts on high dollar items.

Is there a practical way to redistribute wealth already accumulated by someone like Warren Buffet, that we currently aren't doing? What are these detailed plans if they exist?

  • 'wealth redistribution' is a loaded term, but regardless, you pretty much answered your own question. The 'practical way' to balance wealth across society is through taxes. – user1530 May 8 '13 at 5:16
  • @DA., which term would you use? So, we already are redistributing wealth, no work is left to be done. – user1873 May 8 '13 at 5:18
  • I'd probably use the term 'taxes'. – user1530 May 8 '13 at 5:20
  • @DA., I don't think that's what Marxist are looking for. They want to free up capital by redistributing it from the hands of a few. Taxes didn't seem to be enough, from his Manifesto it appears that a large amount of control would be needed (1-10 points) – user1873 May 8 '13 at 5:31
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    Most developed countries have higher tax rates for the wealthy and thus a lower gini coefficient. So yeah, there are more effective ways. – Avi May 8 '13 at 11:57

A key problem with your question is the use of inappropriate terminology: a significant body of socialists and almost all Marxists reject the categories of "wealth," "rich" and "poor" as such, see instead "Capital," "bourgeoisie and "proletariat." Even within social-democracy, labourism and progressivism there's often an awareness of the difference between "redistribution of wealth within capitalism," and "transfer of elements of the economy to national or social control." The difference can be seen in terms of the difference between, say, a superannuation scheme of forced savings with forced government and employer co-payment and the rebuying of public-private partnership scheme constructed works into state control.

Nationalisation or socialisation by direct confiscation has been popular through history. Either by legislative or executive action (decree) or by de facto plant seizures by workers cooperatives. For the former, see various decrees on the confiscation of the property of emigres from the Bolshevik controlled geographic Soviets. For examples of the later, see the direct seizure of productive property by workers councils in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (this later develops from sit-in strikes, or work ins or general strikes with factory occupations). Seizure by confiscation as a result of criminal or civil trial has been less common, but it is presaged in Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle.

In terms of direct seizure there is a fair gulf of difference between nationalisation under state control and socialisation under workers' control. In the former, capital usually merely becomes the property of the state, in the latter property-as-capital is transformed into something different, at least at first.

Finally, within capitalism, you've not considered wage or ancillary benefits as transfers to labour. If the rate of profit taking is controlled, through forced reinvestment by company tax, one way to capitalise and to expand the consumer market to increase the velocity of capital (and thus capital taken even if the proportion is still lowered) is through wage rises. Such as the period 1940-1970 in the US economy, where returns to labour increased faster than dividends or profit taking.

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    "Seizure by confiscation as a result of criminal or civil trial has been less common" - tell that to all the drug trafficing suspects whose vehicles - plausibly means of production - were nationalized by US law enforcement :) . Also +1 for the only answer formally based on Marxism. – user4012 May 8 '13 at 18:45
  • @DVK ooh! Good work. I have been cretinistically formalist by forgetting the illegal sector. "Mack the Knife" opposed socialisation or nationalisation just as much as Hearst. – Samuel Russell May 8 '13 at 22:44

As long as we're on the topic, one already defined plan that hasn't been implemented is actual Marxism, which despite popular belief, wasn't actually realized in the Soviet Union.

The stages in marxism are

  1. Primitive Communism: as in co-operative tribal societies.
  2. Slave Society: a development of tribal progression to city-state; aristocracy is born.
  3. Feudalism: aristocrats are the ruling class; merchants evolve into capitalists.
  4. Capitalism: capitalists are the ruling class, who create and employ the proletariat.
  5. Socialism: workers gain class consciousness, and via proletarian revolution depose the capitalist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, replacing it in turn with dictatorship of the proletariat through which the socialization of the means of production can be realized.
  6. Communism: a classless and stateless society.

*from the wikipedia article on marsixm

The Soviet union Kinda skipped the 4th step, and went straight from Feudalism to Socialism.

  • ... Although their socialism had a significant stench of Feudalism due to local issues. – user4012 May 8 '13 at 18:43

I'll try to answer the question, though I'm still a bit confused as to what is being asked. I'll assume you are asking

Would higher tax rates in the United States help distribute wealth more evenly?

It may. But taxes are a bit more complicated than that.

As others have noted many other developed countries have much higher tax rates across the board. In return, they also have a lot more socialized programs and industries (such as health care).

Based on the tax rates of other nations, and the lower wealth gaps they have, one could come to the conclusion that yes, higher tax rates can help distribute the wealth more evenly.

However, another option is to reconsider what is being taxed. In the US, the wealthiest tend to not have high incomes, as such, higher income taxes don't affect them all that much. Changing how we tax investments and dividends could be one way to improve things.

Yet another option is to change how we handle tax deductions, rebates and incentives in the US. It's rare for anyone to pay the actual tax rates, as most everyone is eligible for deductions of some sort. The more money an entity makes, the more likely they can hire creative accountants and the less likely they are to paying anything close to the listed tax rates.

Now, how practical those solutions would still be up for debate. In the US we've long talked about simplifying our tax codes, yet it hasn't happened yet, so may not be a very practical suggestion in the end.

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    Again, downvoter care to explain? It would really help people improve/fix answers if explanations are provided with downvotes. – user1530 May 9 '13 at 7:38
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    I didn't downvote, but studies done by the CRS and CBO indicate that, yes, in the US if you raise the income tax on the wealthy, it doesn't affect economic growth and decreases the gini coefficient. Sources: dpcc.senate.gov/files/documents/…, cbo.gov/publication/43694 – Avi May 9 '13 at 8:54
  • True, but in terms of a 'practical things that haven't been implemented yet' I think rethinking capital gains taxation might be a more effective way to handle it. (Still not entirely clear on the question, though...) – user1530 May 9 '13 at 15:42

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