Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => The Environment => Topic started by: nudephil on 03/09/2020 17:39:03

Title: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: nudephil on 03/09/2020 17:39:03
Here's a question from listener Phil:

Since the excessively wealthy are the source of most emissions, and since so much manufacturing, trading, and service activity is essentially carried out to make them wealthier, (rather than provide the simple necessities that most of us are more than happy with), would it be against their human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?

What do you think?
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: alancalverd on 03/09/2020 18:05:41
The wealthiest people include the Queen, whose farms are at least as carbon-efficient as anyone else's, and who normally travels in a fairly ordinary car - the big Rollers are only brought out for state occasions and probably cover less than 1000 miles per year. The Queen's Flight actually spends most of its life as a military tanker.

We could look at Geoff Bezos or Bill Gates, whose phenomenal wealth has been acquired by making everyone else's life more carbon-efficient.     

Everyone who burns fuel, pays the same tax on it (though it varies from country to country). So taxation is directly related to personal emissions.

Any employer who produces more emissions than his competitors, is wasting money and burning profit. The object of business is to maximise profit - the only way to accumulate wealth. So there is already a strong incentive to minimise the emissions and general waste associated with each product.

But the quantity of product sold, and therefore the total waste generated thereby, is controlled by the consumer, not the producer. So to minimise emission you should persuade the end user to buy less.

If I could halve the cost of food for everyone and still make a profit, I could accumulate wealth beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Why would this be a crime?
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: Bored chemist on 03/09/2020 18:30:03
The "excessive" wealth isn't generally as much of a problem as the means by which it was acquired.
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: evan_au on 03/09/2020 21:58:26
To add to the comments by Bored Chemist:
The "excessive" wealth isn't generally as much of a problem as the uses to which it is applied.

A drug lord who uses his wealth to buy off the police and government, shoot up the competition and find new ways to get children addicted is not making good use of his wealth.
- In contrast, Bill & Melinda Gates spend their time (and considerable wealth) in supporting treatments for malaria and research into more flexible vaccines
- Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have chosen to invest some of their money into space rockets - perhaps some people don't see this as important, but somebody has to do it!.
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: alancalverd on 03/09/2020 23:30:02
The drug lord made his money by being a criminal. Getting more customers is not "using his wealth" but investing in business expansion. Bribes and the occasional murder are business expenses, necessarily deducted before the wealth is accumulated. Having and using that wealth are not sui generis criminal activities. That's basic accountancy and company law!

On the other hand someone who inherits wealth and uses it to buy and devalue the presidency of a country, might be considered a criminal if anything he did was actually illegal.
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: Bored chemist on 04/09/2020 08:50:17
might be considered a criminal if anything he did was actually illegal.
Like inciting people to vote twice.
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: alancalverd on 04/09/2020 09:10:53
You don't need to be excessively wealthy to do that. "Vote early and vote often" was a common call in Northern Ireland within my lifetime, heard from both sides of the politico-criminal spectrum, and backed up with simple threats of beatings.
Title: Re: Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
Post by: evan_au on 04/09/2020 09:13:26
Quote from: OP
Is it against human rights to make "excessive wealth" a crime?
It seems that this has been done previously:
- French Revolution
- Russian Revolution
- German bankers (often Jewish) who didn't support Hitler
etc etc